Company Fired Deaf Employee After She Requested an Interpreter, Federal Agency Charged
GREELEY, Colo. – Pneuline Supply, a Colorado parts manufacturer, will pay $44,250 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Pneuline fired a deaf employee after she complained of discrimination and requested to have a sign language interpreter during important meetings. The employee complained of discrimination because managers invited all other team members, except her, to team meetings. During the company’s investigation, she requested a sign language interpreter to be present at performance reviews and any disciplinary discussions. The suit alleged that Pneuline denied her request and instead fired her based on the need to provide her with reasonable accommodations for her disability.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on disability and from retaliating against individuals who request accommodation. The EEOC filed suit against the company in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Pneuline Supply, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:22-cv-00292-NYW-KLM.
The consent decree settling the suit requires Pneuline to review and update its disability discrimination and reasonable accommodation policies, as well as post an anti-discrimination notice. The company will also provide trainings on the ADA to its managers and human resources staff.
“The ADA prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire employees simply because they may need to provide them a reasonable accommodation in the future,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. “Employers also may not use a complaint about discrimination as an opportunity to fire them. That is unlawful retaliation.”
Karl Tetzlaff, the senior trial attorney who handled this case for the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, added, “Employees with hearing impairments are entitled to the same access in the workplace as individuals without any impairment. Reasonable accommodations in the workplace simply allow people with disabilities to do the jobs they were hired to do.”