EEOC Sues an ARC on Behalf of Deaf Employee

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March 26, 2013; Source: Sacramento Bee

In California, Placer ARC is one of more than 700 chapters of The ARC, a national nonprofit organization that “promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.” The Placer branch’s slogan is, “Making the Difference for Individuals with Special Needs.” But according to a federal lawsuit filed last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges, as described by the Sacramento Bee, that Placer ARC did not provide reasonable accommodations to a former employee who is deaf and, “instead, treated her so poorly that she felt she had no choice but to resign.”

The EEOC brought the suit on behalf of Homeyra Kazerounian, a hearing impaired woman originally from Iran who is fluent in American Sign Language but who reportedly had difficulty following required staff meetings that were conducted almost exclusively in English and without an interpreter. The lawsuit states that Kazerounian had a three-year track record of high-quality work at a different California ARC branch, where she had been supplied with an interpreter for training sessions and mandatory staff meetings. 

Sadly, there are probably many nonprofits across the U.S. that are not in step with EEOC regulations. We don’t suggest that Placer ARC is guilty or innocent; that is for the courts to decide. But the lawsuit’s allegations remind us of the need to check up on one’s organization to make sure that one’s mission isn’t just something that happens “out there” as opposed to inside one’s own walls. –Mike Keefe-Feldman