Hearing impairment has garnered some attention these days as it relates to employment discrimination under the ADA. Yesterday we wrote about a new EEOC lawsuit on behalf of a hearing-impaired employee who was not given the accommodation of an American Sign Language interpreter.
The EEOC also announced a new suit against Toys "R" Us on behalf of a deaf applicant who the company refused to accommodate by providing an interpreter and then failed to hire. An EEOC attorney repeated the EEOC mantra that “It’s not only bad business to forgo hiring a qualified employee simply because of fears, biases or stereotypes against people with disabilities, it’s also a violation of the law."
Now comes news that a federal court in Pennyslvania has ruled that deafness in one ear does not constitute a disability under the ADA. Plaintiff claimed that she "became totally deaf in one ear and had balance problems due to surgery removing a brain tumor. … [and] was able to continue performing her job functions without accommodation, but had difficulty concentrating."
The Court said that the plaintiff “testified that her deafness in her left ear was not a distraction … and she did not mention any specific instances where her hearing loss caused a problem other than that she ‘didn’t hear some things.’” Therefore, this hearing impairment in one ear was not a disability under the ADA, even under the expanded ADA Amendments Act.
Is this evidence of a new foray by the EEOC and plaintiffs into employment discrimination on the basis of hearing impairment?