Discount Cabinets Refused Request for Phone With Volume Control, Then Fired Warehouse Worker, Federal Agency Charges
DENVER – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed earlier this week that Discount Cabinets and Appliances, a Denver-based retail company, violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it denied a hearing-impaired warehouse assistant’s request that the company provide a telephone with volume control, and shortly thereafter fired him because of his disability.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Discount Cabinets contacted a temporary employment agency in 2008 to request placement of a warehouse assistant in a temporary-to-permanent job at the company’s store and warehouse in Denver. The temporary agency recommended Ramon Guzman, who had experience in a similar warehouse job. Guzman has had a significant hearing loss since birth as well as resulting difficulty with speech. The company accepted his placement.
In addition to his warehouse duties, Guzman was assigned to fill in for the receptionist and answer the phone every other Saturday. After Guzman saw that the company phones did not have adjustable volume, he asked the company to provide a handset with volume control. The store manager refused. A short time later, the manager criticized Guzman’s speech, and told the temporary agency that Guzman was not working out because of his inability to hear on the phone. She instructed the agency to stop sending him to the job site.
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to applicants and employees with disabilities absent undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Thurston, Inc. d/b/a Discount Cabinets & Appliances, Case # 10-Cv-01352 CMA KLM) in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting further discrimination by the employer and mandating corrective action.
“Employers can prevent a problem like this by making simple and reasonable accommodations,” said Acting District Director Rayford Irvin of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “Employers have a legal obligation to explore solutions under the ADA.”
Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC Phoenix District Office added, “People with disabilities continue to have extremely high unemployment and underemployment rates. The ADA, including the requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodations, was intended to ensure that workers with disabilities have equal employment opportunities.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.