KobeWieland Copper Sued for Disability Discrimination

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against KobeWieland Copper Products, LLC (KobeWieland) for failing to hire an individual because of his perceived disability at its facility in Pine Hall, North Carolina. KobeWieland manufactures and sells copper tubing, and employs over 500 associates between its two plants in Pine Hall, NC and Wheeling, IL.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, KobeWieland failed to hire Joseph Cardwell for a full-time caster position because it regarded him as being disabled. Due to a childhood accident, Cardwell lost fingers on his left hand. Cardwell was offered a position by KobeWieland on September 24, 2008. However, when Cardwell reported for his first day of work, KobeWieland’s Human Resource Specialist noticed that Cardwell was missing fingers, and rescinded the offer of employment. The Human Resources Specialist stated that he was concerned that Cardwell could not do the job because of his missing fingers.

The complaint further alleges that Cardwell explained that he could do the job and even offered to demonstrate how he could do it, but was not allowed to do so. The EEOC alleges that Cardwell was fully qualified for the position and could perform the job, but was denied the job because KobeWieland regarded him as disabled because of his missing fingers.

Such alleged conduct violates the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Winston-Salem Division (EEOC v. KobeWieland Copper Products, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-636), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. In its suit, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, and rightful-place hiring, for Cardwell, as well as injunctive and other non-monetary relief.

“It’s unfortunate that twenty years after the enactment of the American with Disabilities Act, some employers still react to applicants and employees based on myths, fears and stereotypes about a certain impairment that the individual may have," said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes of the agency’s Charlotte District Office. "In this lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that rather than allowing Mr. Cardwell the opportunity to show that he could do the job, the company simply revoked Mr. Cardwell's job offer because of his missing fingers."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.