Merritt Hospitality to Pay $125,000 to Settle EEOC Lawsuit
Hotel Fired Employee With Asthma, Federal Agency Says
SAN DIEGO - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit against Merritt Hospitality, LLC and HEI Hotels and Resorts, LLC, which have agreed to pay $125,000 and provide other injunctive relief. This settlement was approved by the U.S. District Court of Southern California.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, an employee at the Embassy Suites hotel in San Diego was assigned to a workspace that did not have ventilation or windows. These working conditions exacerbated the employee's disability, causing significant breathing issues. The employee immediately informed the company that she needed an accommodation for her disability. The company failed to provide her with an effective accommodation. Within days of this request, the employee was forced to the emergency room where she remained overnight due to the severity of her condition. Instead of engaging in the interactive process with the employee, the company fired her, the EEOC charged.
Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (U.S. EEOC v. Merritt Hospitality, LLC et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-0654 MMA-AGS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agreement through its conciliation process. The court will maintain jurisdiction over this case for the term of the five-year consent decree.
In addition to monetary relief, Merritt Hospitality has agreed to retain an EEO monitor; appoint an internal ADA coordinator; revise its written policies and procedures regarding compliance with the ADA; create and maintain an accommodation log; implement training to all employees on the ADA; develop a centralized tracking system for accommodation requests and discrimination complaints; and submit annual reports to the EEOC verifying compliance with the decree.
"The interactive process is an integral part of the ADA and requests for accommodations must be taken seriously," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. "We are encouraged that Merritt Hospitality and HEI Hotels and Resorts have put in place meaningful measures to address disability discrimination and create a more inclusive workplace."
Christopher Green, director of the EEOC's San Diego Local Office, added, "The EEOC strives to dispel the stereotype that providing reasonable accommodations will have a negative impact on employers. The injunctive relief put in place by this decree will have a long-lasting effect on the company and all its employees."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the EEOC to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.