Internal company policies do not override an employer’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, federal officials said this week in announcing the settlement of a case against a boutique luxury hotel that denied a front desk worker’s request to sit on a stool to accommodate a disability that made prolonged standing difficult.
The Library Hotel in New York City will pay $42,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of a front desk worker who was denied the use of a stool because it was the company’s policy that guest service agents stand, according to an announcement from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The employee attempted to continue working without accommodation, but eventually resigned for health reasons.
“This case should serve as a stern warning to employers,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein said in announcing the recent settlement. “A company’s internal policy does not trump a company’s obligations under the ADA.”
In addition to the monetary relief paid to the employee named in the suit, the consent decree resolving the litigation enjoins Library Hotel from enforcing any “standing only” policy against employees with disabilities where the employee’s disability prevents them from standing the entirety of their work shift.
“The hotel industry in particular should take heed of this action,” said Yaw Gyebi, Jr., director of the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Inflexible employment policies applied universally without regard for the ADA’s reasonable accommodation mandate likely violate federal law.”
EEOC Trial Attorney Andres F. Puerta added, “When receiving a request for accommodation, employers should first assess whether the request is reasonable and can be accomplished without disrupting business operations, as opposed to whether a request is contrary to a rigid universal application of a company policy.”
“This approach may better inform decision makers so that they may engage in a good-faith interactive process with the employee and do not run afoul of the ADA,” Puerta said.
For more information on reasonable accommodation under the ADA, go the EEOC website here.