Posts Tagged ‘reasonable accommodation’

Party Time: EEOC Recovers $155K for N.H. Autistic Applicant Denied Services of Job Coach

This employer may feel like partying because it didn’t have to go to court in this ADA case, but it still has to pay out.

Party City Corporation, a Rockaway, N.J.-based national discount and costume retailer, will pay $155,000 and provide other nationwide and regional relief to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced April 22.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in September 2018, charged that Party City violated federal law by failing to hire a qualified employee with a disability at its Nashua, N.H., location after it became aware that she required a job coach as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the applicant, who was on the autism spectrum and suffered from severe anxiety, had been receiving services from Easter Seals of New Hampshire to build up her self-confidence, including around working and applying for a job. One of these Easter Seals emp­loyees went with her in October 2017 to apply for a sales associate job with Party City. The applicant received a job interview, but when the hiring manager discovered that the woman accompanying her was a job coach, the hiring manager’s attitude changed dramatically.

The hiring manager told the job coach that Party City had hired people with disabilities with job coaches in the past and that it had not gone well, and made disparaging comments about those emp­loyees. Although both the applicant and the job coach explained to the hiring manager that the applicant had been successful shadowing others in previous retail jobs, the hiring manager was uninterested in either the applicant’s abilities or in the limited role the job coach would play, the EEOC said. The hiring manager tried to cut the interview short by telling the job coach in a patronizing tone, “Thank you for bringing her here,” while the applicant was still in the room. The hiring manager also stated, in the applicant’s presence, that the Party City employee who had encouraged the applicant to apply would hire anyone, and would “even hire an ant.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and imposes a requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accom­mo­dation, absent undue hardship on the employer. One of these accommodations can be the use of a job coach.

The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire in Concord, N.H. (Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00838-PB), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree settling the suit enjoins Party City from discriminating against qualified applicants with job coaches in the future. The decree also requires Party City to revise and improve its reasonable accommodation policy; train human resource employees on the new policy and distribute it to all employees; report to the EEOC on all denials of employment to applicants with job coaches; and provide a notice regarding the decree to employees within the New England region, where the store at issue is located.

“Federal law requires employers to consider disabled job applicants based on their abilities, not on demeaning stereotypes,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC will continue to prosecute violations of the law where we find them.”

Kevin Berry, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, said, “Allowing this applicant to work with a job coach in her early weeks of employment would not have caused an undue burden on Party City. The ADA requires employers to make this type of reasonable accommodation so as to enable qualified people with disabilities to join the workforce, which is a win-win for everyone.”

Markus L. Penzel, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, added, “We commend Party City for agreeing to mediate this case so soon after the filing of the complaint and to take the steps necessary to prevent what occurred here from happening to any other applicant with a job coach.”

EEOC: Safeway Fell Short on ADA Compliance

Job applicants at Safeway stores who need accommodation for disabilities should have an easier time of it under terms of a recent lawsuit settlement.

National grocery store chain Safeway, Inc. will pay $75,000 and make significant changes to its policies and hiring practices to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced last Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Joel Sibert applied online in July 2017 for several jobs at Safeway Store #1551 in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and was selected for an interview based on his qualifications and experience working similar jobs. However, once Sibert explained that he is deaf and would need an interpreter for the interview, the in-store hiring recruiter told him she did not know anything about providing an interpreter and then never got back to him about the interview. Instead, Safeway hired several hearing individuals to fill the vacant positions, the EEOC said.

Rejecting a qualified applicant because of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Safeway, Inc., Case No. 2:18-cv-01352-RSL) after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Isabel Jeremiah and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides Sibert with $75,000 in damages for emotional distress and back pay, and calls for important changes to Safeway’s hiring policies and practices. Safeway has agreed to revise its career website and application to make it easier for applicants to request accommodations; include contact information in its ADA policy; conduct ADA and accom­mo­dation training; distribute its modified ADA/accommodation policy to all employees annually; and ensure that recruiters understand Safeway’s obligations under the ADA.

