Thursday, March 11, 2010
For people with disabilities, the reality of workplace discrimination is an ongoing one. Last week a Winston-Salem bank was ordered to pay $24,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought on by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Branch Banking and Trust was slapped with the settlement after hearing-impaired employee Linda Hewett was denied the reasonable accommodation she was entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Hewett was denied a transfer that she was qualified for, and as a result she was forced to resign in 2003. Hewett suffers from severe, progressive hearing loss, and it was making the position she worked in at the bank impossible. After being denied the transfer to other positions in which she could function more successfully because her hearing loss would be less of a factor, Hewett quit Branch Banking and Trust, the country’s 10th largest financial holdings company.
The case was scheduled to go to trial earlier this year, but the parties involved reached an agreement during a court-hosted settlement conference. As part of the settlement agreement that includes the payment of $24,000 in compensatory damages to Linda Hewett, Branch Banking and Trust must also take other actions to prevent disability discrimination from happening in the future. The bank will provide antidiscrimination training for the staff of its entire banking network in its Southeast Region as well a strict reporting schedule to the EEOC of any and all incidents of discrimination.
Linda Hewett and countless others with disabilities are valued members of the American workforce who must sadly face this sort of discrimination on a regular basis. Treating those with disabilities like they have less to contribute is an unfortunate example of what is considered acceptable by those who hold narrow-minded or intolerant prejudices. Thankfully there are labor laws, legal teams and the EEOC, which are all dedicated to protecting disabled workers.