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PRESS RELEASE
10-5-10

EEOC Sues Kintetsu International Express for Disability Harassment, Retaliation

Tour Coordinator Called “Selfish” For Making Others Watch Her Limp, Then Forced to Quit Along With a Co-Worker for Protesting

HONOLULU — Kintetsu International Express (USA), Inc., a major worldwide travel company, violated federal law when it subjected an employee to disability-related harassment and discrimination, and retaliated against employees who protested the harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC contends that a supervisor constantly disparaged a tour coordinator who suffers from malignant rheumatoid arthritis during the tour coordinator’s employment with the company in 2005 and 2006. The supervisor frequently harassed the tour coordinator, who had difficulty walking as a result of her condition, with offensive remarks such as “If you cannot walk straight, you cannot work at the hotel,” “Because of the way you walk, you create a bad atmosphere,” “No one wants you here,” and “You are selfish for making other people have to watch you limp.” The same supervisor allegedly gave her a less favorable work performance evaluation than those received in the past.

Both the tour coordinator and a co-worker protested the harassment and discrimination by complaining to the company’s vice president, yet the company took no action to remedy the situation, according to the EEOC. The EEOC claims that both individuals were further harassed and forced to quit in retaliation for having complained of the misconduct.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Kintetsu International Express (USA), Inc., Case No. CV 10-00560-DAE-BMK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the victims, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination at the company.

“Employees with disabilities have the right to work without the fear of reprisal or harassment,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii. “The EEOC is committed to furthering the rights of employees with disabilities, who make important contributions to the workplace.”

Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “Those who have the courage to stand up and protest discrimination – even when they are not the victims – should be commended for their efforts to rectify abuses at work, not condemned. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain of discrimination or harassment, and employers are responsible for taking action to correct such abuses.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.