McLane Northeast, a distribution company with a facility outside Baldwinsville, N.Y., violated federal law by refusing to interview a qualified applicant because she was deaf, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on December 31.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, an individual with hearing disabilities applied for two positions in McLane’s warehouse located in Lysander, N.Y., for which she was fully qualified. McLane contacted her the same day and left a message. She then returned McLane’s call using a Telecommunications Relay Service, which uses an operator to facilitate calls for people with hearing and speech disabilities. After being contacted via the Relay Service, McLane did not return her call and rejected her application the next day. McLane filled the positions with individuals who are not deaf.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified applicants based on their disability. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC seeks back pay, front pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the applicant, as well as injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future disability discrimination in the hiring process. The case will be litigated by EEOC Trial Attorney Caitlin Brown and EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Kimberly Cruz.
“The law requires that applicants with disabilities receive the same opportunities as any other applicant to compete for a position,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “An employer can’t disqualify disabled employees without even considering their qualifications for a job.”
Judy Keenan, director of the New York District Office, said, “This is the mission of the agency—equal employment opportunity. Everyone should have the opportunity to compete for employment on an equal playing field. That is what the law requires, and we will enforce it aggressively.”