Deaf Employee Was Fired After Being Denied Interpreter, Federal Agency Charged
GREEN BAY, Wis. - The Miles Kimball Company, an Oshkosh, Wis.-based direct marketer of consumer gifts and household products, will pay $95,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit (EEOC v. Miles Kimball Co., No. 11-C-850), while working in Miles Kimball's Information Technology Department in 2007, deaf employee Laura Nejedlo was assigned to use a new software program for the company's computer system, but was denied her requested accommodation of a sign language interpreter for training and so could not fully utilize the new program. In February 2008, Nejedlo was fired after 13 years of successful employment.
Denying an employee a reasonable accommodation and then firing her because of her disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge William C. Griesbach today, provides that Miles Kimball will pay Nejedlo $95,000 and prohibits future discrimination. Also, the company is required to train its managers and supervisors regarding an employer's obligations and the rights of employees under the ADA.
"The recent ADA amendments have re-focused attention on providing reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities," said John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, which is responsible for EEOC litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. "Sometimes we need to reinforce, through litigation, the message that disabled individuals are productive workers if they are given an equal chance to compete in the workplace. We appreciate Miles Kimball's willingness to provide relief for Ms. Nejedlo and to ensure that discrimination does not recur."
According to Miles Kimball's website, the company has 1,300 employees in its Oshkosh facilities. One of America's largest direct marketers of consumer gifts and household products, Miles Kimball is a subsidiary of Blyth, Inc., of Greenwich, Conn.
The EEOC's litigation efforts were led by Senior Trial Attorney Dennis R. McBride of its Milwaukee Area Office and Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of its Chicago District Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.