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Human Development, Inc. Settles EEOC Lawsuit for $125K for Discriminating Against an Obese Employee

April 20, 2012

In a previous Santa Ana employment lawyers blog, Vincent Howard discussed a disability discrimination lawsuit filed against Human Development, Inc. (RHD) by the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC), that accused RHD of acting in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing an employee because of her obesity, which is considered a disability.

This month, the EEOC reported that RHD, conducting business as the Family House of Louisiana, will pay $125,000 to settle the disability discrimination lawsuit, filed on behalf of Lisa Harrison.

Harrison worked as a prevention and intervention specialist at the facility from 1999 until her termination in 2007, helping drug-addicted women as well as their children at the long-term residential treatment facility. The EEOC lawsuit, filed in September 2010, states that Harrison was fired in the fall of 2007 as a result of her severe obesity, despite the fact that she was able to perform all of the necessary functions in her role as a specialist.

According to Vincent Howard's Newport Beach employment attorney blog, under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA) employers are prevented from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in the job application process, hiring, employment advancement, compensation, training, job termination and other terms, privileges, and conditions of employment. Employers are also required, under the ADA, to provide reasonable accommodations for qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities, unless the accommodation brings undue hardship to the employer's business.

The EEOC claimed in the lawsuit that every qualified individual with disabilities is protected under federal law from employment discrimination, including obesity, and that as a disability, obesity should not receive any stereotype or bias in employment decisions. The EEOC's Jim Sacher stated that Harrison's obesity did not interfere in her job performance providing care to the young children at the facility--and that she should not have been terminated without any warning and without any evidence that she was unable to perform her necessary job duties.

Under the consent decree, the RHD will provide yearly training on federal disability law to all RHD personnel and corporate directors across the country. Any complaints of disability discrimination will also be reported to the EEOC for a period of three years, along with all denials for reasonable accommodation due to a disability.

Lisa Harrison reportedly died before the EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit. Her family hopes that this case will help prevent other employees from experiencing the hardship of workplace discrimination due to a disability. A children's room at the RHD facility will be named for Harrison, and a memorial plaque will be installed to honor her in her role at the facility for nearly eight years.

In La Palma, Laguna Woods, and San Clemente, California, among other cities in Orange County, contact Howard Law's labor and employment attorney Vincent Howard today.

Resources for Human Development Settles EEOC Disability Suit for $125,000, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), April 10, 2012

Human Development, Inc. Sued by EEOC for Discriminating Against an Obese Employee, California Employment Lawyers Blog, October 19, 2010

Related Web Resources:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC)

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Fair Employment and Housing Act

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