On March 19, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has reached a settlement with Dallas, Texas-based BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas (BCBS), over disability discrimination allegations. The EEOC filed suit alleging that BC/BS violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to a job applicant who is deaf.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, the plaintiff, Sheryl Meador, applied for an open claims examiner position at BCBS by submitting her resume via an online portal. As part of the online application process, Ms. Meador was required to complete a 35-minute assessment exam, which had an audio portion. The audio portion of the assessment did not have captions or any other accommodations for hearing impaired applicants. Thus, Ms. Meador could not complete the online application process. Ms. Meador then contacted BCBS to inform them of her disability and to request a reasonable accommodation. However, BCBS never followed up with Ms. Meador and never provided her any accommodation. As such, she was never able to complete the application process, and BCBS did not hire her.
The ADA protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities. The EEOC attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement on Ms. Meador’s behalf before eventually filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
In addition to agreeing to pay $75,000 to Ms. Meador, BCBS is also required to conduct annual training on the ADA, inform all applicants and employees with disabilities of their rights, and implement a policy for communicating with applicants who have hearing impairments.