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New York’s Con Ed settles EEOC suit on letting disabled work

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New York City and Westchester County’s electricity and gas utility, Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc., will pay $800,000 to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said Wednesday.

The EEOC said New York-based Con Ed’s doctors violated the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 by refusing to medically approve qualified applicants to begin employment because of their disabilities, even though they could perform the jobs for which the applied, and by performing medical exams of applicants without first giving them a conditional job offer.

The EEOC said also the utility’s doctors imposed improper medical restrictions on some existing employees with disabilities that reduced their earnings and, in one case, led to termination.

Under terms of the consent decree settling the suit, Con Ed will pay the job applicants and employees who were discriminated against $800,000 in lost wages and damages, the agency said. 

The decree also requires Con Ed to make a written job offer before it conducts any prehire medical exam. Under the decree, Con Ed must make an individualized assessment of each applicant’s ability to perform the job and raise the threshold for its doctors to place disability-related restrictions on applicants and employees.

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry said in a statement: “Congress passed the ADA to protect Americans with disabilities from adverse employment actions based on fears and myths about their conditions. We applaud Con Ed’s willingness to change its hiring procedures to ensure that disabled applicants are given a fair and equal opportunity to work for them.”

Con Ed said in a statement that it “is pleased to have reached an agreement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) resolving a matter that dates back several years, involving claims made by a small number of applicants and employees. 

“The agreement resolves all of these claims without any findings of wrongdoing on the part of Con Edison. While we believe that our hiring and employment practices comply with the law, we have implemented improvements in our processes and practices, and are happy to be moving forward.”