Sprouts Farmers Market, Subway, Fed Ex and others all lost recent lawsuits filed by deaf or hearing-impaired job applicants for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The lawsuits were settled this year and last year by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after the above employers failed to accommodate the job applicants.
Under ADA, it is unlawful for a potential employer to ignore a request made by a deaf or hearing-impaired applicant for an accommodation to help them communicate. It’s also illegal for an employer to refuse to hire an applicant due to their disability.
Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc., (SFM, LLC) a Phoenix, Arizona-based supermarket chain that operates stores in California and other states, violated ADA rules. Apparently, its Colorado store manager denied requests by three applicants for an American Sign Language interpreter at their upcoming interviews. Additionally, the Sprouts manager allegedly ignored the applicants follow up requests. The EEOC sued on behalf of the applicants and the natural foods grocery store was ordered to pay them a total of $280,000, the EEOC reports in its Oct. 15th release.
The lawsuits charged that Sprouts denied employment to applicants because of their disabilities. Also, the grocery store chain denied them reasonable accommodations during the application and hiring process.
“Deaf and hard-of-hearing people face barriers to employment not encountered by other applicants and employees,” said Field Director Amy Burkholder of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office. “This settlement highlights the EEOC’s commitment to breaking down those barriers and ensuring Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are afforded equal employment opportunities.”
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. The only exception is if by doing so, it would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
In another case, the EEOC sued a Subway sandwich shop franchise in Bloomington, Indiana. They lawsuit alleged the sandwich shop rejected a qualified applicant for an open sandwich artist position who happens to be hard-of-hearing. The company cited their concerns about communicating with the person due to the applicant’s difficulty in “hearing and speaking.”
The agency said that conduct violated the ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability.
The EEOC asserts that the company’s actions were intentional and violated the ADA. “They also demonstrated a reckless indifference to the applicant’s federally protected rights.”
In May, 2020, the EEOC settled a $3.3 million lawsuit against FedEx Ground. The disability discrimination lawsuit alleged the company discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing package handler applicants. During the hiring process, Fed Ex reportedly denied those applicants reasonable accommodations.
Under the settlement, FedEx is required to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing workers with access to live and video-remote American Sign Language interpreting. They also must have captioned videos and update scanning equipment to allow for nonaudible cues such as vibrations, the lawsuit said.
A third lawsuit involved Dollar Tree Distribution which is a subsidiary of retailer Dollar Tree, Inc. The EEOC sued the company for failing to accommodate a deaf applicant or hire them for an entry-level warehouse job in Ridgefield, Wash.
According to the lawsuit, a supervisor deliberately “conducted the job interview in a manner in which the applicant could not fully understand the supervisor, even though the applicant had clearly identified himself as deaf and wore visible hearing aids. The supervisor also failed to respond to questions from the applicant about potential accommodations that would enable him to do the work if hired.”
Help for Deaf/Hearing Impaired Workers
Has an employer or prospective employer discriminated against you? If you are deaf or hard of hearing, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for you or risk violating ADA laws. It’s imperative that you take steps right away to protect your right to sue. Call Johnson Attorneys Group at 1-800-235-6801 to request a free case evaluation with our knowledgeable and experienced California attorneys. We serve clients throughout California and accept most cases on a contingency fee basis.