USDA's Discriminatory Practice Ended
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), claiming that the latter engaged in a discriminatory practice which purportedly discouraged managers from hiring deaf or hard-of-hearing employees.
In 2014, the USDA decentralized its sign language interpreting services and required each of its 17 sub-agencies to fund services for its employees directly. According to NAD, that disincentivized managers to hire deaf or hard-of-hearing employees and resulted in unreliable sign language services.
In its settlement, the USDA agreed to require each of its 17 sub-agencies to fund sign language contracts through a cost-sharing program based on the total number of full-time employees—even if they’re not hearing impaired. Furthermore, the USDA will pay $550,000, with $30,000 going to individual class members and $520,000 going to the group’s attorneys’ fees and court costs.
NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum noted, in a statement, "This historic lawsuit and settlement demonstrates the importance of centralized funding and coordination of reasonable accommodation to truly ensure an accessible and equal workplace for people with disabilities.”
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