Navigating the ADA: A Beacon of Protection Against Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination laws protect blind employees accommodations for service dogs. Helmer Friedman LLP vigorously protects the rights of all employees.

In a recent string of landmark settlements, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has proven, once again, its indispensable role in the fight against workplace discrimination. Notably, these cases underscore the reality that despite being over three decades old, the ADA remains a critical shield for employees against unfair treatment based on disabilities.

Unpacking Recent Settlements

Among the headline-grabbing decisions, three cases stand out for their implications and the sizeable financial repercussions for the offending employers:

  • Tech Mahindra (Americas), Inc. found itself at the wrong end of a legal battle when the Western District of New York ruled against it, resulting in a $255,000 settlement (EEOC v. Tech Mahindra (Americas), Inc., 6:23-cv-06397). This case serves as a stark reminder that disability discrimination can not only tarnish a company’s reputation but also lead to significant financial losses.
  • Pete’s Car Smart, in Civil Action No. 2:23-cv-00092-Z-BR, was ordered to pay $145,000 following allegations of ADA violations. This litigation spotlights the importance of equitable treatment in all aspects of employment, from hiring to day-to-day job functions.
  • Perhaps most notably, McLane/Eastern, Inc. d/b/a McLane Northeast faced a whopping $1,675,000 settlement (EEOC v. McLane/Eastern, Inc. d/b/a McLane Northeast, Civil Action No. 5:20-cv-01628-BKS-ML). This settlement underscores the extensive reach of the ADA and serves as a cautionary tale to employers across industries about the severe consequences of non-compliance.

Understanding ADA Protections

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is more than just a statute; it’s a declaration of fairness and equality. The ADA sets forth clear guidelines that protect individuals with disabilities from discriminatory practices, including but not limited to job application procedures, hiring, termination, compensation, and advancement.

For qualified individuals, this means an equitable chance at not just securing employment but prospering within their chosen field without fear of discrimination due to their disabilities. The legislation mandates reasonable accommodations, ensuring that the work environment adapts to the needs of the employee, not vice versa.

The Implications for Employers and Employees

These recent settlements tell a dual narrative of caution and empowerment. For employers, they represent a clarion call to revisit and, if necessary, overhaul internal policies, ensuring they align with ADA standards. Ignorance, intentional or otherwise, leads to costly legal entanglements with profound financial and reputational damage.

For employees, these cases reinforce the ADA’s role as a vigilant protector of rights. They offer a semblance of reassurance that injustices do not go unchecked and that the legal system can and will hold employers accountable for discrimination.

Moving Forward: An Advocacy for Compliance and Awareness

The ADA’s clear stance on discrimination forms the bedrock upon which employees can stand firm, demanding fair treatment and equal opportunities. Moreover, these court cases should not just be viewed through the lens of legal precedents; they are also critical learning opportunities for both employers and employees.

Employers must view ADA compliance not as a checklist but as a fundamental aspect of organizational culture that champions diversity and inclusion. For employees, awareness of these protections equips them with the knowledge to navigate and challenge discriminatory practices confidently.

In the ongoing journey toward workplace equality, the ADA remains a powerful force. However, it’s not just about adherence to the law; it’s about cultivating an environment where every employee, regardless of disability, can thrive. As these recent settlements highlight, when it comes to protecting the rights and dignity of employees with disabilities, the ADA is not just a shield; it’s a beacon guiding the way toward a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

Anxiety Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Citizens Bank

Federal laws protect employees from discrimination, employer retaliation.

Anxiety Disability Discrimination Lawsuit against Citizens Bank Settles for $100,000

Citizens Bank has been accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to accommodate a call center employee who developed an anxiety disorder. The employee requested reassignment to a position that did not require him to field calls with aggravated customers over the phone. Despite having hundreds of nearby job openings, Citizens Bank refused to reassign the employee or discuss alternative accommodations until he returned to his job at the call center, the same position his disability prevented him from performing. As a result, the employee was forced to resign.

