I previously wrote about a lawsuit filed against Starbucks Coffee Company after it allegedly denied a reasonable accommodation to an employee disabled by dwarfism and fired her because of her small stature. Starbucks has since settled the EEOC disability discrimination suit for $75,000 and an agreement to conduct additional training on the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) with employees at stores in the El Paso area.
Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against a qualified employee because of a disability. The ADA defines disability discrimination to include an employer’s failure to provide an employee with reasonable accommodations for a physical impairment. Employers are under an obligation to make reasonable accommodations to disabled employees as long as it does not pose an undue hardship to the business. According to the EEOC’s August 18, 2011 press release, EEOC trial attorney Joel Clark stated “The ADA prohibits managers from ignoring reasonable accommodation requests made by qualified persons with disabilities.” Once an employee makes a reasonable accommodation request, the ADA requires the employer to engage in the interactive reasonable accommodation process to determine if it can provide an accommodation without hardship. If an employer refuses or fails to engage in the interactive process, and/or provide reasonable accommodations, it may be in violation of the ADA.
Attorney Elizabeth A. Schmidt is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C. If you have any questions about disability discrimination, please contact her at [email protected].