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Bellingham firm to pay $100,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit

Bellingham Herald - 1/22/2020

Jan. 22--A Bellingham-based construction company will pay $100,000 and train employees as part of a settlement for a federal disability discrimination lawsuit.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit, announced the settlement with Diamond B Constructors Inc. and its successor Harris Companies on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

Harris acquired Diamond B in 2018.

The settlement money will be paid to Angela Watson as compensatory damages.

Watson was hired to work on a reconstruction project at what is now called the Marathon Anacortes Refinery (formerly known as Tesoro Refinery), according to the lawsuit.

A certified pipefitter and rigger, Watson told her direct supervisor that she has epilepsy. The supervisor and other Dia­mond B supervisors decided that she couldn't safely work at heights and ended her ­employment, according to the EEOC.

But Watson's epilepsy was well controlled by medication, the federal agency said, and she hadn't asked for any accommodation for her epilepsy nor did she have medical restrictions.

Terminating her employment violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the federal agency.

The settlement also requires the businesses to train their workers on complying with federal anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on the ADA, according to the release.

They also must implement and disseminate an ADA policy.

"This employer concluded that Ms. Watson presented a significant safety risk without assessing the actual likelihood of her having a seizure," EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che said in the release.

"Depriving a person of employment opportunities because of assumptions about conditions such as epilepsy strikes at the heart of the ADA," Che said.

Harris Companies couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

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