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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Judge rejects feds’ claim that Nashua firm fired employee for health reasons

NASHUA – A federal judge has sharply rejected claims that a Nashua engineering firm fired an employee for health reasons in 2010, calling the government’s unusual discrimination lawsuit “neither reasonable nor even plausible” in light of testimony from other employees.

“Little more need be said,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe in his Sept. 4 ruling in favor of Windmill International, an engineering firm with offices in Hudson and Hollis, over claims levied by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. ...

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NASHUA – A federal judge has sharply rejected claims that a Nashua engineering firm fired an employee for health reasons in 2010, calling the government’s unusual discrimination lawsuit “neither reasonable nor even plausible” in light of testimony from other employees.

“Little more need be said,” wrote U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe in his Sept. 4 ruling in favor of Windmill International, an engineering firm with offices in Hudson and Hollis, over claims levied by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC has appealed the ruling.

The lawsuit was one of the very few such cases brought by the EEOC in New Hampshire under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The issue came to light in late 2011 when the EEOC filed a lawsuit claiming Windmill fired Nancy Hajjar, an accountant, because she said she needed to take off time for a procedure to clear clogged arteries and perhaps for heart surgery.

Windmill officials said in response that Hajjar was let go because of performance issues. Testimony in the case indicated that her supervisor had recommended terminating her in 2009 – a fact that McAuliffe noted in his judgement.

“We feel vindicated by this Court ruling and the EEOC’s dismissing the government’s appeal,” Harry A. 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.”

The EEOC had sought money for Hajjar and the adoption of policies and procedures by the company.

Windmill provides program management, engineering, training, and software development consulting for defence firms. Established in 1988, it is headquartered in Nashua with offices in Hollis and many other cities around the world.

The EEOC receives many charges of discrimination but rarely litigates them in court.

A 2011 search of the federal database for the previous decade revealed only one case filed by the EEOC in federal court in New Hampshire: this one.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).