Agreement requires Baltimore to revamp hiring practices

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Baltimore to cease illegal inquiries

The Department of Justice and the city of Baltimore announced an agreement August 20, requiring the city to cease illegal medical inquiries during its hiring processes.

“The Justice Department will not tolerate discriminatory, outdated stereotypes that prevent individuals with disabilities from being hired for positions for which they are qualified,” said Molly Moran, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, in a news release.

The agreement, made in the form of a consent decree filed in federal court, stems from a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2010. In that case, a woman, who had worked for six years as a dispatcher in the city sheriff’s office, applied for a position with the Baltimore Fire Department.

As described by the Baltimore Sun, the woman interviewed and successfully completed a series of tests, including typing and radio communication. The Fire Department then conducted a pre-employment physical examination and drug screening, where she was asked about a past shoulder injury.

A second doctor recommended to the Fire Department that she was unfit for employment, even though she had never met or examined the woman. As a result, the Fire Department did not hire her.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are expressly prohibited from inquiring into the severity or nature of a person’s disability prior to offering employment, although employers are allowed to inquire into the applicants ability to perform job-related functions.

Once the employment offer is made, employers are allowed to require medical examinations and may condition a job on the results of the examination, under certain conditions.

To prevent the city from conducting such inquiries in the future, the DOJ, after negotiations with the city, filed a simultaneous complaint and consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

Going forward, the city must adopt new ADA-compliant policies and procedures, provide training to its employees and designate an employee to ensure that it is following through on its obligations to prevent disability discrimination, and file periodic reports.

The consent decree also requires to the city to ensure that its contractors, such as Mercy Medical Center, which conducted the examinations described in the case above, follow ADA hiring regulations.

The city of Baltimore will also pay the woman $65,000 in compensatory damages.

The Court must still approve the decree.