EEOC Wins Disability Discrimination Case Against Beverage Distributors Company

On December 9, 2013, the EEOC won a disability case against Beverage Distributors Company (BDC). The United States District Court for the District of Colorado ordered BDC to pay around $200,000 to end a discrimination case. The EEOC filed a case against BDC after the company made a conditional offer of employment to Mike Sungaila and withdrew it upon being informed that he is legally blind in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“).

Mike Sungaila, who is legally blind, worked for BDC for over four years as a driver’s helper. However, the company decided to eliminate Sungaila’s position and use contractors instead. Therefore, Sungaila decided to apply for a position as a night warehouse loader. BDC offered Sungaila the position subject to a pre-employment medical examination, which Sungaila failed because it was believed he could not perform the requirements of the positions due to his poor eyesight. After Sungaila’s failure to pass the medical examination, BDC withdrew his job offer. The EEOC then filed a suit on his behalf, contending that Sungaila could safely perform the job he was offered.
The jury sided with the EEOC deciding that BDC violated the ADA and awarded Sungaila $132,347 in back pay, but found that his damages should be reduced by $102,803 because the jury believed that Sungaila could have mitigated his damages by finding a comparable position. However, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado vacated the jury’s finding that Sungaila could have mitigated his damages because the BDC failed to prove there were any available comparable jobs that Sungaila could have performed, and ordered BDC to pay Sungaila his entire back pay. In addition, BDC must pay interest on the award, which will increase the award to approximately $200,000, and must compensate Sungaila for any tax consequence he will suffer due to being paid this judgment in one year. Moreover, the court ordered BDC to hire Sungaila as a night warehouse loader with the same seniority that he would have had BDC not withdrawn the job offer due to his eyesight. Sungaila must be offered this position within the next six months and will be paid the same salary as other employees who have been employed in the position for five years, which is approximately $23 per hour.

The District Court judge also pointed out that BDC’s employee handbook was insufficient to explain to employees how they can request accommodations and contained an incorrect statement of its obligations under the law. Therefore, the court ordered that BDC must engage an outside consultant to provide employee training and assistance in revisions to BDC’s policies, job postings, notice posting, and reporting and compliance review (within six month of the judgment).

If you are an employee and you believe you are a victim of employment discrimination based on your disability, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.