Disability Discrimination Alleged Most Often in Spate of New EEOC Lawsuits

September 04, 2018

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed several new lawsuits against employers, with the majority of the unrelated complaints alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—the type of discrimination that accounted for 31.9 percent of bases alleged in charges filed with the agency during its fiscal year 2017. The remainder of the new suits filed by the EEOC allege retaliation and sexual harassment. Before denying a request for an accommodation due to a disability or before taking adverse action against an employee claiming harassment, we recommend all employers contact SESCO to ensure ADA and Title VII compliance.

Disability discrimination

Ongoing accommodation nixed. Charter Communications, LLC (which bought Time Warner Cable), violated the ADA when it refused to provide an ongoing accommodation for an employee who could not drive at night due to cataracts and night blindness, according to the EEOC’s new suit. Because the employee worked a shift ending at 9:00 p.m., she asked to be moved to an earlier shift. Charter granted the request, the EEOC said, but only for about a month. When the employee requested an extension, Charter allegedly refused to grant it, and after it expired, without consulting the employee about needing further accommodation, moved him back to the shift ending at 9:00 p.m.

Actual and perceived disability. Adecco USA, Inc., violated the ADA by refusing to offer a candidate employment at a production facility based on his actual and perceived disability, the EEOC’s complaint alleges. A worker with learning and other mental disabilities visited the staffing agency’s office in Corry, Pennsylvania, to apply for a food packaging and distribution position with an Adecco customer. When the worker was told he would have to take an employment test, he informed Adecco officials that he had difficulty with reading comprehension. The worker allegedly requested that the test be read to him for purposes of test administration, which Adecco initially declined, causing him to fail the test. The company later agreed to retest the worker by reading the test to him, and he passed, the EEOC said. However, an Adecco official purportedly told the disabled worker that he was "too slow" for the production job and instead offered to place him in a car-washing job, while other applicants were offered the jobs they sought.

Refusal to interview deaf applicant. When it refused to hire a deaf applicant for a dishwasher position because of his deafness, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., violated the ADA, the EEOC contends. Cracker Barrel allegedly scheduled the applicant for an interview with a store manager for a dishwasher job at its Linthicum Heights, Maryland, store. The applicant went to the scheduled interview but purportedly was told by a different store manager that the designated manager was not there. The store manager was visibly uncomfortable interacting with the applicant, who tried to communicate with her through written notes, according to the EEOC, which said the manager did not write notes back but simply mouthed, "she’s not here." The federal agency contends that the manager refused to interview the applicant, even though Cracker Barrel's policy is that job interviews are to be conducted by any manager available. During the same month, Cracker Barrel allegedly hired three dishwashers who were not deaf to work at its Linthicum Heights store.

Retaliation

Master Marine, Inc, violated Title VII when it terminated a First Class Painter/Blaster at its Bayou La Batre, Alabama, facility, through a staffing agency in retaliation for filing an EEOC charge against the Gulf Coast shipbuilder two years earlier, the EEOC alleges. Shortly after the staffing firm placed the worker with Master Marine, his foreman purportedly informed him that he was being laid off. The foreman, who is no longer with the company, heard management mention during a meeting that the worker had "sued the company" and "cost the company a lot of money," the EEOC said. Once the meeting was over, the foreman allegedly was instructed by his supervisor to "get rid of that m*****f****r, he cost us a lot of money. Don't let him make it through the day." The foreman then informed the worker that his employment with Master Marine was over; at least six other temporary First Class Painters/Blasters who did not engage in protected activity were not terminated.

Sexual harassment

The EEOC alleges that Charleston, West Virginia-based Appalachian Power Company violated Title VII by subjecting a contract administrative assistant to sexual harassment and then firing her for complaining about it. Not long after the employee began working in the electric utility’s accounting department at its Clinch River facility, her supervisor purportedly subjected her to repeated sexual harassment, such as making unwelcome comments about her body, expressing his physical attraction to her, telling her that he loved her and that he wanted to leave his wife for her, and scrutinizing her interactions with coworkers. The employee told him she was not interested in a relationship, but the supervisor continued to harass her, once telling her, "You can get me in a lot of trouble, but I know you would not do that because I'll pull rank and terminate you." The EEOC contends that because the employee objected to his unwelcome harassment, the supervisor abruptly discharged her.