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Georgia Power Agrees to Pay $1.5 Million For Disability Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) brought suit on behalf of 24 employees claiming disability discrimination by Georgia Power Company. These employees asserted that Georgia Power refused to hire applicants and fired employees based on their disabilities because they believed these employees could not safely perform their jobs. Georgia Power purportedly refused to hire or allow these employees back even with notes from physicians indicating that they could perform the essential functions of their positions and without Georgia Power performing any individualized assessment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) protects individuals who can perform the essentials functions of their positions with or without accommodation. Exceptions may be made if workers pose a “direct threat” which must be a “significant risk” to the health or safety of others. Employers bear the burden of proving such a threat. In bringing the suit, the EEOC contended that Georgia Power failed to assess whether each individual posed a “direct threat” to the safety of others.

Georgia Power and the EEOC have entered into a consent decree. The company has agreed to pay $1.586,500 in monetary relief. In addition, the company must alter its seizure policy and its drug and alcohol policy to make sure that they comply with the ADA. All employees will now receive anti-discrimination training. Georgia Power will be subject to monitoring for three years including letting the EEOC know when it does not hire someone because of his or her disability or does not allow a worker to return because of disability. Georgia Power has not admitted liability and has entered into the decree to avoid litigation costs.