Tag Archives: National Association of the Deaf

The EEOC and FedEx Continue Battle to Define Employer Requirements under the ADA

In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action disability lawsuit against the multi-billion dollar business, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc.

FedEx Ground truck in front of a parked car.
FedEx Ground is facing EEOC discrimination charges for its treatment of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: torbakhopper fedex ground illegal deliveries (this episode actually lasted over five minutes but flickr only allows 90 second uploads) via photopin (license)

Two years later, the lawsuit is still underway after a judge denied the company’s motions to dismiss or strike it.

Court documents provide a rich source of learning about how the government views a business’ obligations to be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

The case comes behind another FedEx case concerning an employee who was Deaf.

In 2015, the National Association of the Deaf intervened in the lawsuit. Unlike a previous EEOC v. FedEx case, this time, a national Deaf advocacy group joined.

According to the association, they intervened on behalf of “two deaf women who worked for FedEx Ground without access to qualified sign language interpreters or other reasonable accommodations.”

In 2016, FedEx’s Motions to Dismiss and to Strike were dismissed by U.S. District Judge, Mark R. Hornak.

Picture shows a screen shot of someone using sign language in an ASL video on the EEOC website.Learn more about this current case in ASL.

Overview

In a 2014 press release, the EEOC said, “FedEx Ground failed to provide needed accommodations such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during the mandatory initial tour of the facilities and new-hire orientation for deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants. The shipping company also failed to provide such accommodations during staff, performance, and safety meetings.”

Female news broadcaster with image of Hurricane Matthew in the background.
As pictured, this news broadcast wouldn’t make any sense to the Deaf community. No interpreter for those who use ASL. No captions for those who are Hard of Hearing. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing community needs visual communication. photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video NASA’s 3D view shows Hurricane Matthew’s intensity via photopin (license)

“FedEx Ground refused to provide needed equipment substitutions and modifications for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, such as providing scanners that vibrate instead of beep and installing flashing safety lights on moving equipment,” according to the release.

Stop sign shows a person light in green and a person lit in red.
Just like the lights on this sign show it’s safe to cross the street, color changing lights can send visual signals to people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: My Buffo Should I stay or should I go? via photopin (license)

Employees worked at facilities in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia.

After attempting to remedy the situation with FedEx, “The EEOC’s lawsuit arose as a result of 19 charges filed throughout the country citing discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing people by FedEx Ground,” according to the press release.

Failed resolution

“The agency consolidated these charges and conducted a nationwide systemic investigation of these violations. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr, said in the release, “FedEx Ground failed to engage in an interactive process with deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants to address their needs and to provide them with reasonable accommodations. That’s why we filed this lawsuit — to remedy alleged pervasive violations of the ADA on a national level.”

People sit around a room on several sofas.
Employee engagement requires effective communication. Sometimes that requires accommodations. Trust employees to know what they need. photo credit: TEDxSKE (Lebanon) TEDxSKE salon: 08.09.16 via photopin (license)

A lose/lose scenario

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “…FedEx Ground should have provided effective accommodations to enable people with hearing difficulties to obtain workplace information that is disseminated in meetings and in training sessions. … by failing to do so, FedEx Ground has marginalized disabled workers and hindered job performance. This is a ‘lose/lose scenario.'”

Button says Failure is always an option.
Not preparing ahead to meet the needs of employees can lead to the business and employees losing opportunity. photo credit: Howdy, I’m H. Michael Karshis Failure : @sharkthang : Quote : Prisma : Wave via photopin (license)

This case supports part of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan’s six national priorities: eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc.

Blue bag with money symbol on it tied with a rope.
Discrimination lawsuits can be costly and inconvenient. photo credit: dolphinsdock Money Bag in Blue via photopin (license)

According to court documents, The EEOC “seeks:

  • a permanent injunction to prevent FedEx Ground from engaging in disability discrimination;
  • an order directing FedEx Ground to implement policies, practices, and programs to provide equal employment opportunities and reasonable accommodations for aggrieved individuals;
  • back pay;
  • compensation for past and future pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses;
  • instatement of aggrieved individuals or front pay;
  • and punitive damages.”

No procedure = operating procedure

According to court documents, “The EEOC pleads that ‘FedEx has not implemented a corporate-wide procedure’ for accommodating deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.”

When “faced with a legal duty to seek reasonable accommodations, an employer’s complete and uniform failure to do so can fairly be conceptualized as a standard operating procedure of unlawful conduct.”

