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PRESS RELEASE
9-12-11

EEOC Sues Miles Kimball For Disability Bias

Company Refused to Accommodate Deaf Employee, Then Fired Her, Federal Agency Charges

OSHKOSH,  Wis. – Miles Kimball Company of Oshkosh, Wis., violated federal law by denying Laura  Nejedlo an accommodation for her disability (deafness) and then firing her, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a new lawsuit.

According to John Rowe,  director of EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, the agency’s investigation  revealed that while working in Miles Kimball’s Information Technology  Department in 2007, Nejedlo was  assigned to use a new software program for the company’s computer system. She was allegedly denied her requested  accommodation of a sign language interpreter for training and so could not  fully utilize the new program. In  February 2008, after 13 years of successful employment with Miles Kimball,  Nejedlo was fired. 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 after first  attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The agency seeks lost wages and  compensatory and punitive damages for Nejedlo, an order barring future  discrimination, and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Miles Kimball Co. (Civil Action No. 11-C-850), was filed Sept.  8 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and assigned to  U.S. District Judge William Griesbach.

“The ADA was enacted to ensure that people with  disabilities can earn a living if they can perform their work with or without a  reasonable accommodation,” Rowe said. “All Ms. Nejedlo wanted was a sign  language interpreter for training so she could keep on performing successfully. Our contention is that there was no good  reason why Miles Kimball denied her an interpreter and then fired her.”

EEOC Chicago Regional  Attorney John C. Hendrickson added, “In  our view, this is one of those cases in which a reasonable accommodation would  have made all the difference. An  employer would have kept an able and loyal long-term employee. The employee would have kept a needed job. That didn’t happen, apparently because of a  violation of federal disability law. Our  objective here will be to set things right.”

According to Miles Kimball’s website,  the company has 1,300 employees in its Oshkosh  facilities. It sells Christmas cards,  home accessories, cookware, candy and high-end décor through catalogs. One of America’s  largest direct marketers of consumer gifts and household products, Miles  Kimball is  a subsidiary of Blyth, Inc., of Greenwich,  Conn. Blyth  markets home fragrance products, decorative accessories, seasonal decorations  and household convenience items.

The EEOC’s Chicago  District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination,  administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota,  South Dakota, and Wisconsin,  with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The case will be litigated by attorneys in the  Milwaukee Area Office.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting  discrimination in employment. Further  information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.