EEOC Files Two New Disability Discrimination Suits, Settles an Ongoing One

February 12, 2018

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the filing of unrelated lawsuits challenging alleged disability discrimination by employers based in Houston and Nashville, and the resolution of an ongoing disability discrimination lawsuit against a Seattle employer.

Vantage Drilling. The Houston-based group of interrelated energy, drilling, and management companies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing an employee because he had a heart attack on board one of Vantage's drilling rigs. The company purportedly fired the employee after he suffered a heart attack while working on the Titanium Explorer. The heart attack resulted in an impairment to the employee’s cardiovascular system, which necessitated that he take short-term disability leave. Vantage discharged him immediately upon being released to return to work. The EEOC is asking the court for an injunction prohibiting such actions in the future, as well as back pay with pre-judgment interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.

West Meade Place LLP. Tennessee-based West Meade Place LLP dba The HealthCare Center at West Meade Place violated the ADA when it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee who suffers from an anxiety disorder, and then fired her because of her disability. The new lawsuit alleges that West Meade hired the employee as a laundry technician in February 2015. When she requested leave as a reasonable accommodation for her anxiety disorder in November 2015, management purportedly told her she could not take leave because the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) did not apply to her. The company then required the employee to obtain and return to management a note from her doctor clearing her to return to work without any restrictions, less than 36 hours after the employee requested a reasonable accommodation for her disability. When the employee could not quickly obtain a doctor's note, West Meade fired her. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting the company from discriminating against employees based on their disabilities in the future, as well as back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the employee.

The Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory and its wholly owned subsidiary have agreed to pay $15,000 and implement certain changes to settle an EEOC lawsuit alleging that the company violated the ADA when its Seattle restaurant failed to provide an effective accommodation for a newly hired dishwasher with deafness, and then subsequently fired him for issues associated with his disability. The EEOC's investigation revealed that The Cheesecake Factory denied the employee’s requests for orientation training with either closed-captioned video or an American Sign Language interpreter. Under a two-year consent decree resolving the suit, in addition to the monetary relief for the employee, The Cheesecake Factory will provide closed captioning for the training and orientation videos that are required viewing for new hires. The company will also provide more detailed descriptions to managers and employees on how to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities in the future.