- Hyatt Corporation has agreed to pay $85,000 and provide six weeks of paid leave — worth about $15,000 — to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming that the hotel failed to accommodate an employee with a chronic back ailment when he asked for a chair.
- The EEOC said prolonged standing as a front desk worker aggravated the employee’s back impairment and caused him severe pain. The employee requested, as a reasonable accommodation, that the hotel permit him to sit on a chair while working at the front desk. The hotel allowed the worker to use the chair for two weeks but then refused him further use of the chair and otherwise failed to accommodate his disability, the EEOC alleged in the lawsuit. Sitting did not interfere with the employee’s job duties of registering guests, processing payments, and responding to guest inquiries, the EEOC said.
- Hyatt agreed to provide a chair as part of the settlement. It also agreed to train employees about their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to report the outcome of future accommodation requests and disability discrimination complaints to the EEOC.
The ADA requires that employers provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability, unless doing so would create an undue hardship. Undue hardship means that the accommodation would be “too difficult or too expensive to provide, in light of the employer's size, financial resources, and the needs of the business,” the EEOC has explained.
Sometimes a reasonable accommodation can be something simple and low-cost, such as a policy exemption that allows for a chair, or a snack or drink for a diabetic sales assistant. Modifying a workplace policy because of an employee’s disability can be a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC has explained.
Experts have suggested that, to ensure that requests for accommodation under the ADA start off on a legally sound basis, HR should train supervisors to ask: "How can I help you?"
Employers should also have a system in place that helps managers and supervisors recognize accommodation requests because the ADA does not require that accommodation requests be in writing. The system also should be set up to assist with determining what accommodations are available, as well as choosing and monitoring accommodations, experts say.