Awning Manufacturer Would Not Hire Applicant Because She Is Deaf

 
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
 

Carefree of Colorado to Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC Disability and Retaliation Suit

Awning Manufacturer Would Not Hire Applicant Because She Is Deaf, Federal Agency Charged

DENVER – Carefree/Scott Fetzer Company, doing business as Carefree of Colorado, will pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.  Carefree, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., manufactures RV awnings at a facility in Broomfield, Colo.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Carefree would not hire Anna Biryukova as an assembler or packer because she is deaf. The lawsuit also charged that Carefree retaliated against Biryukova by refusing to consider her because she and a job placement advocate acting on her behalf complained about discrimination and the need for disability accommodation.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability and requires employers to consider and provide reasonable accommodations that would allow workers and job applicants with disabilities to perform the essential job functions. The EEOC filed its suit (EEOC v. Carefree/Scott Fetzer Company, d/b/a Carefree of Colorado, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-02530-RM-NRN) in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the three-year consent decree settling the suit, Biryukova will receive a total of $100,000 in back pay and compensatory damages. In addition, the decree also prohibits Carefree from engaging in future disability discrimination or retaliation and requires the company to revise its ADA and reasonable accommodation policies. Carefree will provide annual training on the ADA and disability discrimination to all employees at its Broomfield facility, with additional training for managers and human resource managers involved in hiring. HR staffers involved in hiring will have compliance with anti-discrimination policies considered as part of their job performance. Carefree also must report to the EEOC any complaints of disability discrimination in hiring or retaliation, and provide reports confirming it is following the decree’s terms.

“Employers are responsible for preventing and remedying disability discrimination against job applicants, and are prohibited from retaliating against people who oppose such discrimination,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. “Preventing discrimination against deaf job applicants is particularly important because of the underemployment of hearing-impaired individuals.”

According to the National Deaf Center, only 53.3% of deaf people ages 25-64 were employed in 2017 in the U.S., compared to 75.8% of hearing people – an employment gap of 22.5%. See www.nationaldeafcenter.org

EEOC’s Field Office Director Amy Burkholder added, “Employers must give job applicants with a disability fair consideration. There are many negative stereotypes against workers with disabilities and unjustified assumptions that they may not be able to perform in the workforce. The ADA was passed to address those stereotypes.”

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