ADA Verdict Upheld against DuPont

June 13, 2005 ( - A federal judge in New Orleans has upheld an October 2004 verdict against E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co for illegally firing a disabled employee.

A Web statement by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said US District Judge Sarah Vance of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana found enough evidence was presented at trial to support the jury’s decision.

“The jury may have concluded from this evidence that DuPont wished to force out an individual with a disability whether she could work or not – a reprehensible view with respect to individuals with disabilities,” Vance ruled. Vance’s decision orders DuPont to pay Laura Barrios $591,000, which includes $300,000 in punitive damages.

The EEOC’s June 2003 lawsuit against DuPont charged the company with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it fired Barrios – who has severe physical impairments – due to her inability to walk well enough to evacuate the premises in an emergency. The agency claimed that at trial the jury found that Barrios was able to perform her job without posing an undue threat to herself or others.

“The message to employers is a simple one: disability does not mean inability,” EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Gregory Juge said in the Web statement. “Employment decisions must be made based on one’s ability to do the job, not on disability-based myths, fears or stereotypes.”