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Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, which operates an outlet in Northwest Washington, agreed to pay $100,000 and provide other relief to settle allegations it discriminated against two deaf employee who applied for jobs.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Walmart refused to provide accommodations, such as closed-captioned training videos and sign language interpreters, to two hearing-impaired applicants. In addition to the money, Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. agreed to revise its employee manual and submit to court supervision. These are standard provisions in EEOC settlements. “This settlement should encourage all employers to provide reasonable accommodations that allow equal access for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and applicants to engage fully in the workplace,” said Acting Washington Field Office District Director Mindy Weinstein.
“This settlement got our attention not necessarily because of its size, but because it is part of a trend,” observed Chicago employment discrimination lawyer Jonathan C. Goldman.
Earlier this year, Safeway and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas each paid $75,000 to settle similar allegations. In each instance, the employer failed to provide accommodations not for current employees, but for job applicants. These three cases clearly indicate that the EEOC is aggressively pursuing these matters. So, if you are an employer, now is a very good time to review the accommodations you provide job applicants. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply just to hearing impaired people. Other protected classes include:
- National origin,
- Sexual orientation, a category which probably includes gender identity,
- Race, and
Finally, an employers application process, such as filling out forms and taking tests, could be seen as discriminatory for employees with disabilities if they are not offered accommodations that give them an equal opportunity to apply for a position.
Excluding certain applicants because of their national origin or race is another example of disparate treatment. Refusing to provide a translator may be discriminatory. These cases raise another issue as well, such as what is considered to be a reasonable accommodation? The law requires that the employer provide an accommodation that is reasonable under the circumstances. This may require an interactive process where the employer and employee discuss what accommodations are needed and what would be reasonable under the facts. If a disabled person’s request is reasonable, the employer is generally required to provide that request, absent compelling reasons. If the employer must establish that the request is too expensive in proportion to its profits, or would cause undue hardship to its operations
Finally, the Civil Rights Act does not just apply to current employees.
It applies to potential employees as well, in addition to former employees who were terminated when they were not provided with a reasonable accommodation that would have enabled them to perform their job. All these people are entitled to the same accommodations under the law.
To discuss your case contact Goldman & Ehrlich.