DETROIT (Legal Newsline) – A motion to dismiss an EEOC lawsuit against a security systems company over allegations of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act was denied on Dec. 18 by Judge Bernard A. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against G4S Security Systems in September. G4S Security Systems, which is headquartered in Florida, is accused of terminating security officer Christine Ross, who worked at a client company in Michigan. Ross has lupus and a connective tissue disorder, which limited her ability to walk a beat. G4S Security Systems sought to dismiss the suit.
Although G4S allegedly knew Ross could not function in a position that required a lot of walking, she was assigned to a foot-patrol position. Before long, Ross requested a transfer back to her seated security position, allegedly her request was denied and she was fired in 2015. Upon her dismissal, Ross filed a disability discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Efforts to provide some reconciliation between G4S and the EEOC failed, and the EEOC filed suit to seek compensation and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief for Ross. G4S then filed a motion to dismiss.
The company said that "(1) the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the EEOC did not attach its charge of discrimination to the complaint, (2) Ross’s condition does not constitute a disability within the meaning of the ADA, and (3) the EEOC did not exhaust its administrative remedies," the opinion stated.
“This court has subject-matter jurisdiction over all civil actions arising under the laws of the United States, including EEOC enforcement actions. ... No authority supports defendant’s proposition that the court has subject matter jurisdiction only when the EEOC attaches its charge of discrimination to the complaint. The authority defendant cites on this point is inapplicable and unpersuasive,” the opinion stated.
Concerning Ross’ disability as it relates to the ADA, Friedman ruled: “The complaint ... sufficiently alleges that Ross was disabled within the meaning of the ADA. Under the ADA, an individual is disabled if she suffers from 'a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.'"
In a third allegation, G4S argued that because Ross had not yet initiated arbitration proceedings, the EEOC has not exhausted its administrative remedies and may not pursue this enforcement action. To this, the judge said that the "EEOC may pursue this action regardless of whether Ross pursues the arbitration required by her collective bargaining agreement" and cited a similar case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Indeed, nothing in the ADA or any Supreme Court case 'suggests that the existence of an arbitration agreement between private parties materially changes the EEOC’s statutory function or the remedies that are otherwise available,'” Friedman said.