Library Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in New York City, must pay $42,000 to a former front desk employee to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to the lawsuit, a guest services agent for the hotel submitted medical support for using a chair or stool as an accommodation for the employee’s disability, which made it difficult for the agent to stand for prolonged periods of time.
Library Hotel denied the request based on its policy that guest services agents must stand at all times. Instead, the hotel offered alternative accommodations that the EEOC argued were insufficient. According to the suit, the employee attempted to continue to work without the requested accommodation but was forced to resign due to a continuing deterioration of their physical health.
The EEOC argued that the alleged conduct violated the ADA, which prohibits an employer from failing to reasonably accommodate an employee’s qualifying disability, absent undue hardship.
The agency filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief paid to the employee named in the suit, the consent decree resolving the litigation enjoins Library Hotel from enforcing any “standing only” policy against employees with disabilities where the employee’s disability prevents them from standing the entirety of their work shift. The decree also requires Library Hotel to:
- Revise and reissue its ADA accommodations policy;
- Provide management and employee training on the ADA;
- Issue annual executive messages on equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies;
- Include EEO language on the hotel’s career page and on its employment application;
- Provide periodic reports to the EEOC; and
- Post EEOC notices in the workplace.
“This case should serve as a stern warning to employers,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “A company’s internal policy does not trump a company’s obligations under the ADA.”
Yaw Gyebi Jr., director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, said, “The hotel industry in particular should take heed of this action. Inflexible employment policies applied universally without regard for the ADA’s reasonable accommodation mandate likely violate federal law.”
The New York office processes discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.