Judge rules in favor of Nashua company in discrimination caseBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
January 07. 2014 8:40PM
NASHUA — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has lost a lawsuit it filed against Windmill International Inc. that claimed the Nashua company terminated an employee because of a perceived health disability.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of Windmill International, maintaining the employee’s termination was due to job performance and did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“We feel vindicated by this court ruling and the EEOC’s dismissing the government’s appeal,” Harry Pape, CEO of Windmill International, said in a statement. “We have maintained from the very beginning that Windmill International Inc. acted in no improper way.”
Pape said he is pleased that Judge Steven McAuliffe reviewed the facts in the EEOC suit and ruled in favor of the company. Pape noted that in the judge’s ruling, the court indicated that the EEOC’s position was based on an “implausible reading of the record, speculation and unsupportable inferences drawn from the witnesses’ sworn testimony.”
“The court’s ruling validated the actions taken by the company in dealing with an employee performance issue that never should have reached a courthouse in the first place,” Pape said.
According to a release issued by Windmill International, the EEOC filed suit against the company after it terminated an employee — previously identified as Nancy Hajjar — who claimed she was fired because she had informed Windmill that she would need surgery.
However, in the court ruling, the judge found that the employee was terminated because of her job performance, and that no real or perceived disability had any bearing on the matter, according to the release.
The EEOC was seeking monetary relief for the terminated employee, along with the adoption of policies and procedures to remedy and prevent disability discrimination by Windmill International and training on discrimination for its managers and employees.
At the time, the EEOC alleged that Hajjar was fired one week after she told company officials that she had blocked carotid arteries, a potentially life-threatening condition that would require surgery, according to a statement issued in September 2011.
“Firing someone because of her disability, real or imagined, is against the law,” Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District, said in a release at the time. “This agency will vigorously prosecute cases where employers make negative employment decisions due to improper stereotyping of medical conditions.”
Windmill has repeatedly contended that the claims against the company were untrue, and that it was a baseless lawsuit.
Although the EEOC filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals in Boston in response to the recent ruling, it has since asked the court to dismiss its appeal. The EEOC moved to settle once Windmill agreed not to ask the Federal District Court to order the federal government to reimburse the company for its legal fees.
Windmill International Inc. is a veteran-owned small business headquartered in Nashua.
Founded in 1988, the company has a diverse portfolio including government acquisition and program management, configuration and data management services and logistics support services.
It became an employee-owned company in 2005, and also has a facility in Hollis.