ADA in the News September 27, 2019

Minute Order: United States v. State of Rhode Island and City of Providence

EEOC Sues Pirtek USA for Disability Discrimination

Pirtek USA LLC, a fluid power system company based in Rockledge, Fla., violated federal law by firing an employee because of a perceived disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the Pirtek employee of approximately 10 years was responsible for cutting and transporting hydraulic hoses. In late 2015, the employee was hospitalized for several weeks with pancreatitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. As of March 2016, the employee's physician cleared him to return to work without restrictions. Nevertheless, Pirtek terminated him, claiming he was a "liability" and that it was afraid he would get injured on the job, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division (EEOC v. Pirtek USA LLC, Case No. 6:19-cv-01853-CEM-GJK), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the discrimination victim, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

"The ADA is designed to prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on their actual and/or perceived disabilities," said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District. "Employment decisions based on stereotypes or unreasonable assumptions relating to disability are unlawful, and the EEOC will fight for those subjected to such unfair treatment."

Michael Farrell, director of the EEOC's Miami District, said, "No one should be subjected to disability discrimination at their place of work. The EEOC stands with victims of discrimination and remains committed to eradicating it from the workplace."

EEOC Sues Black Forest Décor for Disability Discrimination

Black Forest Décor, LLC violated federal law when it forced a worker with a disability at its Enid, Okla., warehouse to take unpaid leave, despite her ability and willingness to work, and then fired her for exercising the very leave it forced her to take, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the suit, Barbara Berry put Black Forest on notice in February 2018 that she had a medical condition that was likely to require surgery in the coming month, but that her doctor had released her to work until her surgery. In response, Black Forest informed Berry that she was being placed on unpaid leave until her surgery because the company said it was afraid it would be liable if anything happened to Berry while working. Although Berry kept Black Forest updated with details about her surgery, the company didn't contact her again until three weeks later when it sent her a letter stating she was being fired for "excessive absences," the EEOC charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Black Forest Décor LLC, Civil Case No. 5:19-cv-00894) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay for Berry, as well as injunctive relief, including a court order prohibiting Black Forest from any further discrimination against employees because of their disability.

"The ADA has long prohibited employers from discriminating against workers with disabilities," said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC's regional attorney in St. Louis. "Many workers are entitled to the ADA's protections even when they are fully able to work. Employers cannot rely on their own assumptions and biases when deciding how to treat employees in these situations."

Jack Vasquez, Jr., director of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office, added, "Firing a person who has a disability is not only unlawful, it's bad business. We encourage workers who encounter discrimination because of disability to report that information to the EEOC."

EEOC Sues Convenience Store for Refusing to Hire Clerk with Tourette’s Syndrome

Home Service Oil Company, doing business as Express Mart, violated federal law when its Cedar Hill, Mo., convenience store manager refused to hire an applicant for a part-time store clerk position due to his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit today.

According to the EEOC, the applicant, who has a facial tic caused by Tourette's syndrome, applied for a part-time store clerk position at the Cedar Hill Express Mart in 2017. The applicant was a frequent customer at the store. The EEOC alleged that, after he submitted his application, the store manager made a derogatory comment to the assistant manager about the applicant's facial tic, indicated she did not want someone like him working at the store, and threw his application in the trash.

Such alleged conduct violates the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from refusing to hire qualified job applicants because of physical or mental disabil­ities. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Home Service Oil Co. d/b/a Express Mart, Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-02645), in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri after attempting to resolve the case through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief and a store clerk position for the applicant, an order prohibiting future discriminatory conduct in hiring, and other relief.

"Hiring discrimination is one of the most difficult types of employment discrimination to eliminate because applicants generally do not know the reason they were not hired for a job," said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC's Regional Attorney in St. Louis. "But the EEOC is committed to ensuring all workers have the freedom to compete for jobs without consideration of their disabilities or other unlawful factors."

Jack Vasquez, director of the EEOC's St. Louis District office, said, "Refusing to hire an individual with an obvious disability based on his or her appearance is precisely the type of unlawful conduct the ADA was designed to prevent. Unfortunately, this type of blatant discrimination persists nearly 30 years after the passage of the ADA."

The opioid crisis: Is drug addiction a disability?

The opioid crisis claims an estimated 130 lives per day, an annual death toll of over 47,000 people. Drug addiction touches every employer, whether it’s finding applicants to fill open jobs or accommodating treatment and recovery. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the cost of the opioid crisis at $78.5 billion annually. Employers absorb part of that cost in the form of lost productivity and higher healthcare costs.

The opioid crisis is so pervasive that most employers have dealt with an addicted or recovering employee. Some employers have fired or refused to hire individuals based on their drug use. Depending on how the employer handled each case, it could have violated state and federal laws. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide leave and job protection for recovering addicts.

Portland Non-Profit Half Access Wants To Make Live Music More Accessible

Accessibility has long been omitted from conversations surrounding live music. Research points to numerous health benefits associated with regular concert attendance, however venues don’t consistently recognize the needs of patrons with disabilities. Feeling safe, comfortable and welcome are privileges afforded primarily to the able-bodied. While Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires businesses to make accommodations, venues across the country remain out of compliance, either unaware or unconcerned with changing the narrative. 

Founded in 2016 by Boring, Oregon native Cassie Wilson, Half Access is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to making live music accessible. Frustrated with the experience of navigating general admission venues as someone who utilizes a manual wheelchair, Wilson decided to tackle the issue proactively. Initially funded after winning the SubCity award from Hopeless Records in 2017, the Half Access database provides accessibility info on any and all venues to help prepare disabled folks on what to expect before arriving at a show. Sourcing this information has helped initiate meaningful dialogue between promoters, venue owners and show-goers alike. From a diner in Portland, Wilson spoke to us about self-advocacy, common misconceptions around accessibility and where PDX venues stack up in comparison to other cities.

Top 10 Web Accessibility Plugins and Tools to Make WordPress Inclusive
Most of us are lucky to see, hear, and move around the Internet the way our bodies are made to do. But for the 15% of people who have some kind of disability, the Internet can be a confusing place to navigate.
Web site owners and their designers and developers must make certain their websites are welcoming to anyone with physical challenges. Web accessibility is not only compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s a moral responsibility for sites to be inclusive for all human beings, period.

Web Accessibility is not only good for the soul, it’s a boost for traffic! With an accessible website, think of how many more people will find your products and services, and convert to customers.

So, where do you start accessifying your website? What tools are needed?

First of all, if you have followed the basic web design best practices by faithfully completing all your meta data, using header tags properly, and using plain simple language, you are more than halfway toward accessibility nirvana.

For the rest of the work there are tools. Lots and lots of tools to whip your site into shape.

Here are 10 top accessibility plugins and tools to make your WordPress website more inclusive.


Feedback Form