“We’ve seen a huge uptick in the number of potential or prospective clients calling us since the pandemic began with regard to either mental health issues in general or anxiety and PTSD.” Andrew H. Friedman – in an Law360 article entitled, No Letup in Sight as Anxiety-Related EEOC Charges Mount.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit (EEOC v. Citizens Bank, N.A., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00362) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC alleges that Citizens Bank violated the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, including reassignment.

According to the EEOC, 2600 workers lodged anxiety-related disability discrimination charges in 2021. Citizens Bank has agreed to a 30-month consent decree that includes monetary relief and other measures to support employees with disabilities. The bank will offer noncompetitive reassignment as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. The bank will also revise its reasonable accommodation policy, train its employees on noncompetitive reassignment as a reasonable accommodation, provide specialized training to its human resources department, and appoint an internal monitor to ensure compliance with the decree.

The EEOC is committed to enforcing the ADA and ensuring that qualified employees with disabilities can return to work. Citizens Bank will implement company-wide policy changes and pay $100,000 to a former Cranston, Rhode Island, call center employee to resolve the disability discrimination lawsuit.

More information about disability discrimination is available at

Papa John’s Pizza Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Settled for $175,000

Disability discrimination laws protect blind employees accommodations for service dogs. Helmer Friedman LLP vigorously protects the rights of all employees.

Federal Agency Charges Pizza Chain Failed to Accommodate and Fired Blind Employee Because of Disability Settled

“Congress passed Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act to remove the barriers to employment faced by workers with disabilities, and for Mr. Barnes, his service dog does just that,” said Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office. “The EEOC will continue its fight to ensure that all employees, regardless of disability status, have an equal opportunity to earn the privileges and benefits of employment.”

Papa John’s Pizza, an international chain of pizza restaurants based in Louisville, Kentucky, has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by agreeing to pay $175,000 and provide other relief. The lawsuit was filed after the company failed to accommodate and fired a blind employee because of his disability.

In early 2020, Michael Barnes, who is legally blind and relies on his service dog for his commute, applied for a job at his local Papa John’s restaurant in Athens, Georgia, after hearing from a friend that the company hired individuals with vision impairments. Barnes was hired but could not start until his accommodation request to bring his service dog was formally granted by Papa John’s. However, the company denied Barnes’s accommodation request and fired him before he worked a single shift.

Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). “The ADA prohibits employers from terminating employees because of a disability and denying them equal employment opportunities,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

“Not allowing blind and visually impaired people to travel to and from work in the way that affords them confidence and independence is akin to telling sighted workers who rely on the flexibility and independence of driving that they may not travel to work by car,” said Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel. “We are glad that Papa John’s has agreed to provide training to its employees and hope that in the future, no other job applicant who uses a service dog will experience the discrimination that Mr. Barnes faced.”

Under the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit, Papa John’s will pay $175,000 in monetary damages to Barnes, train its employees on the ADA, review its employment policies, and allow the EEOC to monitor complaints of discrimination or retaliation.

“The EEOC will continue its fight to ensure that all employees, regardless of disability status, have an equal opportunity to earn the privileges and benefits of employment,” said Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office.

“We are glad that Papa John’s has agreed to provide training to its employees and hope that in the future, no other job applicant who uses a service dog will experience the discrimination that Mr. Barnes faced,” said Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel.

“The Commission is steadfast in its commitment to making sure all employees have an equal opportunity to earn and enjoy the privileges and benefits of employment, regardless of their disability status,” added Darrell Graham, district director of the EEOC’s Atlanta office.

For more information on disability discrimination, please visit

Jury Could Find Termination Substantially Motivated by Disability

Disability Discrimination Lawyers of Helmer Friedman LLP have extensive knowledge in this area of law.

