Company Fired Worker with Severe Hearing Impairment, Says Federal Agency
SEATTLE - Northwest Wireless Enterprises, LLC, a Bremerton, WA headquartered, independent retailer of T-Mobile products and services, violated federal law when it stopped accommodating a sales associate with a severe hearing impairment and instead fired her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's suit, the employee informed Northwest Wireless about her severe hearing impairment at the time she was hired at the company's Spanaway store in December 2017. However, in April 2018, a new store manager decided he was tired of repeating himself when communicating with her and openly expressed to other employees his desire to fire her. The employee alerted the company owner as well as the district manager in May 2018 that the new store manager wanted to fire her because of her disability. Neither took any action in response to her internal complaint of discrimination. Northwest Wireless fired her on June 29, 2018 for alleged attendance and performance issues without prior warning.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) which prohibits employers from firing a qualified employee due to a disability in order to avoid providing an accommodation. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Northwest Wireless Enterprises, LLC., 19-cv-05696) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages as well as having Northwest Wireless provide training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.
"This employee worked successfully for about half a year, before a new manager showed up and decided to fire her instead of accommodate her hearing impairment," said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC's Seattle Field Office. "All she requested was for colleagues to face her when speaking to her, speak loudly and possibly repeat themselves so she could understand them. These requests did not come at a high cost, and they allowed her to be a productive part of the workforce, accomplishing the intent of the ADA."
"Refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified employee with a disability violates federal law is unfair and wasteful," said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley. "Northwest Wireless should have ensured supervisors and managers understood their responsibilities under the ADA. Instead, the company lost a valuable employee."
Northwest Wireless employs over 100 employees at over 16 locations in Washington state and recently started doing business in Oregon.
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.