$50K for Deaf Applicant Denied Interview

Trying to find a reasonable accommodation for a deaf applicant might have saved this employer some angst and money. Not to mention given the applicant a fair chance at the job.

Capstone Logistics LLC, a Norcross, Ga.-based manufacturing and distribution company, will pay $50,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced April 6.

The EEOC said that after a deaf applicant applied for a warehouse position at Capstone’s Jessup, Md., warehouse, the site manager emailed him to schedule an interview. When the applicant came for the interview, however, the site manager canceled it and said they would reschedule so that human resources and an interpreter could be present.

Capstone never rescheduled the interview. According to the suit, the site manager instead sent him a text message saying, “…we have determined that there is no job that we can offer that would be safe for you….” Capstone never asked the applicant about his ability to perform any of the essential functions of a warehouse position, with or without reasonable accommodation, the EEOC charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination. The ADA requires employers to base any direct threat assessments on a reasonable medical judgment using the most current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective evidence. Employers must also evaluate whether a reasonable accommodation will eliminate or reduce any such safety threat. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Capstone Logistics, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-01980) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $50,000 in monetary relief to the applicant, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Capstone from refusing to hire qualified individuals based on disability, including using unlawful qualification standards that tend to screen out qualified individuals without hearing capabilities. Capstone will also:

  • revise all job descriptions, job postings and job qualifications to remove the physical requirement of hearing capabilities or the ability to hear and disseminate the revised job qualification documents to all individuals involved in the hiring process;
  • post on its job search website that it does not discriminate in hiring and will provide a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process, including to individuals with any hearing impairment;
  • revise its equal employment opportunity policy, and related employee policies, to state that it will not use qualification standards that screen out or tend to screen out individuals without hearing capabilities;
  • further revise its equal employment opportunity policy, and related employee policies, to include procedures for making an individualized direct threat analysis;
  • further revise its equal employment opportunity policy, and related employee policies, to inform applicants that they might be entitled to a reasonable accommodation;
  • provide training on the ADA and Capstone’s revised job qualification documents;
  • report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination; and
  • post a notice regarding the settlement.

“This settlement should remind all employers that any safety assessments must be based on objective, factual evidence regarding the individual’s present ability to do the job, and that employers must also determine whether a reasonable accommodation will eliminate or reduce any such risk,” said Jamie R. Williamson, district director of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “We are pleased that Capstone Logistics worked with us to reach an amicable settlement that offers monetary relief to the applicant, and equally important, provides significant and comprehensive policy changes and training that will protect all applicants and employees from disability discrimination.”

According to company information, Capstone Logistics is a leading provider of outsourced supply chain solutions to distribution centers in the grocery, food service, retail and other industries.

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