The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing a Houston restaurant for disability discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. In many cases of disability discrimination, an employer fails to consider a disabled applicant or fails to provide reasonable accommodations so that the qualified applicant can perform required duties. In this case, however, the restaurant, Nick’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, not only hired a disabled applicant; it also provided reasonable and workable accommodations.
Unfortunately, a change in management altered the situation dramatically. Laura Kercheval, who has a form of dwarfism, was working for Nick’s as a server. Nick’s provided a lower workstation for her to pick up her trays from the bar. This accommodation likely caused minimal changes for the bar staff and allowed Kercheval to work safely. But, Nick’s new general manager decided to end the
accommodations and told Kercheval to use the main bar counter like all the other servers. To make the situation worse, Kercheval claims Nick’s owner also made unwanted sexual advances, comments, and physical contact. As a result of Kercheval’s repeated complaints and requests for accommodations, her hours were reduced and she was eventually terminated. The EEOC is bringing the case on behalf of Kercheval and seeks back pay and damages for her, as well as an order prohibiting Nick’s from further discriminatory and retaliatory actions.
Investigations Into Discrimination
Washington employers are prohibited from discriminating in employment against qualified individuals on any of the protected grounds. These protected grounds are numerous, and include age, race, gender, and disability on a federal level. The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) includes the same federally protected grounds, and includes additional grounds including sexual orientation and marital status.
Employees who believe discrimination or harassment is either happening to them or others can report their complaints to the Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) and, in some cases, the EEOC. Individuals have about six months from the date of the last discriminatory action to file a discrimination complaint under both state and federal discrimination laws; however, the EEOC
extends the deadline to 300 days if the state has a law prohibiting the same discrimination as WLAD.
Once a complaint is filed, the agency in charge, the EEOC or WSHRC, will investigate the complaint. This investigation can include reviewing documents from the complainant, interviewing witnesses and other employees, and visiting the workplace. If there is not enough evidence found, the complaint may be dismissed or the agency, in the case of the EEOC, will provide the individual with a notice allowing that person to file a lawsuit. If there is evidence of discrimination though, the agency will attempt to resolve the matter between the individual and employer
through mediation. If mediation fails, as in the Houston case, the agency may take the case to trial on behalf of the individual.
If you believe you have suffered from discrimination in your employment or your company is facing investigation, an experienced HKM employment law attorney can help.