Grand Hyatt Sued For Disability Discrimination
International Hotel Chain the Grand Hyatt in New York has been sued by the EEOC for a Disability Discrimination for failing to accomodate a front desk agent with a chair due to Chronic Back Impairment. The Grand Hyatt New York, Inc., which operates a large hotel in New York City, violated federal civil right law by refusing to accommodate an employee with a chronic back impairment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, prolonged standing as a front desk agent aggravated the employee’s back impairment and caused him severe pain. The employee requested that Grand Hyatt New York provide a reasonable accommodation to his disability and suggested that the hotel permit him to sit on a chair while working at the front desk. The hotel initially permitted the employee to sit on a chair while working for two weeks. Thereafter, the hotel refused the employee use of the chair and otherwise failed to accommodate his disability.
Absent an undue burden to the company, the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Grand Hyatt New York, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-CV-07374) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after first attempting a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process. The suit seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Kirsten Peters and Sebastian Riccardi, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.
“Federal law on disability accommodations is very clear and fair – employers must provide a reasonable accommodation as long as it causes no undue burden,” said Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director. “A request for a chair is hardly likely to create such a burden.”
Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, added, “The EEOC is committed to protecting the rights of people with disabilities, through litigation when necessary, so that disabled employees can work effectively and with dignity,”
EEOC Trial Attorney Kirsten Peters said, “A refusal to provide a simple, low-cost accommodation to an individual with a disability is a clear violation of the law. This lawsuit could have easily been avoided if Grand Hyatt New York had done the right thing.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing 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. The New York District Office located in Manhattan conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.0
Back injuries account for many of the musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. The major symptom of most back impairments is back pain, which can be localized or widespread radiating from a central point in the back. If ligaments and muscles are weak then discs in the lower back can become weakened. With excessive lifting, or a sudden fall, a disc can rupture. With years of back abuse, or with aging, the discs may simply wear out and a person may live with chronic pain for several years. However, back pain caused by a muscle strain or a ligament sprain will normally heal within a short time and may never cause further problems. Poor physical condition, poor posture, lack of exercise, and excessive body weight contribute to the number and severity of sprains and strains. Degeneration of the spine, due to aging, is also a major contributor to back pain.
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet. A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. For more information about how to determine whether a person has a disability under the ADA, see How to Determine Whether a Person Has a Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).
People with back impairments may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with back impairments will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.