Bank Giant Repeatedly Denied Worker's Requests for a Sign Language Interpreter, Then Fired Her, Federal Agency Charges
LAS VEGAS - Bank of America Corporation, one of the country's largest financial institutions, violated federal law when it denied a deaf worker's repeated reasonable accommodation requests for a sign language interpreter and then fired her due to her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
The deaf employee had been working at a Bank of America Las Vegas facility since 1998 in cash services. The EEOC contends that her former supervisor was able to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL). However, in about 2003, the worker's new managers were unable to communicate in ASL. Subsequently, the deaf worker made multiple requests for a sign language interpreter to assist with understanding the content of meetings, job-related training and personnel actions. Bank of America allegedly cited high cost as the justification for the continued denial of the accommodation request. By 2010, the worker was discharged; this final disciplinary action was also communicated without the use of a sign language interpreter.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its suit against Bank of America in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (EEOC v. Bank of America Corp., Case No. 2:13-CV-1754) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the worker as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination.
"Employers have a duty to provide accommodations that effectively assist workers with disabilities," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Southern Nevada in its jurisdiction. "The interactive process should be meaningful and provide equal access for employees with disabilities to engage fully in the workplace."
Amy Burkholder, local director of the EEOC's Las Vegas Local Office, added, "Denying basic accommodations to employees with disabilities diminishes their productivity. On the other hand, the cost of accommodations, which is typically very minimal, is often offset by the gains in productivity."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.