Hotel Denied Accommodations, Including the Use of a Chair, to a Front Desk Agent with a Chronic Back Impairment, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK -Hyatt Corporation, which operates the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City, will pay $85,000, provide paid leave worth approximately $15,000, and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Hyatt violated federal civil rights law by refusing to accommodate an employee with a back impairment. Prolonged standing as a front desk agent aggravated the employee's impairment and caused him severe pain. The employee requested a reasonable accommodation, namely that the hotel permit him to sit on a chair while working at the front desk. The hotel initially granted that request, then after two weeks the hotel reversed course, refusing to let the employee use the chair and otherwise failing to accommodate his disability. According to the EEOC's suit, being seated did not interfere with the employee's performance of his job duties of registering guests, processing payments, and responding to guest inquiries.
This denial of accommodations violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the EEOC charged. Absent an undue burden to the company, the ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified individual with a disability to enable him to perform the essential functions of his job. This includes accommodations needed to allow an employee to work without severe pain. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Grand Hyatt New York, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-CV-07374) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after first attempting a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC's conciliation process.
"Federal law on disability accommodations is very clear - employers must provide a reasonable accommodation so long as it does not cause an undue burden," said Kevin Berry, the EEOC's New York District director. "Something as simple as providing a chair for an employee working at a desk is rarely burdensome."
Under the consent decree resolving the lawsuit, Grand Hyatt will pay $85,000 and provide six weeks of paid leave to the aggrieved employee, and also will provide him a chair so he can perform his duties seated. The consent decree further requires Grand Hyatt to provide training to its employees about their rights and responsibilities under the ADA. Additionally, the company will report the outcome of future requests for accommodations and complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC.
Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office, added, "The EEOC remains committed to protecting the rights of people with disabilities, through litigation when necessary, so that employees with disabilities can work effectively and with dignity."
EEOC trial attorney Sebastian Riccardi said, "We are pleased to finally get relief for this employee and institute necessary changes at the Grand Hyatt. This lawsuit could easily have been avoided if Grand Hyatt New York had done the right thing initially."
The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The New York District Office located in Manhattan conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.