Disability Services Company Refused to Provide Deaf Applicants With Sign Language During Training, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX - Creative Networks, LLC, will pay $57,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Creative Networks provides services to disabled clients and is a Phoenix-based subsidiary of ResCare, Inc.
In its suit, the EEOC charged that Creative Networks violated federal law by adhering to a rigid policy of denying deaf and hearing-impaired applicants' requests for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting services costing more than $200 to complete its pre-employment orientation and training. The EEOC accused Creative Networks of discriminating against Rochelle Duran, a deaf applicant, by denying her request for ASL interpreting services necessary to complete the company's mandatory 24-hour pre-employment orientation and training program.
Instead, the EEOC said, Creative Networks offered Duran a mere $200 towards the cost of 24 hours of ASL interpreting services, even though the company knew that the actual cost would far exceed this arbitrary limit. Creative Networks admitted it had sufficient resources to afford the interpretation services. When Duran was unable to attend the training due to Creative Networks' refusal to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, the company then declined to hire her.
Last year, Judge David Alan Ezra of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona held as a matter of law that Creative Networks failed to accommodate and failed to hire Duran because of her disability in violation of the ADA. (EEOC v. Creative Networks L.L.C., 09-CV-02023, D. Ariz.).
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals in job application procedures, hiring, and job training because of disabilities, and also mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities absent undue hardship. At the time of settlement, the case was scheduled for trial on monetary damages and injunctive relief.
"I am thrilled with this settlement and sincerely hope this is a lesson for Creative Networks and other employers that do not know about or understand the necessity of providing reasonable accommodations without impediments," said Duran, who initially filed the discrimination charge against Creative Networks with the EEOC. "What means the most to me is that this is a win for the deaf community and future deaf applicants."
EEOC Trial Attorney Hillary Valderrama said, "It is vital that employers' policies reflect the importance of providing equal employment opportunities for applicants and employees with disabilities. I am pleased that Creative Networks has agreed to inform applicants and employees of their rights and to change its policies in order to provide these individuals with reasonable accommodations under the ADA."
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill added, "One would expect that a disability services company would be the last place to commit disability discrimination. For over 20 years, it has been a violation of federal law for employers to refuse reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. One size does not fit all - any policy that imposes an absolute limit on an accommodation risks violating the ADA. Employers must take the time to individually assess the accommodations that qualified applicants and employees with disabilities need and to engage them in a dialogue aimed at enabling them to do the job. It's what the law requires, and it's just good business."
District Director Rayford O. Irvin, of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "Employers must take the time to learn what reasonable accommodations qualified applicants and employees with disabilities need and evaluate the employer's ability to meet those needs rather than creating rigid policies that limit the availability of reasonable accommodations."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.