Metro has agreed to pay $175,000 to a Maryland man who said his job offer with the authority was rescinded when the agency learned he had epilepsy.
The transit agency must also implement new policies that ensure compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, including training hiring managers so that a similar scenario is avoided in the future, according to the terms of the settlement.
The U.S. Justice Department filed suit in January on behalf of the applicant, Bennie Vaughan. According to court documents, Vaughan received a job offer for the position of elevator/escalator parts supervisor in May 2013, but it was withdrawn a month later after the agency learned of his medical condition.
Vaughan has epilepsy, according to the lawsuit, and experiences occasional “absence seizures,” causing him to “cease action and stare uncontrollably for a brief time.”
According to the suit, Metro never told Vaughan how his disability might interfere with the work and did not discuss whether there were accommodations that could be made that would allow him to perform the work. Vaughan filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying Metro had violated the ADA.
Channing D. Phillips, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said Vaughan suffered emotional and economic distress after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority rescinded its offer.
“This case shows there will be consequences for employers who fail to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act,” Phillips said in a statement. “We are pleased that WMATA recognizes the need for new policies and will compensate the job candidate.”
Metro denied the allegations in the suit, “and specifically denies that it discriminated against Mr. Vaughan in any way,” according to court documents.
The agency issued a short statement after the settlement was announced.
“We are pleased to have reached a mutually acceptable resolution to this matter,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
As a condition of the settlement, Metro must take a series of steps when considering whether an applicant with a disability can safely perform the job at hand. First, the agency must conduct an “individualized assessment” of each applicant’s ability to perform the work, relying on medical information and available evidence. If it has a concern, the agency must engage in discussions with the applicant about the particular job function that might be jeopardized and have a dialogue on what “reasonable accommodations” might help the applicant perform the job.
The applicant must have an opportunity to respond the agency’s concerns, explain the disability and request accommodations, the settlement says.
Metro must also conduct 90 minutes of ADA training for all employees responsible for pre-employment procedures, “post-offer” medical exams and those who authorize employment decisions, the settlement says. The training course and amended policy manuals must be approved by the Justice Department under the terms of the settlement.
“The ADA mandates that job applicants with disabilities receive fair and equal consideration in the hiring process,” said Tom Wheeler, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement. “This settlement provides for new hiring policies that will protect against discriminatory practices and safeguard the rights of all individuals with disabilities who seek employment with WMATA. We commend WMATA for agreeing to revise its policies and offering to compensate the job applicant.”
Vaughan could not immediately be reached for comment.