Company Refused Deaf Employee's Requests for Interpreter, Federal Agency Charges
FRESNO, Calif. - Pacific Bell Telephone Company, formerly known as AT&T Pacific Bell, will pay $15,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Pacific Bell violated federal law when it did not effectively accommodate a deaf employee at its Fresno, Calif., location. Despite the employee's numerous requests for a sign language interpreter, managers chose to provide inadequate accommodations for the worker by standing close to him during meetings so he could read their lips, or by jotting down notes explaining the contents of the meeting after the fact. The EEOC contends that such behavior deprived the worker of equal employment opportunities, privileges and benefits of employment, which negatively affected him as an employee.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (EEOC v. AT&T Pacific Bell Telephone Company, Case No. 1:17-cv-01059-LJO-EPG) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary relief, Pacific Bell agreed to a two-year consent decree to provide effective accommodations to the employee, and to ensure against future incidences of discrimination against workers with disabilities. As part of the decree, the company will provide the employee with an interpreter; ensure a work environment free from disability discrimination, especially as it pertains to reasonable accommodation of hard-of-hearing and deaf employees; provide training to the employee's immediate supervisor, subsequent supervisors, and human resources personnel; and ensure appropriate record keeping, reporting and monitoring of disability complaints.
"Subjecting workers to different terms, conditions and privileges of employment because of deafness is a direct violation of the ADA," said Melissa Barrios, director for EEOC's Fresno Local Office. "The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of employees with disabilities."
Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, whose jurisdiction includes California's Central Valley, added, "We commend Pacific Bell for its willingness to put in place meaningful relief that will allow all employees with disabilities to participate in all aspects of the work environment."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.