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AT&T settles EEOC suit over visually impaired worker


AT&T Inc. has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit for allegedly failing to accommodate a visually impaired employee in Puerto Rico, the agency said.

Miguel Meléndez began working as a switch technician in 2001 for Wall, New Jersey-based Centennial Communications Corp. and became visually impaired in 2008 due to diabetes, the EEOC said Wednesday in a statement.

Dallas-based AT&T acquired Centennial in 2009. That same year, Mr. Meléndez’s doctor cleared him to return to work, and he requested adaptive software that would have allowed him to use computers and programs to perform the essential functions of his job.

Neither Centennial nor AT&T responded to Mr. Meléndez’s request, and he was removed from his position and not permitted to return to work, the EEOC said. The agency accused AT&T in September 2011 of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act

Under terms of the settlement, in addition to paying $250,000 to Mr. Meléndez, AT&T has agreed to reinstate him in a new position in its San Juan, Puerto Rico, location and offer him reasonable accommodations in compliance with the ADA, the EEOC said. AT&T also will conduct annual training for its managers in Puerto Rico, among other settlement terms.

“It is important for employers to take accommodation requests from qualified employees with disabilities seriously and to respond to them in a timely manner,” EEOC San Juan Director William Sanchez said in the statement. “The requirement by federal law to engage in the interactive process with an employee cannot be ignored.”

ATT&T said in a statement: “Considering this mostly predates our acquisition of Centennial, we comply with all federal and state laws and we’re highly recognized for diversity and inclusion. We’re glad to have this resolved.”

In an EEOC case last year, after an eight-day trial, a federal judge ordered an oil drilling company to pay $245,600 for refusing to hire a worker in Alaska who is blind in one eye.

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