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Press Release 07-02-2019

EEOC Sues Citizens Bank for Disability Bias

Company Refused to Accommodate Employee With Anxiety By Reassignment to Vacant Position, Federal Agency Charges

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Citizens Bank, N.A. violated federal law by failing to reassign a long-term employee to one of several vacant positions after he became disabled and sought a reasonable accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC's complaint, Citizens Bank refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to a supervisor in the national banking company's Cranston, R.I., call center after he developed anxiety and requested reassignment to a position that did not require him to field customer phone calls. The symptoms from the employee's anxiety became so severe that he was forced to take a medical leave of absence. According to the EEOC's complaint, Citizens refused to reassign the employee to any of the multiple vacant positions for which he was qualified and which were located within 45 miles of the call center where he had worked. When Citizens refused to either reassign the employee or discuss alternative accommodations with him unless he returned to his job in the call center, he was forced to resign, EEOC's complaint stated.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer. The ADA explicitly recognizes reassignment to a vacant position as a type of reasonable accommodation that may be provided.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island (EEOC v. Citizens Bank, N.A., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00362) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

"The ADA recognizes that sometimes the most reasonable accommodation an employer can provide is reassignment to a vacant position," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office. "Despite its obligation under the law, Citizens refused to consider reassignment."

The EEOC's New York district director, Kevin Berry, added, "Employers are required to engage in an interactive process with a disabled employee seeking a reasonable accommodation. Refusing to consider possible accommodations, or to propose alternatives, violates the employer's obligation under the ADA."

EEOC's New York District Office oversees 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.