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EEOC Claims Disability Discrimination Where Employer Failed To Reassign Employee To Vacant Position


Having litigated employment discrimination cases for nearly twenty years, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have learned that employers often refuse to accommodate employees with a disability by reassigning them to a vacant position. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are obligated to reasonably accommodate employees with a disability. The purpose of a reasonable accommodation is to enable an employee with a disability to continue working for the employer. Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation includes job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, and a medical leave of absence from work. A recent disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates that a reasonable accommodation under the ADA also includes reassigning an employee with a disability to a vacant position.

Employers Must Accommodate Disabled Employees

In a press release issued on July 2, 2019, the EEOC announced that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Citizens Bank, N.A. (Citizens). On July 2, 2019, the EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Citizens Banks, N.A., Case No. 1:19-cv-362, in the U.S. District Court for Rhode Island after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. The EEOC has brought the disability discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the ADA on behalf of a former employee of Citizens, William Lescault (Lescault). In this article, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys explain the EEOC’s allegations against Citizens.

EEOC’S Allegations Of Disability Discrimination

In January 2010, Lescault began working for Citizens as a customer service specialist at Citizens’ call center in Rhode Island. In June 2015, Citizens promoted Lescault to a supervisor position in the call center. In this position, Lescault was required to field escalated telephone calls from Citizens’ customers. Lescault developed anxiety, a condition that caused him chest pains. The EEOC claims that Lescault’s anxiety constitutes a disability within the meaning of the ADA because it substantially limits him in the major life activities of concentrating, communicating, and interacting with others.

In February 2018, Lescault took an unpaid leave of absence in order to address his anxiety through the assistance of medical professionals. Lescault’s health care provider concluded that fielding customers phone calls was aggravating Lescault’s anxiety and instructed him to seek reassignment to a position that did not require him to perform this duty. While on leave, Lescault contacted Citizens to reassign him to a position that did not require him to regularly speak to customers on the phone.

In March 2018, Lescault’s health care provider submitted paperwork to Citizens confirming that Lescault suffered from anxiety, explaining that answering customer phone calls exacerbated Lescault’s anxiety, requesting that Lescault be reassigned to another position without that duty, and indicating that Lescault should not return to work until such an accommodation was put in place. In April 2016, Lescault once again asked Citizens to reassign him to another positon that did not require him to regularly field customer phone calls.

On April 20, 2018, Citizens sent Lescault a letter informing him that it was “unable to reasonably accommodate” his requested accommodation. Citizens indicated that it would not continue to discuss possible accommodations with Lescault unless and until he was released to work in his position as a call center supervisor. The EEOC alleges that because Lescault was unable to return to his position in the call center due to his disability, and having received no proposals from Citizens for accommodations that would enable him to continue working for the company, Lescault was forced to resign on April 23, 2018. Thus, the EEOC claims that Lescault was constructively discharged in violation of the ADA because Citizens’ failure to accommodate Lescault’s disability compelled him to resign his employment.

EEOC Enforces Civil Rights Laws

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. In enforcing the federal civil rights laws, the EEOC is also authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of employment discrimination, including disability discrimination. In a press release issued by the EEOC regarding the case, a Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, Jeffrey Burstein, stated that the “ADA recognizes that sometimes the most reasonable accommodation an employer can provide is reassignment to a vacant position.” “Despite its obligation under the law,” Mr. Burstein added, “Citizens refused to consider reassignment.”

Free Consultation With Gainesville Labor Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers have represented employment discrimination victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC. If you have experienced discrimination on the basis of disability or have questions about your right to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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