Wireless carrier AT&T will pay $250,000, reinstate an employee, and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Wednesday.
EEOC had charged the company with failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a visually impaired employee who had worked for the company since 2001.
According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Miguel Meléndez began working as a switch technician in 2001 for a predecessor company, Centennial, which AT&T later acquired. In 2008, Meléndez became visually impaired due to diabetes.
In 2009, Meléndez’s doctor cleared him to return to work, at which time Meléndez requested a reasonable accommodation for his visual impairment. Specifically, he requested the use of adaptive technology software, which would allow him to use computers and programs to perform the essential functions of his job as switch technician.
Neither Centennial nor AT&T ever provided a response to Meléndez’s request for reasonable accommodation. In the meantime, he was removed from his position and not permitted to return to work, while the company continued to ignore his accommodation request, the agency said.
“After waiting over a year and a half for a response to his request, Meléndez was removed from his position,” EEOC said. Meléndez filed a discrimination charge with EEOC in October 2010.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. EEOC filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico after first investigating and attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“We make diversity and inclusion a top priority and do not tolerate discrimination of any sort, including that based on disability, and we comply with all federal and state laws, including employment laws,” said AT&T Spokeswoman Rosie Montalvo.
“We have received national recognition and numerous awards as an employer of choice, including being named to DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for People With Disabilities for 2015,” she said.
“It’s important to note that the allegations mostly predate AT&T’s acquisition of Centennial, and while we deny that AT&T acted unlawfully in any way, we’re glad to have the matter resolved,” Montalvo said.
Under the consent decree resolving EEOC’s claims, aside from significant monetary relief, AT&T has agreed to reinstate Meléndez into a new position in its San Juan location and to offer him reasonable accommodations in compliance with the ADA.
AT&T will also conduct annual training for its managers in Puerto Rico, post a notice about the lawsuit in its Puerto Rico locations where customer service representatives and its Network Field Operations employees are located, and report ADA complaints from Puerto Rico to EEOC. AT&T has also agreed to engage in affirmative recruiting of visually impaired individuals by cooperating with local organizations that serve that workforce.