Feds sue BAE Systems for firing 600-pound employee

September 28, 2011 3:17:54 PM PDT
Ronald Kratz used to weigh more than 600 pounds. He says he was fired from his job in Sealy because of his weight and now a federal agency is taking on his case.

Kratz has been overweight most of his life. He also says he weighed a lot more, about 680 pounds, when he was fired two years ago from BAE Systems in Sealy.

"Just because I was over 600 pounds doesn't show what I am on the inside. I still went to functions, went out with family and friends," said Kratz.

When we asked Kratz if he could still do his job, he replied, "Yes,"

BAE, Kratz's employer of 15 years, disagreed and fired him in 2009. Kratz, in a lawsuit, alleges he was fired because of his weight. He says it happened without warning.

"My supervisor said, 'You're being let go because of your weight.' I said, 'How about a demotion?' She said, 'No, I'm going to go ahead and terminate you at this time,'" Kratz said.

His claims he was fired because of his weight is against the Americans with Disabilities Act, says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The agency has taken Kratz's case.

"The law requires them to let him do his job, if he can do it. The law requires them, if he can't do some particular aspect of his job, to sit down with him and see if they can figure out a solution, and they didn't do that," said EEOC attorney Kathy Boutchee.

BAE declined our request for an interview. In a prepared statement, the company says, "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."

Kratz says he worked at a computer and had to drive a forklift, functions he says he could perform.

Ironically, Kratz says he's lost over 300 pounds since being fired. He says he paid for weight loss surgery with his severance package. It's a procedure he says his company insurance would not cover.

Kratz hopes his lawsuit will help others.

"To prove that people with disabilities can do what they have to do to provide for their families," said

Kratz says he wants his job back. The EEOC said they are suing for punitive damages, but did not say a specific amount.

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 EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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