EEOC Sues New York Hotel for Refusing to Let Employee with Back Problem Sit in a Chair

Although many New York employers complain about the “unfair” burden of employment discrimination laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in practice, compliance is not that difficult. The ADA, for instance, requires employers provide “reasonable accommodation” to a disabled employee upon request. Although there is often disagreement as to what qualifies as “reasonable,” the intent of the law is straightforward; the employer should make it possible for an employee to do his or her job in spite of the disability, unless doing so would unduly burden the business as a whole.

The truth is that some accommodations are so simple, no employer should ever refuse them. Yet they can and do, which often necessitates litigation to uphold the employee's legal rights.

For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed a civil lawsuit against a popular New York City hotel over its alleged failure to give a disabled employee a chair. According to the agency's complaint, the employee in question presently works as a front desk agent for the hotel. The employee also “has an impairment to his spine” that physically limits his ability to stand. Yet the hotel requires its desk agents stand during their shifts.

Last year, the employee requested a chair to sit in his during his shift as a “reasonable accommodation” for his disability. The employee's doctor confirmed that sitting would “alleviate the pressure” on his back. Initially, the employer granted the accommodation and provided a chair. But approximately two weeks later, the EEOC alleged, the hotel “stopped allowing [the employee] to sit and required him to resume standing while working.” As a result, the EEOC claims the employee currently suffers “physical pain” while working and has been forced to take “unpaid leave” from his job to recover.

The EEOC said it decided to sue the hotel after settlement talks failed. The agency is now seeking back pay and compensatory damages on behalf of the employee, as well as an injunction to prevent future violations of the ADA. In effect, the EEOC is asking a federal judge to order the hotel give its disabled employee a chair on a permanent basis. As an EEOC attorney said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, “A refusal to provide a simple, low-cost accommodation to an individual with a disability is a clear violation of the law. This lawsuit could have easily been avoided if [the hotel] had done the right thing.”

Speak with a New York City Disability Discrimination Lawyer Today

Unfortunately, many employers decide it is better to take their chances in court than do the right thing when it comes to their disabled employees. If you find yourself in a position like the hotel desk clerk in the case discussed above, you should speak with an experienced New York employment attorney right away to learn more about your legal options. Contact the Law Offices of Nisar, White & Hilferty, LLP, today.


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