ADA Round-Up: School Denied DHOH Students Equal Opportunity; $1.6 Million Awarded in Discrimination Case

Feb 27 2024 VITAC
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Welcome to the latest edition of “ADA in the News,” featuring recent updates and rulings regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Justice Department Finds Nebraska School District Discriminated Against DHOH Students

A U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report found that Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHOH) an equal opportunity to attend their neighborhood schools.

The report said that the district violated ADA laws by employing a “blanket policy” of requiring students in need of American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation to attend a “cluster school” serving DHOH students. The DOJ said that, by applying this policy, the district did not consider the individualized needs of the students, denied them an equal opportunity to participate in neighborhood school and high school choice programs, and failed to provide effective communication to DHOH students.

The department provided its findings and minimum remedial measures in a letter to the school district and asked the district to change its policies and procedures, designate an ADA coordinator, train staff, and pay compensatory damages. A spokesperson for the district said they are reviewing DOJ’s findings and will work collaboratively to resolve concerns.

“Denying students with disabilities the right to attend their neighborhood school based on a blanket policy is discriminatory and runs afoul of our nation’s civil rights laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will defend children’s rights to equal educational opportunities in schools, including the right to attend school along with their siblings, friends and members of their community.”

The DOJ said the district’s reliance on the cluster school requirement harmed DHOH students. For example, one student spent up to 90 additional minutes commuting to the cluster school each day while another was placed into a cluster program her senior year upon temporarily losing her hearing, even though she does not understand ASL.

A man drives a yellow forklift in a warehouse.

Jury Awards $1.675 Million in Disability Discrimination Case

A jury awarded $1.675 million in a disability discrimination case against a New York distribution company after it allegedly refused to interview and hire woman who is deaf for two warehouse jobs.

The jury found that McLane Northeast violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by first refusing to interview an applicant who is deaf once it learned of the candidate’s disability. The suit claims the company further violated ADA laws by refusing to hire the candidate for the two entry-level warehouse jobs for which she applied.

The suit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The jury awarded the applicant $25,000 in back pay, $150,000 in emotional distress damages, and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

“The law requires an even playing field to ensure that applicants with disabilities have the same job opportunities as all other candidates for open positions; but, as the jury found, that plainly did not happen here,” said EEOC lawyer Renay Oliver.

Tech Company to Pay $225,000 to Settle Disability Discrimination Suit

A New York-based IT services company will pay $255,000 to a job applicant to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit.

According to a suit filed by the EEOC, the applicant provided a sign language interpreter during an interview he had for a position with Tech Mahindra. When the company realized the applicant was deaf and using an interpreter, it ended the interview.

EEOC says the company then emailed the applicant and stated, “Thank you for your time today, it is unfortunate that we can’t proceed with your profile. While you have the perfect skill set for this role, it would be a challenge having an interrupter [sic] on-site.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits a potential employer from failing to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s qualifying disability absent undue hardship.

In addition to the $255,000 in monetary relief to the rejected applicant, the consent decree resolving the litigation enjoins Tech Mahindra from discriminating on the basis of deafness in all phases of employment, including hiring; requires Tech Mahindra to create anti-discrimination policies and complaint procedures; directs the company to train its employees involved in hiring and supervision in all aspects of the ADA; and requires it to hire an ADA coordinator to review requests for reasonable accommodation.