$132,500 Settlement Against Comfort Suites in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Training Ordered

Friday, November 11, 2011

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

Tarsadia Hotels, doing business as Comfort Suites, a hotel developer and  operator in California,  will pay $132,500 and implement substantial changes to settle a disability  discrimination lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) filed on behalf of hotel clerk with autism.

The EEOC charged that a front desk  clerk at the Comfort Suites Mission Valley Hotel in San Diego was denied a reasonable  accommodation, disciplined and ultimately fired in 2008 due to his disability.  The clerk, who has autism, had prior hotel experience in a  similar position, where his work earned him a positive recommendation. Shortly after starting at Comfort Suites, he  sought free job coach services from the state.  A job coach would have helped the clerk learn to master his job by using  autism-specific training techniques.  However, Tarsadia refused to allow the assistance of a job coach and  then fired him.

Such alleged conduct violates the  Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  The EEOC filed suit against the company in September 2010 in U.S.  District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Tarsadia Hotels dba Comfort Suites, Case No. 10-CV-1921-DMS-BGS).

As part of settlement, the parties  entered into a three-year consent decree under which Tarsadia will pay the  claimant $125,000 and donate $7,500 to Partnerships With Industry, a San  Diego-based non-profit organization that provides employment support to people  with disabilities. Tarsadia further  agreed to sweeping changes, including revising its policies and procedures with  respect to ADA compliance; hiring an EEO consultant to train all Tarsadia  employees of their ADA rights and responsibilities and ensure the proper  handling of reasonable accommodation requests and disability-related  complaints; and agree to hold managers and supervisors accountable in their  evaluations for compliance with policies against disability discrimination and  retaliation. The company will also  submit annual reports to the EEOC on its compliance with the decree’s terms.

Mark  Berger, president and chief executive officer of Partnerships with Industry,  stated, “We are grateful that EEOC took a stand against disability  discrimination, a serious problem which all too often plagues individuals with  developmental disabilities. We believe  that individuals with disabilities can make productive workers as long as  employers are willing to work with them through accommodations.”

Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for  the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, said, “We commend Tarsadia for  implementing widespread change, assuring that people with disabilities have a  fair shot at gaining and retaining employment.  Other employers should also learn to comply with the ADA rather than be driven by stereotypes  about disabilities like autism.”

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