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Why SMBs Need HR Advice Before the EEOC Comes Knocking

Grand Rapids, Michigan Employer’s Unlawful Inquiry and Termination of Employee Violated the ADA, Federal Agency Alleged


DETROIT -- Blue Sky Vision, L.L.C., a Delaware-based management services organ­ization that provides support to eye care providers, will pay $67,590 and provide other relief to settle a federal disability-discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that Blue Sky Vision violated federal law when it subjected an employee to an unlawful medical inquiry and then fired him because it perceived him to be disabled.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee was hired in June of 2018 as an optometrist for Blue Sky Vision in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Approximately three months later, the employee mentioned his medical condition to a coworker. Blue Sky management learned of the employee’s condition and, without evaluating whether the condition would affect his ability to perform his job, told him that he was a liability and sought his resignation. When the employee argued that Blue Sky’s actions were illegal, the company postponed his termination, placed him on a leave of absence and required him to submit to an overly broad and intrusive medical inquiry into health conditions unrelated to his ability to perform his job. When the employee opposed the breadth of the medical inquiry and refused to submit to it, Blue Sky sent him an official termination letter, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from improper medical inquiries and from discrimination based on actual or per­ceived disabil­ities. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Blue Sky Vision, LLC. Case No. 1:20-cv-00285) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, the 2-year consent decree settling the suit provides for injunctive relief, training on the provisions of the ADA, and implementation of a policy against disability discrimination.

“An employer cannot fire someone based on an unfounded belief that the individual’s medical condition renders him unable to perform his job,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird. “Nor should an employer commence a medical inquiry that is broader than necessary to determine whether a medical condition impacts an employee’s ability to safely perform his job.”

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