Disabled Worker Settles Suit Against (Guess) … Provider of Disability Services

Chalk up another easy settlement for the EEOC – an ADA disability lawsuit by an employee who worked for a non-profit which … (take a guess) … provides job opportunities to people with disabilities!

Yes, here’s another health care or related provider which ignored our constant refrain that they are in the cross hairs of the EEOC because they are easy pickins.  They are … low hanging fruit! 

Our readers know the refrain: it is like shooting fish in a barrel!   

Goodwill Industries is settling an Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) action for $65,000. According to the EEOC:

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. …

Talk about bad judgment – to say nothing of the insensitivity (and illegality) of what the EEOC alleged.   

To anyone who reads this blog, you know that I keep track of the cases in which the EEOC zeroes in on health care providers who allegedly violate the Americans With Disabilities Act or The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of Title VII. You know – doctors, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, etc.

And places that are set up to help people with disabilities.

Why the fixation? Because it’s so easy for the EEOC to score points going after the “caring professionals” who the EEOC claims discriminate against those with disabilities or who are pregnant.

I’ve posted this quote of mine many times before:

“What is it about health and medical care facilities that brings down the heavy hand of the EEOC so often, alleging ADA and pregnancy discrimination? Is it that the helping profession somehow has an innate bias against the disabled and against pregnant women, and discriminates more than other employers?”

Not likely.

“Or, could it be,” I said, “that the EEOC sees such health care folks as fat, juicy targets — for example, accusing the helping profession, which is there to treat the sick, disabled and pregnant, of disability discrimination surely attracts the inevitable sanctimonious media attention. Alleging that doctors discriminate on the basis of disability against the very folks that they are there to minister is sure to bolster a somewhat battered EEOC image.”

In its press release, the EEOC noted correctly that under 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.”

That’s right – an interactive process and a reasonable accommodation if no undue burden are both required. Got it, employers??

And the EEOC, quite predictably, rubbed Goodwill’s nose in its bad behavior, the EEOC regional attorney noting that “Federal law requires that employers reasonably accommodate the known disabilities of their employees.  An organization like Goodwill, whose mission is to help people with disabilities, should understand that.”

Talk about bad publicity.

Bonus Post:  “Too Slow” Disabled Job Applicant Will Get $49,500 

Rather than do a second post today, I’m adding to this one a new EEOC settlement of an ADA suit.

A staffing agency agreed to pay $49,500 to end an EEOC ADA lawsuit in which it was alleged that an applicant with learning and other mental disabilities applied for a food packaging and distri­bution position, but a company official “told him he was ‘too slow’ for the job after he had difficulty reading and comprehending a pre-employment test.”

The EEOC Regional Attorney noted: “Just like the rest of the labor force, workers with learning and other mental disabilities provide highly valuable contributions to their employers and to our national economy, and those workers have a legal right to do so free from discrimination.”

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]