Work Placement Agency Discriminated Against Deaf Employees, Federal Agency Charges
HONOLULU, Hawaii – Opportunities and Resources, Inc. and ORI Anuenue Hale, Inc. (ORI), a work placement agency for individuals with disabilities, violated federal law when the agency routinely refused to provide sign language interpreters to deaf employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, several deaf employees made repeated requests for sign language interpreters for staff meetings where ORI discussed work safety procedures, work protocols and assignments, and other work-related information. Despite ORI’s awareness of the deaf employees’ need for sign language interpreters and their limited English proficiencies, the company provided ineffective accommodations like providing written notes, handouts, and asking a deaf employee to interpret for other deaf employees.
The EEOC asserted that as a result of the failure to provide effective accommodations, the deaf employees were denied the benefits and privileges of employment, including full participation in these meetings and equal access to important information about their jobs and working environment.
Such alleged conduct violates the provisions against disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its suit the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Opportunities and Resources, Inc. et al., Case No: 1:21-cv-00286-JMS-RT) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the class of deaf employees, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.
“The ADA requires employers to provide accommodations to employees with disabilities so that they can enjoy the full benefits and privileges of employment,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “Providing an ineffective accommodation is akin to failing to provide an accommodation at all.”
Raymond Griffin, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “The EEOC takes its commitment to protecting the rights of the individuals with disabilities seriously. Employers cannot, on their own, decide what accommodations will meet the needs of an employee. Employers have an obligation to engage employees in the interactive process to find effective accommodations.”
According to its website, www.ori-hawaii.com, ORI provides services and support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.