Saturday, May 28, 2011

Qualified Candidate Barred From Job; U.S. Government Sues Employment Agency

My heart really goes out to Jason O'Dell; he and I seem to be in similar circumstances.

He recently applied for work as a lab technician in Frederick, Maryland, using an employment agency called Randstad US. Everything had been going pretty well --- Randstad had decided that he was exceptionally well-qualified for this particular job, so they "fast-tracked" his application; the company he had applied to had also expressed interest in hiring him --- until O'Dell let it slip that he had Asperger's.

When that happened, the position he had seemed about to get seemed to evaporate. His contacts at Randstad were telling him it had "been put on hold," but really they were continuing to recruit other candidates, and eventually filled the position with someone who was not Jason O'Dell.

In response to this, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Randstad for discrimination --- in pulling O'Dell out of consideration for employment right after he told them about his disability, they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act's prohibition against employers (or employment agencies!) discriminating against qualified people with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, promotion, pay, training, firing or any other aspect of employment. They're asking for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for O'Dell, and revisions to Randstad's employment policies to make the kind of discrimination O'Dell experienced Officially Against The Rules.

Here is the relevant part of the ADA:

Sec. 12112. Discrimination

(a) General rule

No covered entity ["covered entity" meaning an employer, employment agency, labor organization or joint labor-management committee] shall discriminate against a qualified individual [someone who can perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable accommodations] on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

(b) Construction

As used in subsection (a) of this section, the term "discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability" includes

(1) limiting, segregating, or classifying a job applicant or employee in a way that adversely affects the opportunities or status of such applicant or employee

... and here's a handy little page about employment law; it tells you what your rights are under the ADA, and what you can do if you think they've been violated.

The EEOC also mentions in its press release that fiscal year 2010 has been especially bad for discrimination in employment: they had 99,922 claims, of which 25,165 were disability-related. That constitutes an increase of 17.3% over the number of disability claims filed in fiscal 2009.

I hope they win their suit, and that O'Dell gets those damages ... although even more I hope he manages to get a lab job somewhere!

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