What happens when the EEOC goes fishing

Man on beach in sunset gathers his large fishing net.
The judge compares the EEOC to someone who has gone fishing and already cast their net–so they can reap the benefits. photo credit: Prabhu B Doss Networking. via photopin (license)

According to court documents regarding FedEx’s attempt to dismiss or strike the case, “EEOC has provided, and at oral argument FedEx Ground acknowledged possessing, a list of 168 named individuals that are the subject of this suit. And while the EEOC generally ‘may not use discovery.. .as a fishing expedition to uncover more violations,’ here the EEOC has already cast its net.”

Previously, the EEOC had placed a form on their website information requesting leads about FedEx Ground employees who had been denied accommodations during hiring or at work. In stark contrast to FedEx Ground’s training videos, the EEOC’s video is in American Sign Language.

“If some other aggrieved individuals–those meeting the statutory criteria for the claim as pled–are added to the haul . . . sometimes permissible fishing expeditions legitimately catch fish,” the judge said.

Many fish swirl around in the ocean.
If your business policies don’t respect people with all abilities, there are likely many fish for the EEOC to catch. photo credit: forum.linvoyage.com Fish soup IMG_1172s via photopin (license)

FedEx Ground complained that defending themselves against so many was unreasonable.

“FedEx Ground will not necessarily suffer impermissible prejudice. The EEOC’s central claim is based on an alleged failure to engage in an interactive process in order to give disabled individuals a statutorily-mandated reasonable accommodation. If it turns out that FedEx Ground indeed failed to do that, all individuals who were unlawfully discriminated against could be entitled to relief…”

What FedEx Ground failed to understand about the EEOC

According to court documents, “…The EEOC has significant discretion to investigate discrimination claims and … to litigate on behalf of a potential group of aggrieved people” and can “maintain class action suits even where it does not attempt to conciliate on behalf of each member or potential member of the class)” if they have informed the company that some people have suffered certain discriminatory conditions.

FedEx Ground’s statement

In this report, FedEx Ground said, “We value our deaf and hard of hearing employees, and we strive to give them, like all our employees, every opportunity to be successful — including working with them to provide individualized and reasonable accommodations.”

“We have cooperated with the EEOC throughout their investigation and are disappointed that the EEOC was not willing to engage in legitimate, good-faith discussions to conciliate and resolve these allegations. We are confident that we have complied with the law and intend to vigorously contest the EEOC’s unfounded allegations,” they said.

When should accommodations have been provided?

Many lifejackets are restrained by cords.
Ensure that your employees swim, not sink, by making all meetings and trainings accessible to people with all abilities. photo credit: tompagenet IMG_6282 via photopin (license)

According to a 3PlayMedia report, “..FedEx Ground blatantly violated the ADA by failing to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or closed captioned training videos in the following situations:

  • Mandatory initial tour of the facilities,
  • New-hire orientation for applicants,
  • Staff meetings,
  • Performance meetings, and
  • Safety meetings.”

From the perspective of people with deafness and hearing loss

Eisenberg & Baum, LLP of New York, ASL-fluent attorneys, addressed the case. “If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, it can sometimes be hard to get your employer to address your needs. Lack of reasonable accommodations can make your work life miserable, and make it harder for you to do your job.”

What must happen before an ADA lawsuit

“Before an ADA lawsuit can start, the employer must also have taken some ‘adverse employment action’ against the deaf or hard-of-hearing employee. This could be refusal to hire, failure to promote, firing, or discrimination in shifts, positions, or hours. It could also include harassment, if the behavior is serious enough to create a hostile work environment.”

Reasonable Accommodations can be used to complete work duties

Man looks at camera as he holds a phone handset while another person on video waits for him to continue speaking.
People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have been using videophones and captioned phones for many years now. photo credit: Ian Broyles i invented a video phone to the past via photopin (license)

“For example, a deaf woman may not be able to answer telephone calls. However, she may request a text telephone, voice carry-over telephone, or a captioned telephone, which would allow her to perform the essential work of responding to phone calls. This would be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act unless it was unduly burdensome on the employer.”

Positioning your business to be ADA compliant

Older man in a boat on the water pulling up a fishing net.
Liken the EEOC to the Old Man and the Sea. They are experienced and despite all challenges, they can catch big fish. photo credit: Emanuele Cardinali The Old Man and the Sea via photopin (license)

First, understand that the EEOC is a good fisherman.

