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June 9 — A poultry feed company violated two federal anti-discrimination laws by requiring all applicants to complete personal health histories before they would be considered for jobs, a federal district court in Missouri ruled ( EEOC v. Grisham Farm Prods., Inc., W.D. Mo., No. 16-3105, consent judgment 6/8/16 ).
In a June 8 consent judgment settling an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit, the court said Grisham Farm Products Inc. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act by requiring applicants to fill out a three-page health history.
The EEOC has made the elimination of discriminatory barriers to hiring a priority under its strategic enforcement plan.
The EEOC in March had sued on behalf of Phillip Sullivan, a retired law enforcement officer with disabilities, who was deterred from applying for a Grisham warehouse job after being told he must complete the health history form (56 DLR A-4, 3/23/16).
Grisham violated the ADA's restrictions on pre-employment medical exams and inquiries by asking Sullivan and others to disclose if they had any of 27 health conditions, Judge Douglas Harpool wrote.
The company violated GINA because applicants were required to reveal if they had consulted a doctor, therapist or other health care provider within the past 24 months and to identify “any future diagnostic testing” that their health provider had recommended or discussed, the court said.
Grisham will pay Sullivan $10,000 in damages, and the EEOC can monitor the company's compliance for the next five years, the court said.
The EEOC and Grisham earlier this month agreed to settle the case and jointly submitted their proposed consent judgment to the court.
“We are extremely pleased this lawsuit was resolved in three short months, with the court holding that companies cannot require applicants to reveal their health history prior to receiving a job offer,” said Andrea Baron, the EEOC regional attorney in St. Louis.
Employers “need to realize” the EEOC will “vigorously challenge” discriminatory practices that discourage individuals from applying for jobs and allow employers to consider “illegal factors” in hiring, Baron said in a June 9 statement.
Grisham denies it discriminated against Sullivan but decided it would be “more expedient” to settle the EEOC lawsuit on “mutually agreeable terms,” said Kendall McPhail, a Springfield, Mo., lawyer who represents Grisham.
The company stopped using the applicants' health history questionnaire form “the minute” it learned the EEOC considered it a problem, McPhail told Bloomberg BNA June 9.
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Text of the consent judgment is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Equal_Employment_Opportunity_Commission_v_Grisham_Farm_Products_I/2.
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