ADA in the News: December 6, 2017

Dallas Home Healthcare Company to Pay $25K to Settle Disability Discrimination Suit

Insurance Journal

AccentCare Inc., a home healthcare company headquartered in Dallas, has agreed to pay $25,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In a lawsuit, the EEOC charged AccentCare with discriminating against an employee with bipolar disorder.

According to the EEOC’s suit, an AccentCare IT analyst informed the company that she has bipolar disorder and requested leave in order to see her healthcare provider. The EEOC further said that upon learning of the employee’s disability and receiving her request for leave, AccentCare fired her within one day, without giving proper consideration to her request.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ disabilities as long as it does not pose an undue hardship.

The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-03157) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the consent decree settling the case, AccentCare, Inc. will pay $25,000 in monetary relief to the former IT analyst.

AccentCare also agreed to post a notice about the settlement, and to provide training for employees on the ADA to include instruction on the specific provisions of the reasonable accommodation process. The training will include an instruction advising managers and supervisors of the potential consequences for violations of the ADA.

Additionally, AccentCare has agreed to document complaints of disability discrimination and report to the EEOC.

Lowe's Companies Sued for Disability Discrimination in Texas

Digital Journal

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Lowe’s Companies, Inc. for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The EEOC asserts that Lowe’s failed to accommodate a department manager’s disability and instead unlawfully demoted him to a lower paid position.

The ADA prohibits employment discrimination and ensures equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, § 2 et seq., 42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 et seq., available at https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide a “reasonable accommodation” to qualified employees with disabilities, so long as such accommodation would not cause the employer “undue hardship.” Undue hardship is an action which would require significant difficulty or expense when taking into consideration an employer’s resources and overall business. Generally, larger employers will be required to make accommodations which require greater effort or expense.

New: Is The Employment Disability Law Working?

Berkeley Daily Planet

Among the serious problems that disabled workers encounter is that during difficult economic times they are among the first to lose their jobs. Their unemployment rate is currently in the double digits. As a result, the record shows, there has been a substantial increase in applications for social security disability benefits to replace their lost jobs.
Now it looks like the reverse is also down the road. President Trump's budget proposes a $65 billion dollar cut in the disability program. Undoubtedly, these cuts, which would limit the number of recipients, will appreciably increase the competition for scarce jobs among the disabled. Currently, only 41 percent of the disabled from ages 21-66 are employed compared to 79 percent of the non-disabled. And disabled persons who are fortunate enough to find work average about $9,000 less annually than other workers.
A major hurdle disabled people confront is that they are victimized by employment related discrimination. To address this problem Congress in 1990 passed the Americans for Disability Act, which was signed by President George H. Bush. The enforcement of this law has been a real challenge.  

It is widely assumed that the marginal labor force status of the disabled is due to the constraints that their impairments cause. However, the main problem that they confront is how their difficulties are interpreted by others, particularly by employers. The most appropriate words for understanding the misinterpretations are the twin problems of "business self- interest" and "prejudice". Business tends to assume that a disability is almost always a handicap to performing a job adequately and that therefore if a disabled employee is hired a lower wage is appropriate. 

But even such a serious disability as being paralyzed from the waist down does not necessarily rule out the ability to do a good job. Consider FDR's disability. During his entire presidency, and even before, he was paralyzed from the waist down. For those with a severe mobility problem, one important option that could benefit employers as well as disabled employees include the opportunity to work at home. Already, 24 percent of employed people do at least some or all their work remotely. Customer service positions and many technical and computer related jobs are among the paid tasks that can be done at home. Clearly, almost all disabled persons could hold a job and perform adequately if employers provide the opportunities.

Disabled woman accuses La Quinta of violating ADA

Northern California Record

A disabled Arizona woman who requires a wheelchair is suing La Quinta, alleging disability discrimination and failure to uphold Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

Theresa Brooke of Pinal County, Arizona, filed a complaint Nov. 28 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against C & S Chong Investment Corporation, doing business as La Quinta Inn Bakersfield North, alleging the hotel property denied full access to the physically disabled.

According to the complaint, on Feb. 17, Brooke went to the La Quinta hotel, 8858 Spectrum Park Way, Bakersfield, in an attempt to book a room. However, the suit says, she encountered architectural barriers and lack of pool lifts or disability access that prevented her from equal enjoyment of the facility. 

The plaintiff alleges La Quinta Inn Bakersfield North failed to design and construct the premises to be accessible to and accommodate persons with disabilities, and failed to remove architectural barriers that deterred Brooke from using the defendant’s hotel.

Brooke seeks trial by jury, damages of no less than $4,000, declaratory relief, permanent injunction, costs of suit, attorney fees and all other relief the court deems just. She is represented by attorney Peter Kristofer Strojnik of The Strojnik Firm LLC in Phoenix.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California case number 17-at-00883

Attorney General's Office moves to label ADA super-suing attorney a 'vexatious litigant'

ABC15 Arizona

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is taking new legal action to curb the “abusive” practices of a local attorney who’s filed thousands of disability lawsuits in recent years. 

State attorneys filed a motion in federal court Tuesday to label Peter Strojnik a “vexatious litigant” and limit his ability to file new lawsuits, records show. 

The motion states that the move is necessary to protect the “District Court of Arizona and the public from Mr. Strojnik’s abusive and bad-faith litigation practices.”

New York stores caught in web of litigation

Crain's New York Business

Scores of New York companies, ranging from Bulgari to Zabar's, have been sued for failing to make their website ADA-compliant, according to records in Manhattan federal court. Staten Island–based Key Food and Manhattan-based Fairway and Gristedes did not respond to requests for comment.

The business community is not pleased to be on the receiving end of this litigation wave.

"Bombarding businesses with a bunch of lawsuits to get quick settlements is not the purpose of the ADA, and it doesn't make the internet more accessible for the visually impaired," said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York. "We support the ADA, but a law with such good intentions cannot be allowed to be exploited so a few law firms can turn a profit."

Cape Cod Business Owners Eligible to Receive Free Disability Training with CORD

CapeCod.com News

Did you know that you are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed if you have a disability? RespectAbility, an advocacy group for those with disabilities, reported that in 2015 the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.1% while those without disabilities was about half that at 5.1%.

CORD, the Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled, has worked tirelessly for people with disabilities on Cape Cod and the Islands since 1984 and is trying to improve the situation.

“People may wonder why there is such a strong reaction when someone with a disability is discriminated against. It’s because the history of the treatment of people with disabilities in the country is very scary,” said Cathy Taylor, Director of Services at CORD, “There were actually “ugly” laws in the past that said if you were maimed or disfigured you weren’t allowed to be in public.”

CORD has been breaking down stereotypes and giving assistance both to those with disabilities and to members of the public who want to understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mainly to employers. They offer absolutely FREE sessions to businesses who want to have a better understanding of how to interact with people with disabilities and what’s required when hiring someone with a disability.

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