Employer Fired a Hearing-Impaired Employee and Retaliated Against Her for Complaining and Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency ChargesGREELEY, Colo. – Greeley, Colorado parts manufacturer Pneuline Supply, Inc., fired an employee who has a severe hearing impairment because of her disability and/or need for accommodation and in retaliation for requesting an accommodation and complaining about discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Pneuline Supply hired Lyubov Mezentseva in May 2017 as an assembler at its Greeley facility, knowing that she had a severe hearing impairment and was proficient in American Sign Language (ASL), but not English. At her job, Mezentseva communicated almost exclusively with ASL. The EEOC alleged that Mezentseva filed grievances and complaints from January 2018 to May 2018 because she was excluded from work discussions and meetings due to her hearing impairment, including an incident where a supervisor failed to communicate with her and walked away from her mid-conversation. According to the EEOC, Pneuline responded to her fourth complaint by disciplining her. Later in May 2018, after a mandatory meeting with no ASL interpreting, Mezentseva made a formal request for a certified ASL interpreter for meetings. The EEOC further alleged that Pneuline denied Mezentseva’s request for an ASL interpreter and then fired her.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Pneuline Supply, Inc., Civil Action No.: 22-00292) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for Mezentseva, including back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to prevent disability discrimination and retaliation in the future.
“The ADA clearly prohibits employers from firing employees because of a disability or the need to make reasonable accommodation for that disability,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Phoenix District. “And the same law expressly prohibits employers from punishing employees who complain about discrimination or request reasonable accommodation for a disability. The EEOC will continue to enforce this crucial federal law.”
Amy Burkholder, the field director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, added, “Federal law guarantees employees with disabilities the right to work in an environment that is free from discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC will vigorously protect these rights for people with disabilities, including employees who are deaf or have hearing impairments.”
For more information on disability discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/disability-discrimination.
Pneuline is a manufacturer of plastic valves, filters, fittings, and components used in automotive, medical, bio-pharmaceutical, chemical, agricultural, water, and beverage industry applications. Pneuline products are distributed worldwide.
EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
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