Citizens Bank will change its company policy and pay $100,000 to a former employee of its Cranston, Rhode Island call center to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Citizens Bank declined to accommodate a call center employee after he developed an anxiety disorder and requested to be reassigned to a position that did not require him to field calls with aggravated customers over the phone.
The EEOC said that despite having hundreds of nearby job openings, Citizens Bank would not 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, the EEOC said.
The EEOC found that the bank’s refusal violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, including reassignment.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Citizens Bank, N.A., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00362) in U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“An employer cannot refuse to engage in the interactive process until an employee returns to the same job that the employee’s disability precludes him or her from performing,” said EEOC New York District Office Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Transferring a qualified employee to a vacant position is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.”
The agreement comes a few weeks after a federal district court judge in Massachusetts upheld a $24 million jury award for a woman who sued her employer for retaliation and discrimination because of her social anxiety disorder.
In addition to the monetary relief, the 30-month consent decree also requires Citizens Bank to revise its reasonable accommodation policy.
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