Baltimore County Settles 10 DOJ Disability Cases

Consent decree filed in federal court includes $500,000 in damages and fees and requires three years of monitoring by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

Baltimore County will pay more than $500,000 in compensatory damages to nine county employees who alleged the county subjected them to illegal medical reviews and a 10th who advised the county that such exams might be illegal, according to a federal consent decree made public today.

The medical reviews of the employees—ordered by the county—included fitness-for-duty and pre-hiring screenings that were then used to fire or force the retirement of some employees or exclude prospective employees from being hired. The consent decree alleges that the county used those tests, dating back to 2006, to engage in a “pattern and practice of discrimination.”

“The result of the county’s discriminatory policies and practices was to force employees, including veteran police officers and firefighters, to submit to invasive and unjustified medical examinations and inquiries,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, in a statement released Tuesday. “The ADA does not tolerate this type of conduct and neither does the Justice Department.”

The damages are part of a consent decree entered into by the county and the U.S. Department of Justice Monday. The order also includes back retirement benefits for the family of one retired county firefighter who later died from cancer that was related to his job and another prospective firefighter who will now be admited to the training academy and receive back pay.

All ten clients were represented by Kathleen Cahill, a Towson-based labor attorney.

As part of the settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the county did not acknowledge that it acted illegally but agreed to settle the cases.

Three other cases involving county employees who were fired under similar circumstances are not covered by the settlement and are expected to go to trial.

As part of the agreement, The county agrees to:

Not discriminate against any current or prospective employee.

Not require employees to submit to medical exams that are not required for all applicants hired for the same position.

Train its current supervisors in the Americans with Disabilities and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Acts within 120 days of the judge’s order.

Update all its policies for fitness-for-duty medical examinations.

Not automatically exclude applicants who have diabetes mellitus.

The county also agrees to stop using the physician common to all the cases.

The agreement requires the county to submit reports on its efforts every six months for the next three years. Failure to abide by the agreement could result in additional penalties including a contempt of court ruling.

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