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BAE Systems to pay $55K to settle disability bias lawsuit


ARLINGTON, Va.—A unit of Arlington, Va.-based BAE Systems Inc. will pay a $55,000 fine to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case involving a morbidly obese worker whose job was terminated, the agency said Tuesday.

The EEOC said Sealy, Texas-based BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems L.P. fired Ronald Kratz II because of his disability—morbid obesity—and because it regarded him as disabled, although he was qualified to perform the essential job functions of his material handler position. The EEOC also said the firm did not engage in any discussion with Mr. Kratz as to any reasonable accommodations before his termination.

The agency said the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broadened the scope of impairments covered under the ADA and expanded employers’ obligations to determine whether there are reasonable accommodations that would allow a person to perform his position’s essential functions. Experts have warned the act would open the door to increased claims against employers.

Under terms of the settlement, Mr. Krantz will receive $55,000 in monetary relief and six months of outplacement services, among other provisions.

“So long as an employee can perform the essential job duties of a position, with or without reasonable accommodation, the employee should be allowed to work on the same basis as any non-obese employee,” Kathy Boutchee, the EEOC’s Houston-based senior trial attorney, said in a statement. “Employers cannot fire disabled employees based on perceptions and prejudice. Mr. Kratz had a good performance rating and did not deserve to be fired.”

A BAE Systems spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.