Hiland Dairy Foods, a Missouri-based producer and distributor of dairy products, violated federal law when it refused to hire a man to work in its Norman, Okla. plant because he was vision-impaired, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed.
According to the suit, Hiland interviewed the man, toured the plant with him, and was aware of his vision impairment before it offered him a Dairy Plant Worker position conditioned on passing a pre-employment medical exam. The doctor responsible for administering the exam disqualified him, deeming him a “safety concern” despite never having examined him. Neither Hiland nor the doctor considered whether any assistive devices or other reasonable accommodations could mitigate any potential safety concerns. Hiland then withdrew the job offer.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination due to disability. The EEOC’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Hiland Dairy Foods Company, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:21-cv-00483), charges that Hiland violated the ADA by refusing to hire the applicant because of his disability and because he required reasonable accommodation. The EEOC seeks monetary relief and reinstatement for the applicant, an order prohibiting future discriminatory conduct against disabled individuals, and other relief.
“The purpose of Title I of the ADA is to ensure people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to work to their full ability, unencumbered by myths, fears, and stereotypes related to their conditions,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis. “Millions of American workers with vision impairments successfully perform a wide range of jobs, and everyone is entitled to that opportunity.”
L. Jack Vasquez, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District office, added, “Vision impairments are as diverse as individuals, and assistive devices can be technologically advanced or as simple as a plastic magnifier. Employers must take the time to individually assess a worker’s ability to perform essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation.”
The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois.