Federal Agency Obtains $55,000 for Blind Applicant Denied Hire
SEATTLE – Everett, Wash., debt collection agency Sentry Credit, Inc. has agreed to provide $55,000 and other relief to settle a federal lawsuit charging that the company refused to hire a qualified applicant because she was blind, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, although Cheryl Reith’s online application for a recovery specialist position qualified her for an interview with Sentry, once the company's manager met Reith in person and realized she was blind, the manager immediately stated, “This isn't going to work out.” Although Reith attempted to explain that she had done similar work for over eight years with the aid of assistive technology for the blind, the manager merely repeated, “This just won't work,” and sent Reith away.
Reith, age 39, who has been blind from birth, said, “I almost broke into tears that day, I couldn’t believe how quickly I was dismissed. The interviewer’s rejection of me was so instant and blatant, and happened in front of several people… I never had a chance to bring up my success doing similar work for over eight years. All I really wanted was the opportunity to be considered for my actual qualifications and experience, not someone’s preconceptions of what it means to be blind.”
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with disabilities unless it would pose an undue hardship. After an investigation conducted by EEOC investigator Bill Benedict and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit EEOC v. Sentry Credit, Inc. (Case No. CV-09-0147 MJP).
Under the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, Sentry Credit will pay Reith $55,000, post a notice in the workplace concerning the company’s commitment to complying with the ADA, institute training on preventing disability di scrimination and report to the EEOC any disability discrimination complaints that arise for the next three years.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Sentry’s refusal to consider accommodating Cheryl Reith turned out to be a huge loss to the company. Ms. Reith had excelled at very similar and even more demanding work with her previous employer with a modest accommodation. Had management at Sentry given Reith the opportunity to prove herself, they would have been rewarded with a very skilled and loyal employee.”
Seattle Field Director Luis Lucero added, “According to a 2009 study by the Job Accommodation Network, 56 percent of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only about $600. The study also shows that most employers report financial benefits from providing accommodations due to a reduction in the cost of training new employees, a reduction in the cost of insurance, and an increase in worker productivity. With so much to gain, it is well worth it for an employer to comply with the ADA and consider if there is an accommodation that will allow an applicant or employee with a disability to get the job done.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.