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Question For Jury Whether Employer Thwarted Down Syndrome Job Applicant

Brittany Henderson, a 26 year old woman with Down Syndrome, applied for a job as a part-time dietary aide with Sovereign Healthcare in Florida. Ms. Henderson had been working with a job coach who had contacted Sovereign on her behalf. After the dietary manager interviewed her, Ms. Henderson was told that she needed references and a background screening.

The Human Resources coordinator called Ms. Henderson’s home in order to arrange for her to be fingerprinted. Ms. Henderson’s mother, with whom she lived, answered the phone and told the coordinator that her daughter had Down Syndrome. According to the mother, the coordinator became “very rude” and insisted on speaking to Ms. Henderson alone. Thereafter, Ms. Henderson tried to come in for fingerprinting but the coordinator was never available or returned their calls. The dietary manager left the job and Ms. Henderson’s mother became concerned. The job coach convinced Ms. Henderson’s mother to allow her daughter to complete the job hiring process. Still, no effort was made by the company to complete the process so an EEOC charge was filed. Once the EEOC charge was filed, Sovereign contacted Ms. Henderson but by then she was no longer interested.

Before the federal district court, Sovereign blamed Ms. Henderson for stopping the hiring process. The court found that it was a question of fact whether it was the company or Ms. Henderson who stopped the hiring process. Nevertheless, there was sufficient evidence to  support the idea that the HR coordinator had discriminated against Ms. Henderson once she learned of the Down Syndrome. The coordinator had stopped moving forward to schedule the fingerprints notwithstanding the attempts made by the Hendersons.