The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has filed a claim under the amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act against a company that allegedly discharged a morbidly obese man. EEOC v. BAE Sys., Inc., No. 11-03497 (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Tex., Houston Div., filed September 27, 2011). According to the EEOC, “at the time of his discharge, [Ronald] Kratz was qualified to perform the essential function of his job as a material handler II. BAE refused to engage in any discussion with him to determine whether reasonable accommodations were possible that would have allowed him to continue to perform the essential function of his job … The suit asserts that BAE replaced Kratz with someone who was not morbidly obese.”
News sources have reported that Kratz, who weighed 450 pounds when the military vehicle manufacturer hired him, gained 200 pounds over the 16 years he was employed. He claims that his weight never interfered with his job performance for which he received high ratings. Still, about two years ago, Kratz reported for an overtime shift and was told he was too heavy to continue performing the work. He claims that the company refused his offer to take a demotion. While he has apparently been unable to find another job, he has dropped more than 300 pounds through surgery and a diet and exercise program.
An EEOC attorney reportedly said that Kratz was instructed to wear a seatbelt that did not fit when he drove a forklift. He apparently never received the extender he requested and was fired two weeks later. The Arlington, Virginiabased company issued a statement indicating that it “believes it acted lawfully in this matter and given that the issue is the subject of pending litigation it would not be appropriate to comment further. BAE Systems takes pride in the diversity of the company and in supporting employees with disabilities.” EEOC seeks injunctive relief and remedies to make Kratz whole, such as back pay, reinstatement, pecuniary losses, damages for emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages.