A defense contractor decided a man could not do his desk job because he was morbidly obese. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission says this is against the law.
L.M. SIXEL, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
CONTENTION BAE discriminated against Ronald Kratz II (pictured) both for his weight and because of a perception that he was disabled.
At 600 plus pounds, Ronald Kratz II wasn't having any problem performing his desk job at a defense contractor and had been receiving good evaluations at work.
But BAE Systems fired him in 2009 anyway, he says. Now the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission is suing the company in federal court in Houston, contending that BAE discriminated against him both for his weight and because of a perception that he was disabled.
The company concluded that Kratz—who had worked for the company in the Houston area since 1994—couldn't handle his $21-an-hour inventory management job, the suit says. (He received "very good" employee reviews in 2008 and 2009.) Nor, court papers claim, did the company make any effort to accommodate Kratz, now 42.
Kathy Boutchee, the EEOC lawyer in charge of the case, says Virginia-based BAE contended Kratz had difficulty walking from the parking lot to the plant, from which it concluded he had trouble walking around the facility. He was told that the company thought "he could no longer perform his job duties because of his weight" and that transferring was not an option. The Americans With Disabilities Act requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
BAE said in a written statement that it was reviewing the allegations and "will respond at the appropriate time and manner. "Kratz—who was supporting his wife and three teenagers—has since had weight-loss surgery and now weighs less than 300 pounds. He still hasn't found another job.
By law, employment decisions must be based on whether a worker can do the job—not whether he has physical impairments. It shouldn't matter whether an employee has only three fingers or has epilepsy or diabetes if he can do the job, employment lawyer John Griffin Jr. of Marek, Griffin & Knaupp told the Houston Chronicle.
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.