“I was excited when I was selected for an interview at Safeway,” said Silbert. “But when I requested an interpreter during my interview and placed multiple calls to the store over the following week, I was placed on hold or told no one was available. I felt so disregarded. I’m glad Safeway is taking steps to make their workplace more inclusive. This will make a difference for so many deaf applicants.”

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said, “Discrimination against individuals with disabilities continues to be a serious and pervasive problem. Safeway’s agreement to changes in policies and training as well as other proactive steps shows its commitment to making the workplace accessible to all.”

Sienko noted that eliminating barriers in hiring, especially hiring practices that discriminate against people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s 2017-21 Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), and added, “This is our district’s second settlement resolving recent lawsuits on behalf of qualified applicants who were not given a chance to interview as soon as it became apparent that they were deaf. These are candidates with valuable skills and experience, and the EEOC will champion their right to be considered on the basis of their merits instead of stereotypes about their disabilities.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Teri Healy added, “Too often we see people with disabilities who are excluded from job opportunities. The ADA is designed to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to compete on an equal basis. The outcome here shows the importance of the EEOC’s mission to enforce the ADA.”

According to its website, http://www.safeway.com, Safeway became a subsidiary of Albertsons, Inc. in 2015. Prior to the merger with Albertsons, Safeway operated 1,335 stores in the United States and employed 138,000 individuals.

Goodwill Ignored Janitor’s Need for Reasonable Accommodation, EEOC Charges in ADA Lawsuit

Passivity won’t cut it under the ADA when an employee needs a reasonable accommodation. Rather, the employer must engage the employee to see if an accommodation is possible that will allow the employee to continue working.

Goodwill  Industries of New York and New Jersey, which provides job opportunities to  people with disabilities, violated federal law when it failed to provide  reasonable accommodations that would have allowed an employee to continue  working as a janitor in New York City-owned buildings, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit,  the employee, as a result of his cognitive disability, had trouble navigating  certain interactions with other employees and members of the public and needed  additional training or job coaching to properly understand the rules he was  required to follow. Instead, the EEOC said, his supervisor gave him written  warnings, which the employee was unable to read or understand. When the  employee said that he needed someone to explain the warnings to him, the  supervisor disregarded the request. As a result, the employee continued to  experience the same difficulties and was ultimately fired, the agency charged.

Under the Americans with  Disabilities Act (ADA), when an employer is aware that an employee with a  disability needs an accommodation in order to perform the essential functions  of his job, it must provide an accommodation, unless doing so would be an undue  hardship. An accommodation may in­clude job coaching, additional training,  modifications to the employer’s standard operating procedures, or other  measures that would allow the employee to do his job successfully. The employer  is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine  if there is a way to accommodate the employee’s disability.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S.  District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Goodwill Industries of New York & New Jersey, Civil  Action No. 1:19-CV-01674) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s litigation effort  will be led by Trial Attorney Sebastian Riccardi and supervised by Supervisory  Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

“The law is clear:  Employers must reasonably accommodate the  known disabilities of their employees,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney  Jeffrey Burstein.

EEOC Trial Attorney  Sebastian Riccardi said, “An employer cannot simply ignore an employee’s need  for a reasonable accommodation of a disability. The ADA requires that the  employer engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if  there is a way to accommodate the employee’s disability and allow the employee  to continue doing his job and earning a living.”

EEOC New York District  Director Kevin Berry added, “Employers cannot ignore their obligations under  the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations. The ADA’s accommodation  requirement applies to workers with both physical and, as here, intellectual  disabilities.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office  is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative  enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New  Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and  Maine.

Good Bet: Casino Folds on ADA Suit, Pays EEOC $60,000 to Settle Leave Claim of Cancer Sufferer

The house money this casino lost in an ADA reasonable accommodation lawsuit paled in comparison to its potential liability if it had tried to defend itself in court.

