Feds sue defense company for firing 600-pound employee

Ronald Kratz has lost more than 200 pounds since he was fired from BAE.

September 28, 2011 3:05:26 PM PDT
The federal government has filed suit against BAE Systems, alleging the company has violated disability laws by firing a morbidly obese employee at its Houston-area plant.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Tuesday lawsuit says the Virginia-based firm that makes military vehicles fired Ronald Kratz II in 2009 for being overweight.

The lawsuit filed in a Houston court Tuesday says that when the company fired Kratz he was a materials handler who weighed more than 600 pounds. Kratz had worked at the plant in Sealy since 1994.

According to the EEOC's suit, BAE fired Kratz because of his disability, morbid obesity, and because it regarded him as disabled. The agency said that, at the time of his discharge, Kratz was qualified to perform the essential function of his job as a material handler III. BAE refused to engage in any discussion with him to determine whether reasonable accommodations were possible that would have allowed him to continue to perform the essential function of his job, the EEOC said.

The federal agency says Kratz, who received "very good" employee reviews in 2008 and 2009, was replaced by a worker who was not obese.

"The law prohibits an employer from firing a morbidly obese worker who can perform his essential job duties, with or without reasonable accommodation," said R.J. Ruff, district director of the agency's Houston District Office. "Mr. Kratz had a good performance rating and did not deserve to be fired."

BAE released a statement Wednesday which read, "BAE Systems believes it acted lawfully in this matter. Given that the issue is the subject of pending litigation, it would not be appropriate to comment further. BAE Systems takes pride in the diversity of the company and in supporting employees with disabilities."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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