Bedford Weaving Sued for Genetic Information and Disability Discrimination
RICHMOND, Va. - Bedford Weaving, Inc., a broad loom fabric weaving manufacturer, violated federal law when it asked an applicant for genetic information and made illegal medical inquiries, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The suit also alleged Bedford Weaving failed to hire the applicant because she disclosed her disability on the application and that it failed to retain employment applications as required by federal law.
Bedford Weaving operates a weaving manufacturing facility in Bedford, Va. According to the complaint, Bedford Weaving's employment application asked applicants questions about their family medical history, solicited disability-related information, and contained questions about applicants' personal medical history.
Pamela Hedrick applied for work at the facility in August 2013 and filled out an application at that time. Hedrick suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, which she disclosed on her application in response to Bedford Weaving's illegal medical questions. EEOC's complaint stated that Bedford Weaving told Hedrick it had no vacant positions, while in fact it had at least two vacant positions for which Hedrick was qualified. EEOC charged that Bedford Weaving failed to hire Hedrick because of her disability, which Bedford Weaving became aware of because Hedrick disclosed disability-related information on her application.
The questions asked on the employment application and the alleged failure to hire due to the information disclosed, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits employers from making disability-related inquiries of an applicant before a job offer, and from refusing to hire an individual due to a real or perceived disability. The questions also violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), the federal law that prohibits employers from requesting genetic information, including family medical history, or using that information in the hiring process.
The EEOC's complaint also alleges that Bedford Weaving failed to retain applications and other documents related to hiring for one year as required by the Commission's recordkeeping regulations, in violation of 29 C.F.R. § 1602.14.
The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Lynchburg Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bedford Weaving, Inc. Civil Action No. 6:15-CV-00027-NKM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
"GINA prohibits employers from soliciting family medical history on a job application. The ADA also prohibits employers from requesting any information that might disclose a disability during the application process," said Lynette A. Barnes, Regional Attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "Employers must ensure that they are aware of these restrictions to avoid violating federal anti-discrimination laws during the hiring process."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.