Midwest  Gaming, LLC (operating as Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill.) will pay $60,000  and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by  the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced on March 5.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Rivers Casino wrongfully  denied Donnan Lake’s request for a reasonable accommodation of a few additional  weeks of leave to have surgery for treatment of sarcoma, a type of cancer he  had fought since childhood. Instead of providing the additional time, Rivers fired  Lake as a slot technician.

Rivers Casino sought to dismiss this case under Severson v.  Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., 872 F.3d 476 (7th Cir. 2017), arguing  that the company had no obligation to accommodate Lake’s leave request under  the ADA. The district court disagreed, ruling on May 25, 2018 that the EEOC  “may be able to establish that granting Lake a short period of additional leave  was a reasonable accommodation in this particular case.”

Chief Judge Ruben Castillo entered the consent decree  resolving this case on Feb. 25. The two-year decree enjoins Rivers Casino from discriminating  against employees on the basis of disability in the future. The prohibited  practices include failing to provide reasonable accommodations for  disability-related absences and terminating employees on the basis of  disability. Under the decree, Rivers Casino will provide training on the ADA’s requirements  to provide reasonable accommodations for employees, post a notice to employees  about the terms of the consent decree, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how  the company has addressed requests for accommodation. The decree also provides  for payment of $60,000 to the estate of Lake, who passed away during the  pendency of the litigation. This case was litigated by Richard Mrizek  and Ann Henry of the Chicago District Office.

“This case is an important  reminder that the ADA’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations applies  to employees seeking additional leave — even after the Seventh Circuit’s  decision in Severson,” said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour. “Further,  employers cannot assume that denials of requests for additional leave are safe  from scrutiny under the ADA.”

EEOC District Director Julianne  Bowman added, “This consent decree reaffirms the EEOC’s position that granting  additional leave can be a reasonable accommodation – and employers need to  carefully evaluate each accommodation request in that light.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office  is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative  enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin,  Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and  Minneapolis.

Security Co. Settles ADA Claim For $90K; Denial of Additional Medical Leave Was Issue for EEOC

Another employer has tripped up on the ADA requirement to provide additional leave for an employee who was undergoing medical treatment.

G4S Secure Solutions, Inc., a security company in Hawaii, will pay $90,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced September 4.

The charge made to the EEOC alleged that G4S violated federal law when it failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for one of its employees, a security guard who required additional leave while undergoing medical treatment. In lieu of additional leave, G4S fired the security guard. The EEOC investigated the allegations and found reasonable cause to believe that G4S Secure Solutions failed to provide a reasonable accommodation and terminated the employee while on medical leave, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During its investigation, the EEOC also identified a class member who was also discriminated against due to his disability.

Without admitting liability, G4S agreed to enter into a two-year conciliation agreement with EEOC and the alleged victims, thereby avoiding litigation. Aside from the monetary relief, the company agreed to hire an outside equal employment opportunity consultant to revise its current policies to include a comprehensive reasonable accommodation policy and to conduct effective training for all employees across the state of Hawaii on the ADA. The EEOC will monitor compliance with this agreement.

“Employees have the right to an accommodation for their disabilities under the ADA, and a leave of absence is one such accommodation,” said Rosa Viramontes, district director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii. “I commend G4S Secure Solutions for its early resolution of the EEOC charge, thereby avoiding litigation for all parties.”

Glory Gervacio Saure, director of the Honolulu local office, added, “Engaging in the interactive process is vital to providing a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. The EEOC is encouraged by the commitment G4S is making through training and policies to create a workplace that is inclusive to people with disabilities.”

According to the company’s website, www.g4s.us, G4S provides integrated security solutions including risk consulting, software and technology, systems integration and security officers. G4S’s U.S. headquarters is in Jupiter, Fla.

