Health Care Company Refused to Hire Hearing-Impaired Applicant Because of Her Disability, Federal Agency Charges
DALLAS - BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas, a Dallas health care company, violated federal law by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a hearing-impaired applicant during the application process, resulting in her denial of hire, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC, Sheryl Meador, who is deaf, applied through an online application process for an open claims examiner position with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas. After submitting her résumé, she received an e-mail from the company with instructions to complete a 35-minute assessment exam that included an audio portion. Meador was unable to complete the audio portion of the exam because of her disability. There were no captions or other visible accommodations that would allow Meador to complete the audio portion of the assessment exam and thus complete the application process.
According to the suit, Meador contacted BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and informed the company's recruiting coordinator that she is deaf and requested a reasonable accommodation for the audio portion of the assessment exam because of her disability. Meador and representatives from the company exchanged emails relating to her disability and her application. However, the company ultimately failed to respond to her requests. As a result, she was not allowed to complete the application process and was denied the claims examiner position.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants' disabilities. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No.3:17-CV-02626-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent disability discrimination in the future, as well as lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.
The EEOC expects to be joined in this effort by Disability Rights Texas, a federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Disability Rights Texas represented Meador throughout the EEOC investigation.
"One of the Commission's priorities is to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities," said Suzanne Anderson, EEOC supervisory trial attorney. "Applicants with disabilities must be provided access to online application processes so they have a chance to present their qualifications to employers for open positions."
Joel Clark, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, said, "Sheryl Meador was very interested in the opportunity to apply for the claims examiner position. She made repeated efforts to communicate with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and ask for an accommodation so she could apply. For her to be ignored is both unconscionable and unlawful."
The EEOC is advances opportunities 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.