A “qualified” job candidate applied for an opening as a preschool teacher assistant, made it successfully through several stages of the hiring process, then was ultimately discriminated against because of her disability, according to federal authorities.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a disability discrim­ination lawsuit against the Pennsylvania employer in September 2021, alleging that the organization violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now Excentia Human Services — also known as The Pai Corporation and the S. June Smith Center — has recently agreed to settle the complaint and pay the woman $100,000, according to court records and a news release.

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Excentia Human Services is an organization that provides services for adults and children with developmental disabilities.

McClatchy News reached out to the provider and its defense attorneys, and did not immediately hear back.

The woman applied to work for Excentia in February 2020, and she was interviewed that month, according to the complaint.

The interviewer “noted no concerns about (her) qualifications or ability to work for (Excentia) and concluded that she was a good fit for a job,” prosecutors said. The applicant was then scheduled to interview for the preschool teacher assistant position.

She did the second interview, then was asked to go to the worksite in March, officials said.

Two days after visiting the worksite, authorities said the applicant received an email that informed her she would not be hired because the company had “chosen to pursue another candidate.”

She called the company that same day and learned she was not hired because of “limitations” she was perceived to have due to her cerebral palsy, according to the complaint.

Cerebral palsy “is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The applicant followed up the phone call with an email, officials said, asking Excentia to look past her disability or reconsider her for other job openings. Excentia did not respond or contact her again, according to court records.

The EEOC said the organization violated the ADA, “which prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to provide reasonable accommo­dations to individuals with disabilities unless it would cause undue hardship.”

“The ADA requires employers to evaluate persons with disabilities based on their actual ability to perform the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, and not on subjective perceptions, assumptions, or stereotypes about the nature or effect of a person’s disability,” Debra Lawrence, regional attorney for EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, said.

In addition to paying $100,000 in back pay and damages to the woman, Excentia is also required to adopt new policies and procedures, provide ADA compliance training and periodically report to the EEOC.

Excentia is based in Lancaster, about 80 miles west of Philadelphia.

© 2023 McClatchy News
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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