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AT&T Sued By EEOC In Puerto Rico Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Refused to Consider Accommodations for Technician Gone Blind From Diabetes, Federal Agency Charged

MIAMI – A company  in Puerto Rico now owned by telecommunications  giant AT&T violated federal law when it refused to reasonably accommodate a  longtime employee after he went blind from a disability, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed last  week.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Miguel  Melendez started working for Centennial in November 2001, when he was 20 years  old. As a switch technician, he  monitored and maintained data, telephone and cellular servers for the wireless  provider. Melendez suffers from diabetic  retinopathy, which caused him to lose vision in both eyes in November 2008. The  accommodation he requested would have permitted him to continue working as a  switch technician by utilizing computer software that allows blind persons to  use computer programs and applications. The  company knew that such software existed, the EEOC said. AT&T acquired Centennial de Puerto  Rico in January 2010 and continued Centennial’s business operations.

The EEOC filed  suit (EEOC v. AT&T, Case No. 3:11-cv-019-CCC) against AT&T  in U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico, alleging in its complaint that AT&T’s  failure to accommodate Melendez violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA),  as amended by the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008  (ADAAA). The EEOC filed suit after first  attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The agency is seeking back pay  and compensatory and punitive damages for Melendez. The suit also seeks injunctive relief to  prevent and correct disability discrimination, and training of AT&T’s managers  and employees about equal employment opportunity laws.

“Workplace flexibility and making reasonable workplace modifications, such  as the use of computer software, to keep qualified employees working, not only  makes good business sense in the 21st century, it is required by federal law,”  said Malcolm Medley, director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “The  EEOC will continue to protect employees against such unlawful discrim­in­ation.”

Robert  Weisberg, the EEOC’s Miami regional attorney,  added, “Employers have the obligation under the ADA to reasonably accommodate disabled  individuals. We will vigorously prosecute cases  where it appears that employment decisions are based on myths, fears or  stereotypes about a person’s ability because of his disability.”

© Copyright U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionNational Law Review, Volume I, Number 284
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

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