ADA in the News: July 7, 2017

EEOC Sues Time Warner Cable & Charter Communications for Firing an Employee With a Disability

The U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit today charging that Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, DBA Spectrum, Inc. violated federal discrimination law by refusing to accommodate an employee with a disability and firing her days after learning of her diagnosis. 

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Time Warner Cable initially granted the employee unpaid leave when she requested an accommodation to seek medical attention for her disability. The EEOC alleges that once Time Warner Cable learned of the employee's disability diagnosis, they failed to provide her additional unpaid leave so that she could undergo treatment for her medical condition.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Time Warner Cable, Inc. and Charter Communications, Inc. DBA Spectrum, Case No: 5:17-cv-01355) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency's suit seeks back pay, along with compensatory and punitive damages for the individual, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

"The EEOC continues to see employers failing to properly engage in the interactive process and accommodating employees who are undergoing serious medical issues," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District.

Rosa Viramontes, director of the Los Angeles District, added, "This case should serve as a reminder to employers that it is their responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations to employees under the law."

M&T Bank Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination at Hudson City Savings Bank

JD Supra

Predecessor Bank Refused to Accommodate Bank Branch Employees' Disabilities and Put Them on Involuntary Leave, Federal Agency Charges

Are Transgender Employees Disabled under the ADA?

JD Supra

There has been a lot of discussion over the last year about whether transgender employees are protected against sex discrimination under Title VII—but what about against disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? Maybe. In Kate Lynn Blatt v. Cabela’s Retails, Inc., a federal district court in Pennsylvania has ruled that a transgender former employee can proceed with her ADA claims.

Blatt began work with Cabela’s in 2006. She alleges that she complained to management that her coworkers made degrading and discriminatory comments because she is transgender and has gender dysphoria. She also alleges that she was denied requested accommodations for her gender dysphoria (e.g., a female work uniform, use of the women’s restroom). She further claims that Cabela’s then terminated her in retaliation for her complaints and requested accommodations. She filed a lawsuit under Title VII and the ADA.

The ADA provides that the term disability shall not include, among other things, “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” Accordingly, Cabela’s moved to dismiss Blatt’s ADA complaint on the grounds that her gender identity disorder was not a covered disability. Blatt responded that if the ADA excluded her condition, it was a violation of her equal protection rights.

The court denied Cabela’s motion to dismiss, avoiding Blatt’s equal protection claim. Specifically, the court held that the ADA’s exclusion of gender identity disorders could be read narrowly to exclude only the condition of identifying with a different gender but not excluding “disabling condition that persons who identify with a different gender may have.” Ultimately, the court concluded that Blatt’s gender dysphoria, which she alleges substantially limits her major life activities, could be a covered disability. So, the court denied the motion to dismiss the ADA claims, both the discrimination and retaliation.

On a practical level, this is probably not game changing for employers (at least at this point). It is just one more consideration in dealing with transgender employees or applicants. If a person identifies as transgender, you may want to treat it as a disability issue, which could include engaging in the interactive process and requesting appropriate medical information. Similarly, if an employee complains that he or she is being mistreated because of being transgender, handle it like any other discrimination or harassment complaint. That way if you get sued—either for sex or disability discrimination—you will be in the best position to defend the claim, regardless of where the courts ultimately come down on this issue.

Edinburg hospital to settle lawsuit claiming ineffective communication for deaf patients

KGBT-TV

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance on Thursday agreed to settle a lawsuit claiming the hospital failed to provide auxiliary aids and services for deaf patients, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of Texas.

Federal Court Rules Inaccessible Website Violates Title III of the ADA

Lexology

The Department of Justice’s (“DOJ’s”) often criticized rulemaking delays have resulted in no new website accessibility rules for places of public accommodation to receive notice of and implement. Notwithstanding the obvious due process concerns raised by these delays, more and more website accessibility cases are being threatened and filed every day. Most, not unexpectedly, settle. Winn-Dixie did not, and what happened next is worth a closer look.

On June 13, 2017, after a two day bench trial, a federal court ruled that the retailer violated Title III of the ADA because its website was inaccessible to the visually impaired. The case, , Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., Case No. 1:16-cv-23020-RNS, was before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The court ordered injunctive relief (including a three-year injunction) and awarded the plaintiff his attorneys’ fees and costs. While not binding on district court judges, this decision may very well spur the filing and issuing of more lawsuits and pre-litigation demand letters against retailers asserting website accessibility claims. Retailers with websites used by its customers may wish to work with counsel to craft a strategy for preemptively dealing with these types of issues.

In Winn-Dixie, Judge Robert Scola ruled on the following three issues:

  • whether Winn-Dixie’s website is subject to the ADA as a service of a public accommodation, or, in the alternative, whether the website is a public accommodation in and of itself;
  • whether the plaintiff was denied the full and equal enjoyment of Winn-Dixie’s goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations because of his disability; and
  • whether the requested modifications to Winn-Dixie’s website are reasonable and readily achievable.

United States: What Businesses Need to Know When Defending Against ADA Lawsuits

Mondaq News Alerts

In his recent article for Retail Minded, Partner James O'Brien, co-chair of Pryor Cashman's Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Defense + Consulting practice, examines the rise of "drive-by litigation" and discusses what businesses can do when confronted with serial ADA plaintiffs.

ADA Tip: Remember To Include GINA Safe Harbor Language When Requesting Medical Information For Purposes Of Evaluating An Accommodation Request

JD Supra

Although employers are generally prohibited from obtaining medical information about their employees, they are permitted to do so in certain circumstances, including when such information is necessary to evaluate a job applicant’s or employee’s request for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Battle-tested people with disabilities fight for rights

Workers World

July is widely celebrated as Disability Pride Month in the U.S. This year, the month marks the 27th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. The ADA, a landmark U.S. civil rights bill for people with disabilities, was enhanced in 2008 by the ADAA, Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended.

University's ADA coordinator helps pave way for student triumph

Van Buren Press Argus-Courier

For Roger Young, working at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith allows him to help students with disabilities to succeed.

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