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EEOC Settles with Mining Firm Over ADA Violations

October 23, 2012
Related Topics: Legal Compliance, Disabilities, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Policies and Procedures, Latest News
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reached a $40,000 settlement with mining firm Jim Walter Resources, which allegedly continuously assigned a worker to conditions that would have harmed his hearing aids, the agency said Oct. 19.

The EEOC said Rocky Davis, who has profound hearing loss, had asked Birmingham, Alabama-based Jim Walter Resources, a unit of Walter Energy Inc., to accommodate him and assign him to another location, but the firm failed to honor his request.

Instead, the company removed Davis from the mine and would not permit him to return until he presented a full medical release, the EEOC said in a statement. Upon Davis' return to work, he was sent back to the area of the mine that Jim Walter Resources knew could affect his ability to hear, the EEOC said.

The EEOC filed suit in federal district court in Birmingham charging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the consent decree entered by U.S. District Court Judge Virginia E. Hopkins, in addition to paying Davis $40,000 and prohibiting future discrimination, the company is required to train its managers and supervisors regarding an employer's obligations and employees' rights under the ADA.

Marsha Rucker, senior trial attorney of the EEOC's Birmingham district office, said in a statement, "People with hearing loss cannot be excluded from jobs because of unfounded myths and assumptions. Under the ADA, employers are expected to remove barriers that prevent otherwise qualified individuals with hearing loss from working."

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC's Birmingham district office, said in a statement, "Sometimes, we need to reinforce through litigation that employers are required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices and procedures to afford access to individuals with disabilities that is equal to the access afforded to others. We appreciate (the firm's) willingness to provide relief for Davis and to ensure that this sort of discrimination does not recur."

A Jim Walter spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Judy Greenwald writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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