Hiring an Interpreter May Be a Reasonable Accomodation under the ADA


On Thursday, January 10, 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs Kentucky, rendered a pro-employee opinion, Keith v. County of Oakland, allowing a case to proceed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The facts involved a Plaintiff who was deaf and denied a lifeguard position because he needed a sign language interpreter. The Plaintiff, who has been deaf since birth, passed the lifeguard training course with the assistance of an American Sign Language interpreter, who shared instructions. The interpreter did not assist him in performing life-saving tasks, and he was offered a job as a wave pool guard. The offer was rescinded after a doctor conducting the pre-employment physical found that the Plaintiff could not be a lifeguard because he was deaf. Also, during the examination, the physician made off handed comments such as “he’s deaf, he can’t be a lifeguard.” The physician also allegedly told the Plaintiff’s mother that he had to fail the Plaintiff because he is deaf and if something happens, the employer will come after him with a lawsuit.

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