EEOC Sues BAE Systems for Firing Obese Employee

September 30, 2011 ( – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued defense contractor BAE Systems, Inc., alleging the company fired an employee because he was morbidly obese. 

According to ABC News, Ronald Kratz II, who weighed over 600 pounds, worked in BAE’s manufacturing location in Houston since 1994 and was fired in October 2009.

Kratz said 90% of his job entailed typing on a computer at a desk, otherwise he counted and wrapped parts to prepare them for storage. He also drove a forklift. ABC News reports that Kathy Boutchee, Senior Trial Attorney with the EEOC, said Kratz was instructed to wear a seatbelt that did not fit while he drove the forklift. He said he never received a seatbelt extender after requesting one and was fired about two weeks after that.

Kratz told ABC News that he was told he was terminated from his job due to his weight. “I had good evaluations, I was doing a good job, I did what I was supposed to do. They just said it was because of my weight.” The suit says a human resources official at BAE told Kratz he could not longer perform his job duties as a material because of his weight. The official told Kratz he could not be transferred into another position after he asked if that was a possibility.

The EEOC suit accused BAE of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing Kratz because of his disability, denying him employment opportunities, and failing to accommodate his disability. Boutchee said the company “easily” could have reprimanded Kratz for not wearing a seatbelt or provided him a seatbelt extender, as required by law. She said an EEOC investigation found that other employees were driving forklifts without seatbelts.

The EEOC is demanding back wages, other “affirmative relief necessary to eradicate the effects of the unlawful employment practices to which he was subjected,” compensatory damages for past and future losses from emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages for BAE’s “malicious and/or reckless conduct.”