Posts Tagged ‘failure to accommodate’

Hearing-Impaired Applicant Shunned for Job Opening, EEOC Alleges Vs. Healthcare Company

Persons with disabilities must be given fair consideration for employment, including those with hearing impairments.

ALLAS – BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas, a Dallas health care company, violated federal law by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a hearing-impaired applicant during the application process, resulting in her denial of hire, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC, Sheryl Meador, who is deaf, applied through an online application process for an open claims examiner position with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas. After submitting her résumé, she received an e-mail from the company with instructions to complete a 35-minute assessment exam that included an audio portion. Meador was unable to complete the audio portion of the exam because of her disability. There were no captions or other visible accommodations that would allow Meador to complete the audio portion of the assessment exam and thus complete the application process.

According to the suit, Meador contacted BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and informed the company’s recruiting coordinator that she is deaf and requested a reasonable accommodation for the audio portion of the assessment exam because of her disability. Meador and representatives from the company exchanged emails relating to her disability and her application. However, the company ultimately failed to respond to her requests. As a result, she was not allowed to complete the application process and was denied the claims examiner position.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No.3:17-CV-02626-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent disability discrimination in the future, as well as lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.

The EEOC expects to be joined in this effort by Disability Rights Texas, a federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Disability Rights Texas represented Meador throughout the EEOC investigation.

“One of the Commission’s priorities is to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities,” said Suzanne Anderson, EEOC supervisory trial attorney. “Applicants with disabilities must be provided access to online application processes so they have a chance to present their qualifications to employers for open positions.”

Joel Clark, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, said, “Sheryl Meador was very interested in the opportunity to apply for the claims examiner position. She made repeated efforts to communicate with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and ask for an accommodation so she could apply. For her to be ignored is both unconscionable and unlawful.”


EEOC: Securities Firm Hit Trifecta of Illegality

After a bit of a lull, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed various employment discrimination lawsuits in rapid succession. There’s a backlog of lawsuits from the end of July. Here is one more.

This one involves three distinct alleged grounds of discrimination–what in horse racing terms is known as the trifecta.

MVM Inc., an Ashburn, Va.-based diversified security services firm, violated federal law when it stopped accommodating a security guard’s religious beliefs and disciplined him in retaliation for his complaint about racial harassment, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it announced on July 20.

According to the suit, Kelvin Davis is a practicing Muslim and observes his faith by wearing a beard. MVM hired Davis to work at a facility in Woodlawn, Md., as a security guard. Although MVM has a grooming policy which restricts guards’ facial hair to no longer than one-quarter of an inch, it granted Davis a waiver as a religious accommodation.

Davis maintained his beard while working for MVM for approximately one year, until he com­plained to MVM management that his supervisor had called him a “nigga.” Instead of taking corrective action, the day after Davis’ complaint, his supervisor and two managers retaliated against him by forcing him to shave his beard, the EEOC said.

The EEOC charged that MVM also retaliated against Davis by subjecting him to heightened scrutiny and unwarranted discipline, including a one-day suspension for arriving to work two minutes late. It also threatened him with termination. The EEOC charged that MVM’s failure to address the racial harassment, unjustified retaliatory actions, and threat of termination created conditions of employment so intolerable that Davis was forced to resign.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits dis­crim­ination based on race or religion. Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an emp­loyee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because he complained about harassment or discrimination.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02025) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Davis, as well as injunctive relief.

“No one should be subjected to racial slurs to earn a living,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. “Mr. Davis exercised his civil right to complain about racial harassment, but MVM unfortunately chose to engage in reprisal instead of addressing the harass­ment.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Retaliation always makes a bad situation worse. Employers must take action to investigate and stop racial harassment, not punish the victim, and that’s why we filed this suit.”


EEOC Sues Company for Not Accommodating Truck Driver Who Refused to Work on Sabbaths

A South Carolina company is taking heat from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for terminating a driver who refused to work on his Sabbath.

The EEOC said it filed suit yesterday against  J.C. Witherspoon Jr. Inc., for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in its treatment of  Leroy Lawson, a Hebrew Pentecostal for approx­imately 35 years. As a Hebrew Pentecostal, he holds the sincere religious belief that he must not engage in labor during the Biblical Sabbath, which, in Lawson’s faith, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

According to the EEOC,  in March 2012, Lawson was hired as a truck driver at the company’s Alcolu facility. During a pre-hire interview, Lawson informed the truck supervisor and foreman that he observes the Sabbath on Saturdays, and would need an accommodation of not working on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.  In or around April 2012, just weeks after Lawson’s hire, all drivers were required to work on a Saturday, the EEOC said. Although Lawson worked that day, at the end of the day Lawson told the foreman he would not work on a Saturday, his Sabbath, ever again because of his religious beliefs.  The company did not require Lawson to work on a Saturday again until around Dec. 27, 2013.