EEOC Lauds Coca-Cola for Improvements to Company’s Reasonable Accommodation Policies

Employees with disabilities at Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc. should get a fairer shake going forward on their reasonable accommodation requires.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc., have entered into a settlement agreement to strengthen and improve the company’s policies and practices for accommodation of employees with disa­bilities, the federal agency announced August 23. The settlement resolves nine charges of discrim­ination alleging that the company failed to properly accommodate employees with disabilities.

As part of the agreement, Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc. will update its policies and pro­cedures to improve accommodations provided to employees returning to work after disability-related absences. The company will also establish a dedicated accommodation and leave manage­ment team to provide assistance to its employees.

The agreement also provides monetary payments totaling $2.25 million to those individ­uals who filed charges of discrimination, and annual financial support to selected “non-profit entities dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities find and keep employment.” The agreement was reached as part of the informal conciliation process which is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to foster early resolution of alleged violations without resorting to litigation.

“This is a strong agreement that will improve policies and practices for individuals with disabilities and sets an example for many employers to follow,” said Victoria A. Lipnic, Acting Chair of the EEOC. “I commend Coca-Cola Refreshments USA and the EEOC staff in our Denver and Phoenix offices for bringing this matter to a successful resolution. I especially commend Coca-Cola Refreshments for agree­ing to make the terms of this agreement public.”

Phoenix District Director Elizabeth Cadle said, “The EEOC is committed to ensuring that people receive the full protections of the ADA and other civil rights laws, and we are pleased that Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc. was willing to work with us to improve its ADA com­pliance practices. In doing so, we are confident that the company will be rewarded with retaining a dedi­cated and effective work­force.”

Brian Sasadu, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc., added, “One of our guiding principles as an organization is to treat everyone with respect and fairness and create an inclusive work environment that values the contributions of everyone. We are pleased that we have been able to work collaboratively with the EEOC to strengthen our disability leave policies to reflect best practices from inside and outside our business system.”

The EEOC’s Denver Office is part of the agency’s Phoenix District, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

$100K Settlement in ADA Suit Vs. Home Depot

Had Home Depot given this employee an emergency break, it might have saved itself alot of money.

Home Depot, the large national home improvement retailer, has agreed to pay a former employee $100,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced August 16.

According to the EEOC, Home Depot failed to provide an emergency break to an employee with irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia at its Peru, Ill., store. Instead of accommodating the employee, Home Depot fired her for allegedly violating company policy by leaving her post unattended, the federal agency charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.

The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. The Home Depot/Home Depot, U.S.A, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-06990, on Sept. 28, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

The consent decree, entered by Judge Robert Gettleman on August 16, 2018, prohibits disability discrimination and retaliation at Home Depot’s Peru store. In addition to monetary relief of $100,000, the consent decree requires Home Depot to provide training on the ADA to all managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel in the Peru store regarding their responsibilities in the reasonable accommodation process under the ADA, including the duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, policies and procedures for requesting and providing accommodations to employees for disability-related absences, and the range of potential accommodations at Home Depot facilities. Home Depot will also communicate to all other employees their rights under the ADA and provide information on whom to report requests for accommodations or disability-related complaints. Over the next two years, Home Depot will also keep a record of all accommodation requests and disability-related complaints at that store and provide a report to the EEOC every six months.

“The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities that enable them to perform their jobs,” said Greg Gochanour, the regional attorney of EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “It is regrettable that instead of working with the employee to help secure coverage of her post in the event of a disability-related emergency restroom break, Home Depot fired her when, despite her best efforts, she was unable to find coverage.”

“We are pleased with today’s settlement, which will both compensate the victim and provide ADA training to Home Depot’s employees at its Peru store,” said Julianne Bowman, EEOC’s district director in Chicago. “Training employees on their rights and responsibilities under the ADA is an essential piece in maintaining an accessible workplace.”

EEOC Trial Attorneys Ann Henry and Kelly Bunch and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason litigated the case against Home Depot.

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.