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The organization Disability Rights Advocates recently filed a class action lawsuit against the state of California on behalf of seven state employees and Deaf and Hard of Hearing State Workers United, a group representing employees with hearing disabilities.

The suit accuses the state of discriminating against deaf state employees by failing to provide adequate interpretation services and failing to establish emergency procedures to protect deaf workers.

According to the complaint, the state regularly denies interpreters to deaf employees for staff meetings, in-house and outside training, performance reviews, equal employment opportunity counseling sessions and meetings with the public and clients.

In addition, the complaint alleges that when the state has provided interpreters, they are not always qualified, and employees don’t have access to them long enough. Instead of interpreters, the complaint states, the state often provides “inefficient or ineffective” accommodations such as lip reading and note-writing services and written meeting summaries.

“On paper, the state recognizes the need for sign language interpreters and other forms of reasonable accommodations,” said Laurence Paradis, executive director of Disability Rights Advocates in a statement. “But in practice, the state has no reliable systems in place to ensure that its deaf employees have effective communication with their clients, co-workers and management.”

Disability Rights Advocates filed the suit under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.

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