Browning-Ferris, Inc. Settles Disability Claim

March 6, 2003 ( - Waste management company Browning-Ferris, Inc. has agreed to settle claims that it illegally terminated an employee suffering from Crohn's disease.

Under the terms of the settlement, approved by US District Judge Marvin Garbis of the US District Court for the District of Maryland, Browning-Ferris will pay $196,000 to cover full back wages and compensatory damages to the former employee.   Additionally, the company is required to post notices advising its employees of their right to be free from disability-based discrimination.

The settlement came in a lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) on behalf of the former employee inflicted with the inflammatory bowel disorder, Crohn’s disease.   EEOC lawyers filed the suit after boom trucker driver and trash compactor repairperson Deborah Brown filled charges of discrimination, alleging the company violated the ADA when it abruptly discharged her because of her malady, the EEOC said in a news media release.

Unlawful Discharge

The company dismissed Brown over concerns that her ailment and exposure to waste could adversely impact the quality of her life. Brown, disagreeing with the company’s assessment of the on-the-job hazards, sought a second opinion from her medical specialists, who concluded that the exposure to waste had no relation to Crohn’s disease.   In addition, the medical specialist pointed to the fact that she had safely worked around waste throughout her roughly 10-year career with no apparent adverse effects.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act prevents employers from making employment decisions based on myths, fears, and stereotypes – which is exactly what occurred in this case,” EEOC’s Regional Attorney for the Baltimore office Gerald Kiel said in a statement.

“An employer must conduct an individualized assessment when determining if an employee’s disability constitutes a direct threat to the health and safety of herself or others. Here, in particular, Ms. Brown had a good and safe employment history with the company and continued working in the waste removal business following her discharge,” Kiel continued.