Although Employer Had Tentatively Placed Employee RIF List Before Becoming Aware of Her Disability, It Did Not Terminate Her Employment Until After It Was Aware Of Her Disability – A Reasonable Jury Could Find That Employee’s Ultimate Termination Was Substantially Motivated By Her Disability

Lin v. Kaiser Found. Hosps., 88 Cal.App.5th 712 (2023)

Suchin I. Lin was employed by Kaiser as an IT Engineer. Lin became disabled as a result of a fall in the workplace which caused her to suffer an injury to her left shoulder. A doctor issued a work status report placing Lin on modified duty with restrictions requiring Lin to use a sling and to limit the use of her left arm. The doctor also indicated that surgery might be necessary. As part of a round of employee layoffs Kaiser planned, at least tentatively, to terminate Lin before Lin became disabled. Following her disability, Kaiser went forward with her layoff. Lin sued for disability discrimination. Kaiser filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to summary adjudication of Lin’s disability discrimination and retaliation claims because the decision-maker had made the decision to eliminate Lin’s position in a RIF before Lin sustained her disability. Lin opposed the motion arguing that, while her name was selected for the initial RIF list prior to her disability, this “proposed” list was “subject to further review,” as reflected in the list’s gradual reduction from 31 employees to the 17 who were ultimately laid off. She further argued that her ultimate termination was a result of the decision-maker’s reliance on her supervisor’s post-disability assessment of her, particularly a post-disability email to the decision-maker rating her performance much lower than that of her teammates. The trial court granted Kaiser’s motion.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed. The Court of Appeal held that Kaiser’s plan to terminate Lin before she became disabled, by itself, was (of course) not discrimination against Lin because of her disability. But Kaiser did not complete its layoff plans—or, a reasonable jury could find, make its final determination to terminate Lin—until after Lin had become disabled. The Court of Appeal found that there was evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that Kaiser’s ultimate decision to terminate Lin was motivated, at least in substantial part, by concerns Kaiser had about Lin’s disability. The Court of Appeal found the following facts important in its decision:

  • Before Lin sustained her disability, neither her then-current supervisor nor any prior supervisor had given her a negative performance evaluation.
  • After Lin sustained her disability, her then-current supervisor began giving her negative feedback and a poor performance evaluation.
  • Lin’s then-current supervisor’s criticisms, in large part, revolved around his concerns about her “slow delivery” and her “pace of execution” – concerns that a jury could find stemmed directly from her disability.

Lin’s then-current supervisor agreed to Lin’s request for light-duty work as a form of accommodation for her disability (but he never actually provided her with light-duty work). His agreement to assign Lin lighter tasks supported a reasonable inference that he believed her disability prevented her from handling her usual workload.

Lawsuit alleges Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, Discriminated and Retaliated Against Down Syndrome Student Athlete

Hocking College football sensation sues for discrimination, harassment and assault.

An athlete with Down syndrome made history. Then the abuse began, the suit says.

Caden Cox ran out to the 13-yard line with 3:22 left in the third quarter as his Hocking College Hawks battled the Sussex County Community College Skylanders on Sept. 11, 2021.

With Cox ready, the center snapped the football to the holder, who caught it and put it on the turf. Wearing No. 21, Cox trotted forward, pulled back his right leg, and swept it forward, lifting the ball through the uprights.

The extra point was good.

With that, Cox made history as the first known player with Down syndrome to score during a college football game. The feat earned him a spot in the history books and a 5½-minute segment on ESPN.

People talked to me and said, ‘Wow, it was an awesome kick

“People talked to me and said, ‘Wow, it was an awesome kick,’” he told a reporter at the time.

Less than two years later, Cox is suing his alma mater, alleging that the very thing that made his kick historic also made him a target for discrimination. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio, Cox alleges that college officials in Nelsonville, Ohio, discriminated against him because he has Down syndrome and then retaliated against him when he reported it to administrators. In one incident, a supervisor at the college’s student center threatened him with a knife and was later convicted in the incident.

President Betty Young declined to comment on Cox’s allegations but, in a statement to The Washington Post, said that she’s “happy Hocking College could provide opportunities for Caden to receive a college education and to participate in college athletics.”

“We remain committed to provide such to all our students,” she added.

