$40,000 to Settle Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against ACT Teleconferencing Services, Training Ordered

Monday, June 6, 2011

Question:  Would disability discrimination training have prevented this case?  See our trainings at http://www.hrclassroom.com.

ACT Teleconferencing Services, a Colorado-based provider of audio, web, and video conferencing services to companies in the United States and abroad, will pay $40,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, charged that ACT Teleconferencing violated federal law when it refused to extend the leave of a disabled employee for one month and then fired her.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. (1:11-cv-10941), ACT Teleconferencing refused to accommodate the disabilities of Paige Sprince, a longtime Massachusetts employee who had been seriously injured in an automobile accident on her way to work in February 2009, by refusing to extend her leave of absence for one month. Instead, it terminated Sprince right after she had received clearance from her doctor to return to work in one month.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ disabilities as long as this poses no undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary payment to Sprince, the consent decree resolving the complaint prohibits ACT Teleconferencing from further discriminating based on disability; and requires the company to revise and re-issue a written ADA non-discrimination policy, provide four hours of training to all supervisors in Massachusetts and all human resources employees, and post a notice concerning the settlement.

“Leaves of absence are often appropriate accommodations and opportunities to fulfill the ADA’s requirements,” said Markus L. Penzel, senior trial attorney for the EEOC. “The EEOC will continue to take swift action to ensure that employers meet their obligations to observe federal anti-discrimination laws.”

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