The EEOC is settling a variety of discrimination cases at a high price to employers. From sexual harassment and retaliation to medical disability discrimination, the hotel industry has been hit with suits across the country. It may be a good time for hoteliers to review their workplace culture along with employee work environments. JD Supra reports a case recently filed by the EEOC. One, hoteliers may want to track.
Company Failed to Provide Ventilated Space for Employee With Asthma, Federal Agency Charges
SAN DIEGO – Merritt Hospitality, LLC and HEI Hotels and Resorts LLC, who together operate the Embassy Suites San Diego Bay, a San Diego hotel that has over 300 guest rooms, violated federal law when they denied a reasonable accommodation to an employee with asthma, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Friday.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee’s workspace at the hotel was in a room with no windows and no ventilation. These conditions triggered severe respiratory problems, which resulted in the employee being hospitalized overnight. Instead of engaging in the legally required interactive process to determine whether a reasonable accommodation, such as an air conditioning unit or different work space, could be provided, the hotel fired the employee, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Merritt Hospitality, LLC, et al., Case No. (3:18-cv-0654 MMA-AGS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks monetary damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent and correct discrimination.
“The interactive process is at the heart of the ADA,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, whose jurisdiction includes San Diego County. “A good-faith dialog with an employee enables an employer to identify possible reasonable accommodations and prevents the employer from violating the ADA.”
Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “Many accommodations for disabilities are low-cost or no-cost, causing little or no disruption to the business. Employers are required to explore such possibilities for good reasons.”