- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Powerlink Facilities Management Services, a Michigan-based management and maintenance services company, for allegedly failing to accommodate an employee with a hearing impairment and firing her because of her disability.
- The company uses training videos during its orientation that do not offer closed captioning for the hearing-impaired. Instead of providing this employee with a timely and reasonable accommodation, says the EEOC, Powerlink did not allow her to receive orientation or start work for several months.
- "Powerlink should have considered the various ways to accommodate this employee," said Nedra Campbell, trial attorney for the EEOC. "Instead, the company lost a valuable employee and gained a federal lawsuit."
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or job applicants, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.
In general, says the EEOC, an accommodation is "any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities."
Reasonable accommodations can include modifications or adjustments to the job application process, to the work environment or the way a job is performed or to factors that generally enable an employee with a disability to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment comparable to those of his or her colleagues.
Hearing-impaired individuals face bias in the workplace, according to a recent survey. Even though 100% of hearing Americans surveyed said they would "absolutely and/or likely" recommend a deaf individual for a job, with more than two-thirds of respondents saying they believe deaf individuals offer perspectives that are beneficial in the workplace, 30% said a deaf person could "absolutely" perform their own job better, or equally well.
The National Organization on Disability has issued guidelines to help HR professionals and employers effectively interact with employees of all abilities. According to experts, people should tap the shoulder of someone with a hearing impairment to get his or her attention. After that, look the person in the eye, speak clearly, and keep hands away from the mouth while talking. Additionally, the person speaking should still look at the person he or she is talking to, even if the hearing-impaired individual is accompanied by an interpreter.