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EEOC Sues Goodwill Industries for Failure to Provide Disability Accommodations

Employer Refused to Provide Accommodations for Janitor With Cognitive Disability, Federal Agency Charges

NEW YORK - Goodwill Industries of New York and New Jersey, which provides job opportunities to people with disabilities, violated federal law when it failed to provide reasonable accommodations that would have allowed an employee to continue working as a janitor in New York City-owned buildings, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the employee, as a result of his cognitive disability, had trouble navigating certain interactions with other employees and members of the public and needed additional training or job coaching to properly understand the rules he was required to follow. Instead, the EEOC said, his supervisor gave him written warnings, which the employee was unable to read or understand. When the employee said that he needed someone to explain the warnings to him, the supervisor disregarded the request. As a result, the employee continued to experience the same difficulties and was ultimately fired, the agency charged.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (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 an accommodation, unless doing so would be an undue hardship. An accommodation may in­clude job coaching, additional training, modifications to the employer's standard operating procedures, or other measures that would allow the employee to do his job successfully. 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.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Goodwill Industries of New York & New Jersey, Civil Action No. 1:19-CV-01674) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Sebastian Riccardi and supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

"The law is clear:  Employers must reasonably accommodate the known disabilities of their employees," said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein.

EEOC Trial Attorney Sebastian Riccardi said, "An employer cannot simply ignore an employee's need for a reasonable accommodation of a disability. The ADA requires that the employer engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if there is a way to accommodate the employee's disability and allow the employee to continue doing his job and earning a living."

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, "Employers cannot ignore their obligations under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations. The ADA's accommodation requirement applies to workers with both physical and, as here, intellectual disabilities."

The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.