On December 27, 2013, Lawson was notified that he would have to work the next day, a Saturday.  Lawson refused.  The EEOC alleges that when the Owner of the company learned that Lawson refused to work on Saturdays, the Owner instructed the Foreman to terminate Lawson’s employment.  The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

“Under federal law, employers have an obligation to endeavor to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of the company,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.

EEOC: Employer Violated ADA in Denying Light-Duty Assignment to Employee Injured Off Work

The duty to reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability by considering a light duty assignment applies whether the injury occurs on or off the job, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A food services company that failed to make that accommodation is now a defendant in an Americans With Disabilities Act filed by the EEOC.

The EEOC announced yesterday that it is suing the company, American Blue Ribbons Holding, LLC, dba Legendary Baking, for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act in its treatment of Patricia Hall, a long-term employee at Legendary Baking’s Oak Forest, Ill., baking facility,.

According to the EEOC, Hall developed CSP myelopathy  a condition affecting the spinal cord, as a result of injury outside of work. This condition required Hall to take a leave of absence in order to have surgery. While recuperating, Hall sought to return to work with restrictions in a temporary light-duty capacity, but was told that she was ineligible because such work was reserved for employees injured on the job. As a result, Hall remained on leave and was terminated for failure to return to work at the expiration of 180 days, pursuant to Legendary Baking’s leave policy. When Hall was released to full duty a month later, she sought rehire, but was denied, EEOC said.

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, which can include denying reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, terminating their employment, and failing to hire or rehire disabled individuals.

EEOC Settles ADA, Pregnancy Cases

Pregnancy and disability aren’t the same thing, but they do share in common that the person in those conditions may need some help from their employer to keep working. Employers that make no effort to help pregnant women or persons with disabilities continue working often get unwanted attention from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Comes word this week that the EEOC has settled another pregnancy discrimination case and another Americans With Disabilities Act case. In the pregnancy discrimination case the EEOC had accused a Chicago-based hospital of not accommodating a high-risk pregnant employee. For that alleged violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Roseland agreed to pay $15,500 and make other changes in its personnel policies to prevent future discrimination.

The ADA case was filed against the Lash Group, accusing the Rockville, Md., company of violating the rights of a female employee returning to work after a bout of  post-partum depression. The company had extended her short-term disability leave, but then fumbled her return by not trying to find her another suitable job after it filled her old job. This employer agreed to pay $75,000 to settle the EEOC’s suit, the commission announced.

If you are an employer, you should study these cases as object lessons in how not to treat your pregnant or disabled employees, and make sure you do what you reasonably can to allow them to continue to work.

The settlement with the hospital is discussed further here, while the resolution of the ADA action against the Lash Group is discussed here.

I also wrote about each of these cases when the EEOC filed them; (Roseland), (Lash)

EEOC Recovers $145K for Rehab Center Employee Fired While on Medical Leave

Another employer finds itself on the hook with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because it allegedly failed to offer a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a medical condition.

The commission announced yesterday that it has settled an ADA lawsuit against  Paloma Blanca Health Care Associates, LLC, d/b/a Paloma Blanca Health and Rehabilitation, which owns and operates a health and rehabilitation center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. According to the suit, the center failed to reasonably accommodate an employee who was on FMLA leave for several medical conditions when it notified him that his job had been eliminated during a “reduction in force.”

Except that there was no reduction in force, the EEOC said, since no one else was RIF-ed and there were no facility or department-wide layoffs at the time of his discharge.

The center agreed to pay $145,000 to settle the lawsuit and to train its personnel on handling reasonable accommodation requests, the EEOC announced.

“Employers must address employee requests for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities and must assure that employment decisions are not based on them,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office.  “They must comply with federal law or be subjected to the EEOC’s vigorous enforcement of the rights of the disabled to fair treatment under the law.  One would hope that a health and rehab center in particular would be more sensitive and attentive to the rights and needs of employees with medical conditions.”

Read more about the lawsuit and the settlement.

EEOC, Construction Company Settle Suit Alleging Nonaccommodation Under ADA

It ought to go without saying that when an employee suffers an injury requiring surgery, he or she may need a reasonable accommodation to be able to get to work. When an employer doesn’t provide an accommodation in these circumstances, it risks being sued for an ADA violation.

That’s how Caddell Construction, a general construction contractor, found itself on the wrong end on an ADA lawsuit filed by the EEOC. According to the complaint, the company refused to provide a wheelchair ramp to enable an employee returning from leg surgery to enter the office. Instead, the EEOC charged, the company fired the employee several days after her request.

To settle the lawsuit, Caddell agreed to pay $125,000, and be subject to a consent decree, including training its employees on its ADA obligations and posting a notice informing the employees about the lawsuit.

Read more.