SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced Texas-based BNSF Railway Co. has been mandated by a Washington federal court to pay $95,000 to a qualified applicant denied hire due to a back injury.
BNSF allegedly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to continue the hiring process with Russell Holt after Holt disclosed he had a prior back injury. According to EEOC allegations, Holt was applying for a senior patrol officer position and received a conditional offer. He had previously served as a patrol deputy and criminal investigator and hurt his back on the job in 2007. He disclosed this information to BNSF Railways and took a physical examination that showed no restrictions or abnormalities, EEOC states.
BNSF’s medical examiner allegedly asked Holt to take an MRI to prove he was in good condition at his own expense. This would have been a $2,000 cost. When Holt asked for the MRI to be waived, BNSF allegedly stopped the hiring process.
"This outcome should tell employers that hiring decisions must be based on facts -- whether an applicant has the ability to do the job -- and not fears concerning disability,” said EEOC supervisory trial attorney John Stanley.
The court also decided BNSF failed to demonstrate likelihood of stopping alleged discrimination in the future and so imposed a permanent injunction mandating BNSF pay for any medical tests it asks applicants to take.
"ADA compliance is a key priority for this agency,” said San Francisco District director William Tamayo. “EEOC will continue to investigate employers who make unfounded decisions like this one."