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Training must accommodate disabilities

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Disabled workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations during all phases of employment, including during the application process and employer-mandated training before they start working.

If you have neglected your responsibility under the ADA, the EEOC just issued a reminder. It’s suing the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain on behalf of a deaf part-time dishwasher. Oleg claims the restaurant failed to provide him with the help he needed during his interviews, orientation training and initial working period. Oleg also says that because he wasn’t properly trained, he wound up being fired for alleged attendance problems. He contends he didn’t learn how to get his schedule adjusted.

According to the EEOC lawsuit, Oleg initially asked for his orientation training to be conducted using either American Sign Language interpretation or closed-captioned video. The Cheesecake Factory refused, instead using a system consisting of passing written notes back and forth during both the interview and orientation training sessions.

This case teaches several important lessons. First, all disabled applicants and employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations to allow them to do their jobs. That obligation starts during the hiring process.

Deaf applicants may need an interpreter during interviews and any training sessions.

This is especially important during safety-related orientation training. Employers have an obligation to assure that all employees understand safety rules, including employees who are disabled or for whom English is not their primary language. For deaf workers, relying on note passing won’t be enough.

The EEOC offers extensive guidance on accommodating deaf employees in the workplace. Find it at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/qa_deafness.cfm.

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