deaf, hearing impaired, Americans with Disabilities Act, unlawful termination, failure to accommodate
The National Association for the Deaf and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Civil Rights of Persons with Disabilities Clinic submitted an amici curiae Brief in EEOC v. Picture People, 684 F.3d 981 (10th Cir. 2012). At issue in Picture People was whether deaf or hard of hearing individuals may be discharged from an employment position in a photography studio because the employer believes the employee may have a limited ability to communicate verbally when the employer has accommodated the employee’s hearing disability. The brief supports the retaliation argument proffered by the EEOC in their Brief. See Brief of Petitioner-Appellant at 44-57, EEOC v. Picture People, No. 11-1306 (10th Cir. October 7, 2011).
The Petitioner-Appellant was an employee at a photography studio where she was repeatedly denied sign language interpreters by her employer. Despite being denied accommodations, the Petitioner managed to complete the necessary training required to work at the photography studio after obtaining an interpreter on her own. Petitioner was required to attend mandatory staff meetings where she was denied requests for an interpreter. When the Petitioner insisted on being provided an interpreter, her employer re-assigned Petitioner to reduced duties and hours, and refused to provide an interpreter during subsequent discussions on Petitioner’s continued employment at the photography studio. Petitioner was eventually fired from her position at the studio.
The analysis centers on whether the Petitioner qualifies for relief under an ADA unlawful termination claim by being qualified, “with or without reasonable accommodation” to perform the essential functions of the job and that Petitioner was discriminated against because of her deafness. The brief argues against the District Court’s ruling that verbal communication was an essential function of being an employee at the photography studio because it was not a uniformly enforced requirement for all employees and that it was not a business necessity in order to hold the Petitioner’s position. The brief further argues that even if verbal communication was an essential job function of Petitioner’s position, the employer refused to engage in identifying possible accommodations for Petitioner and that through such engagement, reasonable accommodations could have been identified for the Petitioner. In addition, the brief argues that the District Court failed to consider all the evidence presented by the EEOC and that the EEOC had offered evidence of the employer’s adverse employment actions and pretextual justifications for discontinuing Petitioner’s employment.