Nonprofit Refused to Provide Accommodations for Janitor with Cognitive Disability, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - Goodwill Industries of Greater New York and Northern New Jersey, Inc., which provides job opportunities to people with disabilities, will pay $65,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the employee, who worked in a janitorial program that primarily employed individuals with disabilities, encountered problems on the job as a result of his cognitive disability and needed additional training or job coaching to properly understand the rules he was required to follow. Instead, he was given written warnings, which the employee was unable to read or understand, and received no additional training or coaching. As a result, the employee continued to experience the same difficulties and was ultimately fired, the agency charged.
This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA, when an employer is aware that an employee with a disability needs an accommodation in order to perform the essential functions of his job, it must provide one unless doing so would be an undue hardship. Accommodations may include job coaching, additional training, modifications to the employer's operating procedures, or other measures that would allow the employee to do his job successfully. Further, the employer is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if there is a way to accommodate the employee's disability.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Goodwill Industries of Greater New York & Northern New Jersey, Civil Action No. 19-cv-1674), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree settling the case, Goodwill will pay the former employee $65,000 in back pay and damages. The organization will also institute new procedures in the janitorial program where the employee worked to ensure that other employees with disabilities receive the support that they need to continue their employment. Additionally, Goodwill will provide ADA training to all their supervisors and will report on any denied requests for reasonable accommodation or complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC.
"Federal law requires that employers reasonably accommodate the known disabilities of their employees," said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "An organization like Goodwill, whose mission is to help people with disabilities, should understand that."
EEOC Trial Attorney Sebastian Riccardi said, "We are pleased that Goodwill has agreed to provide relief to the individual who filed the charge in this case and has agreed to make changes that will help its employees with disabilities going forward."
EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, "We hope that the new procedures agreed to by Goodwill can serve as a model for other employers."
The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.