According to its website, since the start of FY 2011, the commission has filed more than 200 disability discrimination lawsuits recovering $52,000,000. “The Commission secured this relief through jury verdicts, appellate court victories, court-entered consent decrees, and other litigation-related resolutions.”

Lawsuits include all “segments and sectors of the workforce” concerning a large variety of disabilities.”

Click here to review a list of EEOC cases.

How to avoid the EEOC fishing at your business

To avoid competing against the EEOC protecting the rights of your employees, you must fish better from your own pond. Like most people who fish well, prepare ahead of time.

The secret to good conflict resolution is fishing well with catch and release

Woman in boat holds a large fish she apparently just caught.
How well do you fish? Are you soliciting employee feedback regarding accommodations? photo credit: Kris Krug Antonia Wilson – Salish Sea Charters – Winter Salmon Fishing – Galiano Island via photopin (license)
  • Cast your line. Accessible hiring, training, and meetings. Have public policies that encourage complaints and management interaction.
  • Use the right bait. Avoid any practices or lack of policies that allow discrimination to take place. This includes training any supervisory personnel about supporting all abilities from the first week of hire. Build a nurturing workplace environment. The wrong kind of bait may lose your catch and the EEOC won’t use the wrong kind of bait.
  • Reel in your fish. When complaints are received, call in teams of people with similar abilities and ask them what can be done, what are potential cost-saving short cuts, and about other suggestions.
  • Let them go and multiply. Address needed changes, have follow-up dialogues, and encourage open door policies to discuss future needs. If this encourages more employees with similar needs to apply, it’s because you have strong policies that support your employees. Applicant metrics are a good standard for measurement of policy effectiveness.

    Two large fishing nets are hung in the water beneath a colorful sky.
    When you prepare ahead for success, you’ll cast out your net and gather new clients and funding sources. photo credit: Christopher Crouzet Cu Đê River, Da Nang via photopin (license)
  • Cast a new net. Reap the benefits of encouraging clients with similar abilities to support your efforts. Promote within the disability network, which has a strong word-of-mouth campaign. Enjoy the bounty!

Learn more about the EEOC

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website.

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Houston Deaf Grassroots Movement National Corner Rally this Thursday

The Houston Deaf Grassroots Movement will have a National Corner Rally this Thursday, Oct. 20, at Houston City Hall. This is part of a national effort to raise awareness about Deaf issues.

The three goals of the national Deaf Grassroots Movement are: Communication Access, Education, and Employment.

Street painting of sign language hand showing beginning of alphabet, A, B, C, D...
When people don’t know sign language or use captions, Deaf and Hard of Hearing community members need accommodations to have equal rights. photo credit: Hindrik S put your hand … via photopin (license)

Deaf Grassroots members will hold events at 85 cities across the nation, including:

According to Deaf YouVideo, the National Association of the Deaf met together with the Deaf Grassroots Movement to plan events for this Oct. 20.

Howard A. Rosenbaum of the National Association of the Deaf signed, “DGM and the NAD work together and support each other. Allow me to explain how. The NAD has always met with the federal government to discuss various issues including education, employment, and access. While such discussions are productive, sometimes we get nowhere. Thanks to DGM’s movement and making noise about our needs, the federal government reached out the NAD recognizing their actions. This helps the NAD continue the dialogue we want to have with the federal government. I am very appreciative of the work DGM has done to support the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people.”

“October 20th is a very important day! You can get involved by looking for the DGM Facebook page in your state, and find out details about October 20th. You can join for an hour, a few hours, or all day! Your time contributed to this movement will have an impact across the country!”

Map showing location of City Hall at 901 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002The Houston event will be from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at 901 Bagby Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

“There is a serious need to fight for the Deaf rights of communication, education, for jobs and many other issues of discrimination. The Deaf community must continue to fight for these rights and the best way to do so is to make the public aware of the issues of discrimination,” according to the event’s listing at the Deaf Network of Texas.

Participants will meet at corner intersections. Members of the Houston Deaf community are encouraged to attend to bring attention to their rights.

According to the event listing, “There is power in numbers and you will want to attend with your friends.”

To learn more, contact Darla Conner at dconner@cbfl.cc,  at 713-491-2381VP, or at 713-974-4621voice/tty.

Click here to let event organizers know you wish to attend.

