The Justice Department filed a proposed consent decree today to resolve a complaint that the city of Philadelphia discriminated against an employee with a disability when it terminated the employee rather than reassign him to a vacant position for which he was qualified, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to the department’s complaint, the employee, who worked for the city as a sanitation worker, was terminated from his position after he had a heart attack and his doctor placed him under a 20-pound lifting restriction, which prevented him from continuing as a sanitation worker. Although the employee made several requests for reassignment and the city had numerous vacant positions, the city failed to consider the employee for reassignment to a different position for which he was qualified. Instead, the city terminated the employee because of his disability.
The proposed consent decree, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, requires the city’s streets department to revise its policies to ensure that reassignment is considered as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities, train relevant employees on the ADA and report to the Justice Department on implementation of the decree. The city will also offer to reinstate and reassign the employee to an open position for which he is qualified and will pay the employee a total of $90,000 for back pay, accrued interest and compensatory damages. This matter was based on a referral from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Philadelphia Area Office, which completed the initial investigation of the facts.
“Firing an employee because of a disability in these circumstances constitutes discrimination and violates the ADA,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Just because an employee’s disability prevents them from working in one position does not disqualify them from working successfully in a different position. We commend the city of Philadelphia for agreeing to revise its policies and offering to reinstate the former employee.”
For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.