Cox alleges that the discrimination started soon after June 2021 when the college hired Matthew Kmosko, a former professional soccer player, as a soccer coach and a supervisor at the college’s student center. In the latter role, Kmosko oversaw Cox, who worked at the center as a student-employee. As Cox’s boss, Kmosko consistently used “derogatory slurs” about people with Down syndrome and repeatedly berated him in front of his co-workers, the suit alleges.

Court records do not yet list an attorney for Kmosko. The public defender who represented Kmosko in the criminal trial declined to comment on Cox’s allegations in the civil suit.

In July 2021, Cox’s mother, Mari, who works at the college, filed a written complaint about Kmosko’s behavior with the college’s human resources department, according to the suit.

The misbehavior not only continued but also escalated, it alleges.

In January 2022, Mari emailed another complaint about Kmosko, asking that he be replaced as her son’s supervisor, the suit says. In the message, she accused Kmosko of calling her son the r-word, taking his phone without permission, and “putting his hands on [her son] inappropriately.”

Then, on May 12, when Cox went into a men’s bathroom to change the garbage bags, Kmosko allegedly followed him, blocked the exit and screamed at Cox while preventing him from leaving. As Kmosko did, he pointed a knife at Cox’s chest, the suit states.

Cox told investigators he feared that Kmosko would stab him, according to a police report.

Surveillance cameras captured Kmosko walking into and out of the bathroom with the knife, the suit states. Shaken and scared, Cox returned to the front desk, where he said he received a call from Kmosko. He allegedly told Cox that he could see him sitting there and ordered him to “get up and do something” before hanging up.

Cox “was terrified and traumatized and called his mother immediately,” according to the suit.

In July, Kmosko, who resigned from the college, was charged with aggravated menacing, a misdemeanor, in connection with the incident, and an Athens County jury found him guilty in January of menacing, a lesser charge. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

This past October, the college sent an email to employees calling for nominations for awards at the fall graduation ceremony, the suit states, and Cox “was nominated for nearly every award” by several staff members, including his coaches. Once the votes were tallied on Nov. 11, Cox had won three honors: the Inspirational Award, the Scholar Athlete Award, and the Hocking College Trustee Award, which was to be bestowed at a graduation ceremony on Dec. 10.

On Dec. 2, lawyers representing the Cox family delivered a letter to Young, laying out their allegations of discrimination, harassment, and assault.

On Dec. 9, a day before the ceremony, Cox’s father, Kevin, who worked at the college as a football coach until he resigned in February, arrived at the school to set up for the next day’s festivities. Reviewing the ceremony program, he noticed it listed his son as having won only one award, although a QR code on posters around the school routed to a digital version showing all three.

“Retaliation is the only plausible reason for the surreptitious and punitive removal of [Cox’s] graduation awards days before the graduation ceremony was to take place,” the suit alleges.

For people with Down syndrome, a longer life, but under a cloud

After graduating, Cox completed a football-related internship at Texas A&M University, where his older brother works as a strength coach, his lawyer, Mark Weiker, told The Post. He’s back in Ohio and, in June, plans to go to orientation at an Ohio State University program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

But a year later, the knife incident still haunts Cox, according to his lawsuit. He continues to suffer from nightmares and anxiety. When he visits Hocking’s campus, he gets especially scared when he sees a red car like the one Kmosko used to drive to school.

“The distress that [Caden] suffered and continues to suffer from as a result of the trauma he endured,” the suit states, “will affect him emotionally and psychologically for the rest of this life.”

Read more By Jonathan Edwards

Employment Round Table

Employment Roundtable of Southern California’s 2009 Annual Conference

November 5, 2009 – The Employment Roundtable of Southern California (“ERTSC”) will hold its 2009 Annual Conference on November 5, 2009, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The address is: 404 S. Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90071. Mr. Friedman will appear on a panel discussing disability discrimination with Erica Jones, Director, Pacific Disability & Business Technical Assistance Center and prominent defense counsel Anthony J. Oncidi of Proskauer Rose LLP.