NAD and DGM Links:

Follow @National Association of the Deaf:
Facebook – https://facebook.com/nad
GooglePlus – https://plus.google.com/nad
Twitter – https://twitter.com/nad
YouTube – https://youtube.com/nadvlogs
Website – http://nad.org

Follow @Deaf Grassroots Movement:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/events/deafgrassrootsmovement
Official Website – http://www.tdgm2015.org

Deaf Grassroots Movement Hashtags:
Facebook – https://facebook.com/hashtag/dgm
Instagram – https://instagram.com/explore/tags/dgm
Twitter – https://twitter.com/hashtag/dgm

Related Deaf Deaf Grassroots Movement:
Deaf Grassroots Movement – National Deaf Rally
Deaf Grassroots Movement Nationwide Rally
Deaf Protest at White House in Washington DC
Deaf Protest At The White House 2015 Live Video

Airlines to Have Captioned Movies

Many airlines will begin showing in-flight movies with captions, according to a press release from the National Association of the Deaf.

Picture of US Airways jet on airport runway
US Airways is one of several airlines that will now have captioned films for customers, thanks to a NAD and Gogo LLC agreement. photo credit: CLT 4-5-09 N183UW via photopin (license)

The association has made an agreement with Gogo LLC. According to the release, ” The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and Gogo LLC, the global leader in providing broadband connectivity solutions and wireless entertainment to the aviation industry, have reached a historic agreement for Gogo to make closed captioning available for 100 percent of programming content sourced by Gogo and streamed through its on-demand in-flight entertainment service, Gogo Vision.”

Customers will be able to display closed captions for Gogo content. The company is also replacing its current content with captioned entertainment films, to be completed by June 30, 2017, according to the release.

Woman's face and text below reads, Does your life have meaning?
In-flight films will have a lot more meaning for travelers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: via photopin (license)

“This is a monumental step in making in-flight entertainment accessible to the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States alone,” said Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, of the agreement.

Ash ElDifrawi, Gogo’s chief commercial officer said,  “Watching movies on a passenger’s own device has become a very popular product for Gogo and we are excited to provide access to this product to the deaf and hard of hearing.”

According to Gogo Inflight Internet, the following airlines currently partner with Gogo:

  • American Airlines,
  • Delta Air Lines,
  • United Airlines,
  • US Airways,
  • Virgin America,
  • Alaska Airlines,
  • Aeromexico,
  • Air Canada,
  • AirTran Airways,
  • Japan Airlines,
  • Vietnam Airlines,
  • and Virgin Atlantic.

Missing from the list are Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, though AirTran merged with Southwest in 2010. Continental Airlines ceased operation in 2012 and merged with United Airlines, which is a Gogo LLC partner.

Marlee Matlin to Sign National Anthem with Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl

Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin will perform the national anthem with Lady Gaga at the 50th Super Bowl, according to a report in the Washington Post.

Lady Gaga collage of face
Lady Gaga’s lyrics normally present special challenges for interpreters, but the Star Spangled Banner is more standardized. photo credit: Gaga Fashion via photopin (license)

Lady Gaga will sing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl game between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, according to the report. Matlin will perform in American Sign Language, or ASL.

Marlee Matlin signs I love you
Marlee Matlin signs her love to fans when she collects her Hollywood star. photo credit: Marlee Matlin via photopin (license)

According to Matlin’s official website, the actress, author, and advocate has “received worldwide critical acclaim for her film debut in Paramount Pictures’ Children of a Lesser God, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Actress … In addition to the Oscar, Marlee received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama.”

Marlee Matlin's Hollywood Star
Marlee Matlin’s star in Los Angeles. photo credit: STAR via photopin (license)

On Twitter, Matlin said, “I am so honored to be performing in ASL alongside the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50!”

Matlin also tweeted, “So excited!! Can’t wait to return to sign my third ! Do you know who the other two I signed with were?”

Matlin performed the national anthem at:

You can see a list of past Super Bowl performers and those who signed with them beginning with Super Bowl XXVI, here at CBS8.com.

On her website, Matlin says, “The opportunity to communicate in sign language, one of the most beautiful languages in the world, is an advantage that deaf people enjoy. It’s a language that combines several elements at once with a simple hand movement and facial expression: meaning, affect, time and duration. It’s just so beautiful that printed or spoken words can’t begin to describe it.”

Marlee Matlin poses with a fan
Marlee Matlin poses with a fan. photo credit: Marlee and Me 365.91 via photopin (license)

Matlin has an app to teach sign language, Marlee Signs, available at iTunes.

The star will return to her role as Melody Bledsoe in Season Five of Switched at Birth (see link for picture with her “son” Emmet filming the new season).

Switched at Birth’s Facebook page hasn’t released an air date for the new season yet, but it should be in August 2016.

