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EEOC Obtains $40,000 in Settlement of ADA Case with Jim Walter Resources

Mine Worker  Was Denied Assignment to Area That Would Not Damage His Hearing Aids, Federal  Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Birmingham-based Jim Walter Resources (JWR), the  world's largest producer of Blue Creek coal, will pay $40,000 and furnish other  relief to settle a disability discrim­ination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, while working in Jim  Walter's Mine No. 5 near Brookwood, Ala., Rocky Davis, who has profound hearing  loss, was continuously assigned to areas of the mine that exposed him to  work­ing conditions that would harm his hearing aids.  In April 2007, Davis requested an accommo­dation  to be assigned to another location; however, JWR failed to honor his request.  Instead, the EEOC said, JWR removed Davis from  the mine and would not permit him to return until he presented a full medical  release.  Upon Davis's return to work,  JWR sent him back to the area of the mine that it knew could affect his ability  to hear.

Denying an employee a reasonable  accommodation violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Jim Walters  Resources, Inc., Civil Action No.  7:09-cv-1895) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of  Alabama after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its  conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit,  entered by U.S. District Judge Virginia E. Hopkins, provides that JWR will pay  Davis $40,000 and prohibits future discrimination.  Also, the company is required to train its  managers and supervisors regarding an employer's obligations and the rights of  employees under the ADA.

"People with hearing loss cannot be excluded from jobs  because of unfounded myths and assumptions," said Marsha Rucker, senior trial  attorney of the EEOC's Birmingham District Office, which is responsible for  EEOC litigation in Alabama, Mississippi, and Northern Florida.  "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, added, "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 JWR's willingness to provide relief for Mr. Davis and to ensure that this sort of discrimination does not recur."

The  EEOC's litigation efforts were led by Senior Trial Attorney Joann Farnsworth of  its Indianapolis District Office and Senior Trial Attorney Marsha Rucker of its  Birmingham District Office.

© Copyright U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionNational Law Review, Volume II, Number 295


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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Most employers with at least 15 employees...