Legal Software Providers Discriminated Against Hard-of-Hearing Employee, Federal Agency Charges
WILMINGTON, Del. – D.O.E. Technologies, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, doeLegal, LLC, violated federal law when they failed to accommodate the disability of a hard-of-hearing employee and instead fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today. The Wilmington-based companies sell legal software, including electronic discovery, legal invoicing and litigation management products.
The EEOC charges that Christopher Vely, who began working for the companies in November 2008 as a sales representative, made repeated requests for a reasonable accommodation for his disability, conductive hearing loss. Vely asked the companies to provide the reasonable accommodations of permitting him to work in a quiet area to make sales calls, since background noise can adversely affect his hearing ability, or that he be allowed to telecommute. Rather than discussing Vely’s accommodation requests with him, or suggesting alternative, reasonable accommodations, as required by federal law, the EEOC said that the company abruptly fired him in September 2009 because of his disability.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability. The law also requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation, such as modifications to the workplace or telecommuting, to an employee with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
The EEOC attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement before filing suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-00861). In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief requiring the companies to provide reasonable accommodations and prohibiting discriminatory employment practices based on disability, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other relief for Vely.
The ADA requires employers to engage in an interactive dialogue with employees and discuss possible job accommodations that would enable an employee to perform the essential functions of the job,” said Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Employers should realize that workplace flexibility and making reasonable workplace modifications, such as designating a quiet work space or allowing telecommuting, to keep talented employees working, not only makes good business sense in the 21st century, it is required by federal law.”
In fiscal year 2010, private sector workplace discrimination charge filings with the EEOC hit an unprecedented level of 99,922, which included a record-high number of disability charges (25,165) – an increase of 17.3 percent in disability charges over the prior fiscal year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.