Do you need a sign language interpreter for your event? Don’t let Lady Gaga be the only one with an interpreter.

Sign Shares can help!

 

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Ideas with Free Shipping for People with Deafness, Hearing Loss, and Interpreters

Presents under a Christmas tree.
Have you found some unique gifts for your loved ones with deafness or hearing loss?

Harris Communications offers many products for individuals with hearing loss. Currently, the company offers free shipping.

Harris Communications has provided a holiday gift guide, including the following gift guides:

Girl with Christmas tree lights behind her.
Products with lights offer alternatives to products that might otherwise have sound, such as fire alarms and phones.

Gift ideas include bed shakers–which now work with cell phones and have many options, light on cell phone signalers, new devices with different light signals for different sounds, assisted listening devices, amplified or TTY  phones, and also includes items such as apparel, rugs, keychains, drinkware, and jewelry. They also have products for interpreters.

DeafGifts.com sells more refined jewelry, apparel, home decor, and games. Novel items include:

Two boys stand in front of Hanukkah candles.
This season is a time to show our loved ones how much we care with thoughtful ways of showing our love and acceptance.

Both companies offer ASL books and videos.

Deaf, hearing loss organizations unite for wireless access

Organizations representing the Deaf and partially deaf communities joined efforts to make wireless handsets accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants. This includes cordless and mobile phones.

According to an article by the Hearing Loss Association of America, “When mobile technology moved from analog to digital in the 1990s, it created a huge barrier for people with hearing loss in that suddenly people with hearing loss who could use wireless handsets were faced with interference when they held the phone to their ear.”

a young woman talking to herself on the tin can phone
Many phones still aren’t accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Currently, 82 percent of mobile phones on the market are accessible for hearing technology. Only 66 percent of cordless phones are accessible. The association said it has joined with organizations to ensure greater telecommunications accessibility.

Man talks to video image
There’s an 18 percent chance this man’s mobile phone isn’t accessible for hearing aids or cochlear implants.

To do this, the association filed comment with the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

“We were joined in this filing by the Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Together we make it clear that our goal has remained unchanged: we want to see 100 percent of wireless handsets built to be hearing aid compatible,” according to the association’s website.

Number 66
Percent of wireless handsets the phone industry had proposed to have accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants. Advocate organizations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community said that’s not enough.

According to a comment from the three organizations, “It’s our understanding that the Industry is proposing a modification of the HAC rule to require both manufacturers and service providers to increase the percentage of M-and T-rated HAC wireless handsets they sell to 66% . . . If adopted, Industry’s proposal would leave fully a third of wireless handsets potentially unusable for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants.”

The consumer groups “look forward to working with the Industry and the Commission to ensure greater access to wireless handsets for all consumers with hearing loss,” according to the comment.

 

Responses needed about VRI in medical settings

According to a recent vlog/blog from the National Association of the Deaf, or NAD, the organization joined forces with Deaf Seniors of America to “find out which situations calls for a live interpreter or VRI [Video Remote Interpreting].”

At a hospital or clinic, a person who is deaf or partially deaf may receive a live interpreter, or a remote interpreter via computer (VRI). Problems from remote interpreting may stem from a litany of technological difficulties. In 2008, the National Association of the Deaf posted a position statement on VRI and included a list of potential problems.

Medical professional holds stethoscope to patient's chest.
Are there situations in which remote interpreting won’t work?

In the vlog/blog, Vice President of Deaf Seniors of America, Al Sonnenstrahl, says the organizations “recognize the challenges in using Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) in medical settings such as hospitals and doctor’s office. Some experiences are positive while others are not.”

According to vlog/blog, the organizations need to learn what people who are deaf and hard of hearing’s experiences are so they can better advocate for their interests. This does not involve a lawsuit.

In order to do this, the taskforce is requesting less than three-minute videos or English texts of your experience.

Information they need is: “which city and state this story happened in, the name of the doctor involved, which hospital this took place in, and your experience while using VRI. The Taskforce will report back to both organizations with information and strategies to address the growing use of VRI at hospitals and medical facilities.”

Stories can be submitted to: Email, VRIstories@nad.org / or by Videophone, http://www.nad.org/contactus / GLIDE, QDA BEIE .

According to the vlog/blog, “the purpose of the Taskforce is to gather information and are not covered by the attorney-client privilege. With these stories, we will be able to develop guidelines to be shared with doctors, hospitals, and others in the medical setting.”

The deadline to send in video or text responses is Dec. 1, 2015.