The EEOC has just sued a California branch of a national non-profit organization, Placer ARC, for refusing to accommodate a hearing-impaired employee by providing an American Sign Language interpreter – which another branch of ARC had done for three years. The complaint alleged that she was “treated  so poorly that she felt she had no choice but to resign.” ARC provides independent living services to people with developmental disabilities.
The employee, while fluent in American Sign Language, had difficulty following mandatory daily staff meetings conducted in English, but her supervisors refused to accommodate her need for such an interpreter and forced her to communicate almost exclusively in English. The complaint alleges that she spent three years at a different branch of ARC and that with the aid of an interpreter at training sessions and mandatory staff meetings she did high-quality work.
The web site for Placer ARC notes that it’s “value statement” is that it “invests in the lives of individuals with special needs because every life has value.” Its “mission statement” states that “It is our guiding belief that every individual with an intellectual or developmental disability has an intrinsic yet often unrealized value in their communities. In representing this population that has been historically underserved, Placer ARC is passionately and steadfastly dedicated to the support, education, and well-being of these individuals.”
So why were they tone-deaf to the obvious needs of a hearing-impaired employee for whom they had previously provided the necessary accommodation? Were they trying to attract the EEOC’s attention?