Voyant Beauty settles claim it fired worker on her first day for being deaf

Dive Brief:

  • Voyant Beauty agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a disability discrimination a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit alleging it fired an employee on her first day because she was deaf, according to a Tuesday news release from the agency. The termination violated of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, EEOC said.
  • The beauty and personal care product company allegedly fired the employee because it believed she couldn’t safely work in production at the company’s Countryside, Illinois, site. “The company did so even though she was qualified for the job and could have performed its essential functions with or without accommodation,” EEOC said. Voyant Beauty did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
  • Under the consent decree, Voyant will pay $75,000 to the fired worker, provide training to managers on federal disability discrimination laws and report on the hiring of applicants with disabilities to the EEOC.

Dive Insight:

The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers with disabilities on any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job responsibilities and training. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. 

“Relying on unfounded stereotypes about an individual’s disability in making employment decisions is illegal,” Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said in a statement. “A decision not to hire someone with a disability based on a safety concern must be based on an individualized assessment of the person’s actual ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job, potentially with accommodations. The ADA requires this to be determined based on objective evidence, not assumptions or guesswork.”

EEOC has a history of filing lawsuits against companies allegedly in violation of the ADA in their treatment of workers with hearing disabilities. 

Last May, the company that operates the New York E-ZPass toll collection system and its staffing agency agreed to pay $120,000 to settle a lawsuit in which the EEOC alleged the companies fired a worker after she requested an accommodation for a hearing condition

Later that year, in September, the agency alleged that a Kansas Walmart refused to provide two deaf employees with access to an American Sign Language interpreter

That same month, a federal jury awarded more than $36 million to a person who alleged he was denied a truck driving position he applied for because of his hearing disability, per EEOC, which filed on behalf of the plaintiff. A judge later reduced the award to comply with a statutory damage cap.

In January 2023, EEOC released a guidance to help employers understand how the ADA applies to hearing disabilities in the workplace.