ADA in the News July 5, 2019

EEOC Sues Citizens Bank for Disability Bias

Citizens Bank, N.A. violated federal law by failing to reassign a long-term employee to one of several vacant positions after he became disabled and sought a reasonable accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC's complaint, Citizens Bank refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to a supervisor in the national banking company's Cranston, R.I., call center after he developed anxiety and requested reassignment to a position that did not require him to field customer phone calls. The symptoms from the employee's anxiety became so severe that he was forced to take a medical leave of absence. According to the EEOC's complaint, Citizens refused to reassign the employee to any of the multiple vacant positions for which he was qualified and which were located within 45 miles of the call center where he had worked. When Citizens refused to either reassign the employee or discuss alternative accommodations with him unless he returned to his job in the call center, he was forced to resign, EEOC's complaint stated.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the employer. The ADA explicitly recognizes reassignment to a vacant position as a type of reasonable accommodation that may be provided.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island (EEOC v. Citizens Bank, N.A., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00362) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

"The ADA recognizes that sometimes the most reasonable accommodation an employer can provide is reassignment to a vacant position," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office. "Despite its obligation under the law, Citizens refused to consider reassignment."


Settlement Agreement: Lincare, Inc.

American's with disabilities are vital to the workforce


July 26 marks the anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) that aids in bringing those with disabilities off of the economic fringe. Signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, the act specifically prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications, and state and local government services. From a work-force perspective, the ADA does not demand preferential treatment for those with disabilities, but equal protection and reasonable accommodations to develop an even, professional playing field.

US - Seventh Circuit holds obesity without an underlying physiological cause is not an impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act


In a recent ruling the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that obesity alone is not an ‘impairment’ under the Americans with Disabilities Act, unless there is an underlying physiological cause for it.

Saving for a Future Complicated by the Loss of Sight and Sound

The New York Times

Albert Rizzi gave up on trying to manage his nest egg because as a blind person, he encountered digital barriers constantly. Many of the websites, mobile apps, PDFs and software programs he needed were not accessible. Sometimes, they just didn’t work.

So Mr. Rizzi, 55, the founder of My Blind Spot, an accessibility advocacy group in New York, filed a federal lawsuit in April 2018 against Morgan Stanley, the firm he uses to manage his personal retirement accounts.

Mr. Rizzi’s suit accused the bank of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by “denying access to its websites to individuals with disabilities who are visually impaired” and who require screen-reader software to access digital content. Mr. Rizzi also cited the bank for not having an accessibility website or hotline. The case, which sought about $9 million in damages, was settled last summer, his lawyer, Lambros Lambrou, said.

In a separate case, Wells Fargo in 2011 settled an investigation by the Justice Department alleging A.D.A. violations because the bank failed to accept what is known as video relay services, or video phone calls, from deaf customers. The settlement required the bank to pay $16 million to some account holders and remedy a variety of accessibility problems.

'PTSD does not count as a disability': Idaho veteran says hotel ousted him over service dog

Twin Falls Times-News

Amid a growing number of people with emotional support animals (which differ from service dogs) and businesses struggling to distinguish between the two, Day hopes to shed some light on service dogs and the complex laws regarding them.

Oregon passes 12-week paid family leave policy

HR Dive

Dive Brief: 

  • Oregon governor Katy Brown (D) signed into law Monday a paid family and medical leave policy that covers 12 weeks annually for all workers who make over $1,000 annually. The law will be funded through a payroll tax (not to exceed 1% of employee wages) where employees pay in 60% of the total rate and employers will cover the remaining 40%. Small businesses are exempt from paying the tax, which will be effective in January 2023.
  • Oregon is the first in the country to offer 100% wage replacement for low-wage workers taking leave for family, medical, or safety reasons.
  • Oregon is the second state after New Jersey to include victims of domestic violence in its paid family leave law, and defines family broadly, to include "any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship."

Dive Insight: 

Paid leave is on the national legislative agenda with new momentum in this congressional cycle, as Oregon became the eighth state along with the District of Columbia to adopt a paid family and medical leave policy. Research suggests paid family and medical leave improves participation rates for new mothers in the labor force, with corresponding benefits in pay equality, infant and child health, and lower poverty rates.

As more states consider paid leave, legislators and employers continue to disagree on how to fund any federal policy — Republican lawmakers have proposed that employees get access to some of their Social Security income early as a form of paid leave, which would place the burden of paid leave onto workers in delaying their retirement. While the debate plays out on the national stage, employers may feel greater pressure to preempt potential federal laws in offering paid personal leave benefits of their own, especially as they seek to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market.

Twenty-five percent of U.S. workers with moderate to high incomes have access to paid family leave — that number drops to 6% for low-income Americans according to an AEI-Brookings Working Group on Paid Family Leave report. Oregon's offer of 100% wage replacement up to $1,215 weekly for low-wage workers is unique in its scope: by comparison, proposed federal legislation (S. 463) includes a wage replacement rate of 66%, up to $1,000 per week.

Research suggests low-income employees are particularly affected by gaps in state and federal paid personal leave provisions, as they are less likely to be able to forsake a paycheck for medical, familial or caregiving responsibilities. And despite some big-name employers such as Starbucks and Target having expanded paid leave policies in recent years, the benefit is not widely available to hourly workers. 

Full wage compensation for American workers in poverty will likely motivate more employees to take advantage of paid leave benefits, while under proposed federal legislation, many may still be unwilling, Rich Fuerstenberg, a senior partner at Mercer, told HR Dive"If you look at the percentage of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck who need every penny, [with] two-thirds pay it may be difficult to make that choice," he said. 

Expansion of paid leave benefits on the state and local levels creates administrative and compliance headaches for HR professionals, especially those working in multi-state employers, who are increasingly outsourcing leave management. For employers on the fence about outsourcing, "one of the leave laws comes along and they're out," Fuerstenberg said. "They need help. They can't do it on their own with their internal resources," particularly when having to coordinate with Family Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disabilities Act regulation in "the day-to-day reality of making all the pieces fit together," he added.

Proposed act necessary to protect the disabled

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

We are making progress, but we are still trying to figure it out decades later. Twenty years ago, in June 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. LC that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities violated their rights guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA, which was signed into law nine years earlier on July 26, 1990, established the civil rights of people with disabilities and helped them be more included at work and in the community. The Olmstead decision sent a clear message that people with disabilities are entitled to work, live and participate in communities of their choice. The challenge for most people with disabilities is that the community-based services and supports they need to ensure participation are sometimes limited or non-existent. You can’t choose something that doesn’t exist.

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