- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in a lawsuit alleging it harassed, discriminated and retaliated against a deaf laboratory technician.
- During her training, the technician's supervisor repeatedly yelled at her, "I've already told you how to do that once," EEOC said.
- The technician was fired for "not getting trained fast enough" and in retaliation for both reporting discriminatory conduct and also her disability and requests for accommodation, EEOC said.
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers and applicants with many types of disabilities, including deafness or hearing impairments. It also requires employers to provide workers with disabilities reasonable accommodations that enable them to perform the essential functions of their jobs, unless those accommodations would pose undue hardship to an employer. The cost of ignoring this law is high: Safeway recently paid $75,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit alleging it violated the ADA by failing to provide an interpreter for a deaf applicant.
The law compels employers to install compliant protocols and procedures in the workplace, but even the most robust compliance policies may not make an environment totally inclusive to workers with hearing impairments. A recent study revealed almost all Americans would recommend a deaf individual for a job, but only 30% of workers believe that a person who is deaf could perform respondents' own jobs equally as well as the respondent could, or better. The same survey showed less than half of those polled would absolutely vote for a presidential candidate who was deaf, even if their beliefs aligned.
Workplaces may want to provide some training to employees — especially those with managerial roles — that educates them on interacting with deaf people in a respectful way. When getting the attention of a colleague who is deaf or hard of hearing, hearing workers should tap the person on the shoulder, look them in the eye and speak clearly, experts previously told HR Dive. And if the person works with an interpreter, the worker should speak to the person, not the interpreter.