Discrimination Complaint Against North Kingstown Shipbuilder Resolved

Posted: Jan, 07, 2010

Two months after the R.I. Commission for Human Rights found “probable cause” to believe that Senesco Marine, a large ship construction and repair facility in North Kingstown, had engaged in activities that violated state anti-discrimination laws, the company has settled the discrimination complaint filed against it by the R.I. ACLU.  Under the settlement agreement announced today, Senesco agreed to revise its employment application form to remove language that the ACLU claimed unlawfully discriminated against job applicants with disabilities.  In addition, the company agreed to pay $4,000 in attorneys’ fees.

When the ACLU filed its complaint in January 2009, Senesco’s employment application form required all job applicants to attest that they were “physically and mentally capable of performing the essential job duties of the position for which [they] have applied” and that they “have no need for changes or adjustments in the essential duties of the job in order to allow me to meet the demands of the position.”

However, the ACLU complaint noted: “By well-established law, an employer must provide an employee with disabilities ‘reasonable accommodations’ that would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.  In purpose and effect, Senesco’s attestation operates to bar persons with disabilities from applying for a job unless they first waive their legal right to request reasonable accommodation.”  Although Senesco revised its application a week after the complaint was filed, that version of the form was just as problematic.

“I'm very pleased that Senesco has agreed to create an employment application form that treats all applicants, including those with disabilities, fairly and justly. ” said Michael Feldhuhn, the R.I. ACLU volunteer attorney who filed the complaint.