EEOC suit: Lockheed failed to accommodate admin with traumatic brain injury
- Lockheed Martin Corp. and Lockheed Martin Enterprise Operations violated federal law when they refused to accommodate an administrative assistant with post-concussive syndrome and mild traumatic brain injury, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit (EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Lockheed Martin Enterprise Operations, No. 8:18-cv-02976 (D. Md., Sept. 26, 2018)).
- Donna Kerekes requested permission to use a transcription or recording device to assist her with tracking rapid speech and note-taking. According to the suit, Lockheed denied the request and did not further engage in the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) interactive process. She took leave and, while she was out, continued to seek accommodation, including reassignment to other open positions. Lockheed failed to provide her with any accommodations and eventually fired her, EEOC said.
- The suit seeks lost wages, punitive damages and other relief.
The ADA requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability, unless the company would suffer an undue hardship as a result.
While an employer doesn't necessarily have to grant the accommodation an employee wants, it is expected to engage in an interactive, good-faith process to determine appropriate accommodations. Failing to engage in the interactive process isn't a stand-alone violation under federal law, but it can be evidence of discrimination.
The process can be informal, but employers will want to document requests, conversations and decisions. Managers should be trained to do this even for temporary accommodations, as thorough documentation can serve an employer well in court, David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute's ADA & Equal Employment Opportunity Services, told attendees at a recent conference.