Court Rules Employer Refused to Provide Reasonable Accommodations and Failed to Hire Hearing-Impaired Applicant

PHOENIX -- A federal judge ruled yesterday ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that a Phoenix company that provides services to the disabled illegally discriminated against a hearing-impaired job applicant.

Judge David Alan Ezra of U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona held as a matter of law that Creative Networks had failed to accommodate and hire a hearing-impaired applicant, Rochelle Duran, because of her disability. In its lawsuit filed Sept. 28, 2009, the EEOC charged that Creative Networks violated the Americans with Disabil­ities Act (ADA) by adhering to a rigid policy or practice of denying hearing-impaired applicants' requests for interpreting services costing more than $200 to complete its pre-employment orientation and training. (EEOC v. Creative Networks L.L.C., 09-CV-02023, D. Ariz.).

According to the court, "Creative Networks denied Duran an employment opportunity and the denial was based on her need for reasonable accommodations. Indeed, Defendant's failure to offer Duran reasonable accommoda­tions foreclosed her opportunity for employment by preventing her from proceeding further in the application process."

Such conduct violates Title I of the the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits private employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, and job training, and also mandates that employers provide reasonable accommo­dations to people with disabilities absent undue hardship. With this decision by the court, the case will go to trial on the issues of damages and injunctive relief.

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said, "It's plainly against federal law for employers to refuse reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Employers should take advantage of the skills and assets that disabled individuals can offer, rather than denying them their rights under the law. Employers need to train and educate their work force on the need to treat disabled individuals lawfully and fairly rather than closing the door of opportunity on them."

Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for employers to take seriously their obligation to respect the rights of disabled applicants and employees. The EEOC will continue to exercise its mission to protect the rights of workers against discrimination."

Creative Networks, with over 1,000 employees, is a Phoenix-based subsidiary of ResCare, Inc. and a company that that provides services to disabled clients.