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Goodyear Properly Fired Employee For Misrepresenting Facts On Job Application And Medical Questionnaire

By on March 8, 2012 in ADA with 0 Comments

In Williams v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, a Kansas federal court dealt with the ability of an employer to terminate an applicant for misrepresenting facts in the job application process. Williams filled out a job application and listed three jobs in response to the question “Account for all your time – regardless of how spent.” Williams did not list another ten jobs that he had since 1996 and he did not list the two employers during whose employment he had work-related injuries.

As part of the employment process, Williams was also required to fill out a medical questionnaire.  He filled out the questionnaire on June 17, 2008 after getting a conditional offer of employment.  He was also examined by a company doctor who cleared him without restrictions based on his answers during the physical examination and on his application and questionnaire.

Goodyear asked Williams to consent to the release of his workers’ compensation records.  That information came some time later.  On several of the answers, Williams provided misleading or inaccurate information:

* No. 2 “Head injury — concussion, skull fracture, etc?”  Williams initially checked the “No” box but then crossed it out and checked yes, referencing an incident being hit by a door in 2001.  He indicated he had no headaches.  When the company doctor reviewed the questionnaire in the medical examination, she was lead to believe that this was a relatively minor incident because Williams did not elaborate on many symptoms, although he did conceded a concussion.  The doctor did not have the workers’ compensation records at that time.  Subsequently, the workers’ compensation records came in, showing that Williams had suffered a head injury at work in 2002, resulting in the receipt of temporary disability benefits, a permanency rating and a lump sum settlement.  The company doctor testified that she would have ordered a neurological examination had Williams told been more forthcoming about his symptoms.

* No 11 “Disorder of the musculoskeletal system — back trouble, knee trouble, etc.” Williams checked the “No” box.  The workers’ compensation records showed that Williams injured his knee at Suhler Trucking in 1997 and received temporary disability benefits and a lump sum settlement. Williams had knee surgery for this work injury.  As with the employer involving the head injury, this prior employment was not even listed on the job application.

* No. 26 “Have you ever been unable to do or hold a job because of “Sensitivity to chemicals?  Inability to perform certain motions?  Inability to assume certain positions? Other physical or mental reasons?”  Williams checked the “No” box after sensitivity to chemicals and failed to check the other three boxes.

On July 7, 2008 Williams began training at Goodyear.  A few days later he was asked to provide his employment resume to the Plant Manager in order to be considered for training for skilled trades and craft jobs. Williams omitted the jobs where he sustained the knee injury and a job where he sustained a shoulder injury.

On July 11, 2008, Human Resources met with Williams and showed him the workers’ compensation docket sheet.  Williams gave contradictory answers about his prior workers’ compensation injuries.  Williams denied ever having received a rating for permanent residual impairment, which the records contradicted.  He said the knee injury was personal.  Based on what the company believed were untruthful responses by Williams, his employment was terminated.

Williams sued under the ADA and argued that he was regarded as having a disability in violation of the statute.  The federal court in Kansas disagreed.  “In evaluating the evidence in the record, the court finds no evidence to support plaintiff’s contention that Goodyear mistakenly believed that he had an impairment which substantially limited the major life activity of working. Williams cannot point to any statements made by Hollis that indicated that he considered Williams disabled.”  The court added in addressing Williams’ argument that Goodyear was aware of his workers’ compensation awards, “The court is not persuaded that this evidence is sufficient to demonstrate a ‘regarded as’ claim under the ADA.”

The court held that the company fired Williams for being untruthful, not for having a disability.

The record shows only that Goodyear examined Williams’ employment application and medical questionnaire and determined that he had made intentional omissions and misrepresentations.  During the employment process, plaintiff plainly failed to answer completely or truthfully on the following matters: (1) all of his prior employers including Suhler Trucking and others on his employment application; (2) whether he had ever had a knee injury on the medical questionnaire; (3) the year he suffered a head injury at Ranger Trucking on his medical questionnaire; and (4) telling Nace that his knee injury was not work-related. . . The evidence suggests that Goodyear did not question Williams’ ability to work, only his ability to tell the truth.

This case is important for employers who have a post-offer examination process or are considering implementing such a policy.  Goodyear’s post-offer examination process provides a textbook example of how to do this right.  It involved a job application, a medical questionnaire, a medical examination following up on answers, and then obtaining by consent the prior workers’ compensation history.

The case can be found at Williams v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 2011 U.S. Dist LEXIS 140844 (D. Kansas 2011). 

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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