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Jury awards $1.7 million in employment discrimination case

Jury awards $1.7 million in employment discrimination case

A jury in Syracuse, New York, awarded a job applicant $1.7 million in damages following a distribution company’s refusal to interview her after it discovered she was deaf.

The award against a McLane Co. Inc. unit comprised $25,000 in back pay, $150,000 in damages for emotional distress and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

According to the complaint in U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. McLane/Eastern Inc. D/B/A McLane Northeast filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in 2020, McLane violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by “failing to interview and failing to ultimately hire” the applicant because of her disability.

The applicant applied for two warehouse selector positions at McLane’s Baldwinsville, New York, facility in 2018. She could fulfill the minimum requirements of the job, including being able to “speak, read and understand the English language” because she could lip-read, according to the original complaint. In addition, she could pass a physical capabilities test.

McLane called the applicant on March 12, 2018, to talk about her application and she returned the call to the human resources department using a telecommunications relay service, which uses an operator to facilitate calls for people with hearing disabilities.

Based on the TRS-assisted call, McLane became aware that the applicant had a hearing impairment, court papers say.

The HR employee who spoke with the applicant said the person she needed to contact regarding the job openings was not available, but she would receive a return call or email. The company failed to follow up and eliminated her from further consideration the next day, court papers say.

The company ultimately hired candidates who were not hearing-impaired.

McLane was disappointed with the verdict, said Bart McKay, senior vice president, general counsel, for the Temple, Texas-based company, in a statement.

“We stand behind our commitment to inclusive employment and we have a long history of hiring and accommodating teammates with disabilities. At this time, we are evaluating all available options, including the potential for appeal,” he said.