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EEOC Settles Wrongful Termination Case On Behalf Of Worker With Hearing Impairment

unhappy hard of hearing woman hand on ear asking to speak up

On November 2, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree settling a disability discrimination lawsuit filed against Northwest Wireless Enterprises, LLC (Northwest Wireless). On July 31, 2019, the EEOC filed the case, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Northwest Wireless Enterprises, LLC, Case No. 3:19-cv-05696, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Before filing the lawsuit, the EEOC initially tried to obtain a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. Unable to settle the case through informal methods of conciliation, the EEOC endeavored to remedy the alleged discriminatory employment practices through litigation.

In the Consent Decree, which was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle on October 27, 2020, Northwest Wireless agreed to pay $175,000 to resolve the disability discrimination lawsuit. In this article, our Ocala Florida lawyers for wrongful termination explain the EEOC’s allegations against Northwest Wireless.

Legal Protection Against Wrongful Termination

The EEOC has filed the disability discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on behalf of a former employee of Northwest, Melissa Daniel (Daniel). Under the ADA, it is an unlawful employment practice for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of disability. The ADA also requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that will help them perform the essential functions of their job. An employer’s failure to reasonably accommodate a disabled employee is a form of disability discrimination prohibited by the ADA. The EEOC claims that Northwest Wireless violated the ADA by firing Daniel because of her disability.

Worker Alleges Wrongful Termination

Northwest Wireless is an exclusive T-Mobile retailer located in Spanaway, Washington. The EEOC contends that based on having a permanent severe hearing loss in both ears since 2016, Daniel is disabled within the meaning of the ADA. In December 2017, Daniel was hired as a sales associate at Northwest Wireless’ store in Spanaway. When she was hired, Daniel disclosed her severe hearing impairment. Daniel further explained to her supervisor and co-workers that they had to speak with her while facing her because of her severe hearing impairment, and that they had to speak loudly and might have to repeat themselves.

The EEOC alleges that Daniel satisfactorily performed the essential functions of her sales associate job. During her employment, Northwest Wireless did not ever issue any discipline or take any disciplinary action against Daniel regarding her attendance, conduct, or work performance. Nor did Northwest Wireless ever provide Daniel with any evaluation that indicated her work performance was unacceptable using performance standards or metrics that applied to other sales associates.

On April 30, 2018, two of Daniel’s co-workers provided her with information that the Manager of the Spanaway store wanted to fire her because he did not want to continue providing her with a reasonable accommodation for her severe hearing impairment. On May 1, 2018, Daniel informed the owner of Northwest Wireless that the Manager harbored discriminatory animus against her because of her severe hearing impairment and wanted to terminate her employment. Northwest Wireless, according to the EEOC, took no action in response to Daniel’s internal complaint of discrimination. On June 29, 2018, Northwest Wireless terminated Daniel for alleged performance issues and tardiness.

Lawyers For Wrongful Termination

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal employment laws forbidding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. As part of its administrative enforcement of the federal employment laws, the EEOC is authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including employees discriminated against on the basis of disability. In a press release issued by the EEOC on November 2, 2020 regarding the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office, Nancy Sienko, explained that “this individual needed her supervisor and co-workers to speak face-to-face with her so she could read lips, or, occasionally, repeat themselves because of her hearing impairment.” “This simple accommodation of her disability,” Ms. Sienko observed, “would have allowed her to continue to perform her job duties and remain employed.” In commenting on the case, a Senior Trial Attorney for the EEOC, Damien Lee, stated that the “EEOC’s lawsuit should remind employers of the need to adequately train managers and employees on their rights and responsibilities under the ADA.”

Wrongful Termination Lawyers In Ocala, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida wrongful termination attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights of workers. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your protection against wrongful termination under the federal employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida wrongful termination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take wrongful termination 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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