Florida District Court Says Company Violated ADA By Not Hiring Qualified Candidate Because of Prior Injuries

On May 19, 2014, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, Issued its final judgment in the case Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) v. American Tool & Mold, Inc. (ATM), ordering the company to pay $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, along with other injunctive relief, for violating Plaintiff Michael Matanic’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In his complaint, Matanic states that ATM had offered him the position of Process Engineer, which involves adjusting, monitoring, maintaining, and recording process changes for injection molding machines. When he reported for his first day of work, he was asked to complete a pre-employment questionnaire and application for employment, then was sent to a local Lakeside Occupational Medical Center (Lakeside) for a physical examination and drug test. At the clinic, Matanic completed a health history form, on which he indicated that he had appendix, back, and right eye surgery. On a separate “back history” form he stated that his back surgery had been to correct two herniated disks. Lakeside completed a “back health screening” form and left blank all of the boxes indicating abnormalities discovered during the screenining and checked the box “Able to lift and carry 30 pounds minimum.”

During the examination, Lakeside staff informed Matanic that he could not work at ATM without a release from the surgeon who had operated on his back. So while the exam itself was recorded as “normal,” Lakeside advised ATM that Matanic would not be considered fit for employment at ATM “until a medical statement from the surgeon who performed the surgery in 2003 was received stating that the employee has no restrictions and is able to perform essential job functions.” Matanic started work on November 12, 2010, but was informed that he would not be eligible for “permanent hire” until the medical release was received. He then called the hospital where is surgery had been performed and asked them to send Lakeside a post-operation report, which they did. Lakeside informed Mr. Matanic that this report would not qualify as a release, so they still would not approve him to work at ATM. His managers at ATM granted him an additional 30 days to get the release. Matanic then was examined by a physician in Minnesota, who completed a “Worker Status Report” indicating that he had “No limitations, No residual disease, No work restrictions.” He gave this report to Lakeside, who informed him that this report was insufficient, and that they needed a release “from the surgical team that performed the procedure” in 2003, or an orthopedic surgeon or local physician stating that he had no permanent restrictions. In January 2010 Matanic contacted a local physician about getting the release, but this physician requested an MRI prior to examining him. Matanic learned that this would cost about $2000.00 and would not be covered by his insurance, and he could not cover this expense. His manager at ATM then told him they could do nothing more to help him, and would not pay for the MRI.

Because he did not provide the requested release, ATM terminated his employment in January, 2010. In its complaint the EEOC alleged, and the Court ultimately agreed, that ATM discriminated against Mr. Matanic, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by denying him employment despite his demonstrated qualifications based on a perceived disability.

If you believe that you have been a victim of employment discrimination based on a disability, or perceived disability, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.