Dive Brief:

  • A Walmart in Washington, D.C., has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit alleging that it refused to provide accommodations, such as access to sign language interpreters and closed-captioned training videos, to two deaf employees.
  • The two-year consent decree settling the lawsuit forbids the store from violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including unlawful retaliation. The store also agreed to revise its reasonable accommodations management guidelines, provide live training to managers on the ADA’s reasonable accommodations requirements, address issues related to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons and provide training to all non-management employees on the ADA, the EEOC said. The store will also post a notice about the settlement and update the EEOC on its compliance with the consent decree.
  • “In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement provides important equitable relief to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and appli­cants with effective accommodations so they can participate in workplace communications and have equal employment opportunities,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement.

    Dive Insight:

    Earlier this year, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas agreed to pay $75,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit challenging the audio portion of its job application process. A deaf job applicant who applied for a claims examiner job was not able to complete the application process because it included a 35-minute assessment exam with an audio portion that did not contain captions or provide other visible accommodations for hearing-impaired applicants. The applicant’s request for a reasonable accommodation was ignored. In another recent settlement with the EEOC, nationwide grocer Safeway agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a claim that it failed to provide an interpreter for a deaf applicant.

    “[Not] all people who are deaf will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations,” the Job Accommodation Network has said on its website, offering several suggestions for accommodating deaf applicants and employees. It has suggested the use of apps developed for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and the use of instant messaging and texting, interpreters, white boards, strobe lights, CART services and more to potentially aid them. The EEOC has mentioned in an enforcement guidance on reasonable accommodation that providing qualified readers or interpreters is often reasonable.

    Employers should remember that the ADA requires them to perform individual assessments for each employee and favors an informal, interactive process for finding an accommodation. Periodic compliance training can familiarize supervisors with the ADA and related laws, reducing the risk of liability.