Blind Applicant Denied Accommodation in Hiring Process, Federal Agency Charges
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A national for-profit educational provider, ITT Technical Institutes, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a blind applicant during the hiring process and denied him a job, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
Kerry Kirksey applied for work as an educational recruiter at ITT Tech’s Rancho Cordova, Calif., site and was required to take a timed on-line assessment as part of the application process. He knew the answers to the questions, but his screen-reading software was too slow and would not enable him to complete the assessment on time. According to the EEOC, Kirksey contacted ITT Tech, explained that he is blind, requested a reasonable accommodation in the assessment process and suggested accommodations of a reader or additional time. ITT Tech said there was nothing they could do, said the EEOC. The EEOC learned through its investigation that Kirksey’s job developer also tried to advocate for him, but received the same response, even after explaining that denying a reasonable accommodation is against the law.
“I was really shocked and surprised when ITT Tech would not provide an accommodation,” said Kirksey. “It would have cost them nothing to comply with the law. I had received computer training from a school like ITT Tech and worked in the computer industry for five years, so I was excited by the opportunity to help other people discover the benefits of this kind of school.”
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. ITT Educational Services, Inc. dba ITT Technical Institutes) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks an injunction prohibiting further discrimination by ITT Tech and mandating corrective action.
“The ADA clearly requires employers to provide accommodations to disabled applicants who need them during the hiring process and specifically addresses the area of testing,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “In this case, a simple accommodation of additional time or a reader would have enabled Mr. Kirksey to complete the application process and would not have cost a dime. There really is no reason ITT Tech should have denied the accommodation.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “Employers are increasingly relying on the Internet as part of their hiring process. They need to be mindful of how the application process might impose barriers for people with disabilities. When alerted that an applicant needs an accommodation, they must act and provide one unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.”
According to its website, www.ittesi.com, ITT Educational Services (NYSE:ESI) provides accredited, technology-oriented undergraduate and graduate degree programs and is headquartered in Carmel, Indiana. It owns and operates more than 120 ITT Technical Institutes and Daniel Webster College, and serves approximately 80,000 students at its campuses in 38 states and online.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.