Hearing-Impaired Worker Denied Accommodation, Federal Agency Charged
WILSON, N.C. – A major Winston-Salem, N.C.-based financial holding company will pay $24,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had sued Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T), thenation's 10th largest financial holding company, on behalf of a hearing-impaired employee who was denied a reasonable accommodation to which she was entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In its suit (EEOC v. Branch Banking & Trust, Civil Action No. 7:06-CV-00071, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina), the EEOC charged that Linda Hewett, who worked for the bank’s Whiteville, N.C., branch as a senior teller, was denied a transfer to a vacant position for which she was qualified and as a result, was forced to resign in October 2003. Hewett had sought a transfer before she resigned because she was no longer able to perform her job due to her progressively severe hearing loss. The EEOC alleged that Hewett was denied reassignment to other vacant positions in which her hearing loss would not limit her ability to perform her job. The case was scheduled to go to trial the second week of February, but the parties reached agreement during a court-hosted settlement conference.
In addition to paying $24,000 in compensatory damages to Hewett, BB&T must take other actions set forth in the consent decree resolving the case, including providing anti-discrimination training to the staff of the banking network of its Southeast Region. Further, the company is enjoined from engaging in further disability discrimination and must report complaints of disability discrimination made at its banking network of the Southeast Region to the EEOC for monitoring.
“Workers with disabilities are productive members of the American workforce,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Under federal law, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations to enable disabled workers to perform their jobs unless doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer. If reassignment to an open position for which the disabled worker is qualified is the only available option to keep her employed, the employer must reassign her absent undue hardship.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.