Federal Agency Charges Staffing Firm Refused to Refer Blind and Low-Vision Applicants And Denied Disability Accommodations
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — National Telecommuting Institute, Inc. (NTI), a Westwood, Massachusetts-based staffing firm, violated federal law when it refused to place or refer blind and low-vision applicants as telephone-based customer service agents, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The lawsuit also alleges that NTI denied applicants disability-related accommodations during their pre-employment application process.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, when NTI became aware that applicants for placement used accessibility technologies such as screen reader programs that convert computer text to speech, NTI told those applicants that no positions were available that could accommodate the software. The EEOC alleges that as a general practice, NTI then failed or refused to place or refer the applicants for employment.
The EEOC’s complaint also alleges that NTI denied blind and low-vision applicants access to placement services by failing to provide reasonable accommodations to participate in NTI’s pre-employment application process. The EEOC asserts that this discriminatory conduct has prevented a class of aggrieved individuals from being placed for employment since 2017.
This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual's disability or need for reasonable accommodation and requires them to make accommodations absent an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 5:23-cv-01210 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief, including an order barring NTI from engaging in discriminatory treatment in the future.
“Placement and referral agencies that claim to work toward the goal of increasing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities should be diligent in engaging in the required interactive process to identify accommodations,” said Robert Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “Screening that operates to exclude a particular subgroup of applicants who require accommodation and leaving them in employment limbo does not represent an earnest effort to place them.”
Philip Moss, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, stated, “The EEOC holds employers to account when they are unwilling to take required measures under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, an employer is prohibited from classifying qualified job applicants in a way that adversely affects candidates’ opportunities because of disability.”
Alexa Lang, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, added, “Denying consideration to blind and vision-impaired job applicants without regard to their individual qualifications violates federal law. Employers have a legal obligation to treat disabled individuals who are able to perform the essential functions of their job -- with or without a reasonable accommodation – and all other applicants equally.”
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.