EEOC Sues California Hospitality Company for Asthma Disability Discrimination

A large Southern California hospitality company is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly violating federal law by denying a reasonable accommodation to an employee with asthma.

The EEOC filed the charges in the lawsuit against Merritt Hospitality, LLC and HEI Hotels and Resorts LLC, which together operate the Embassy Suites San Diego Bay, a San Diego hotel that has over 300 guest rooms.

According to the lawsuit, the employee’s workspace at the hotel was in a room with no windows and no ventilation, conditions that triggered severe respiratory problems and resulted in the employee being hospitalized overnight.

Instead of engaging in the legally required interactive process to determine whether a reasonable accommodation, such as an air conditioning unit or different work space, could be provided, the hotel fired the employee, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Friday. The case is EEOC v. Merritt Hospitality, LLC, et al.

The suit seeks monetary damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent and correct discrimination.

The suit was filed after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through a conciliation process, according to the EEOC.

“The interactive process is at the heart of the ADA,” Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, whose jurisdiction includes San Diego County, said in a statement. “A good-faith dialog with an employee enables an employer to identify possible reasonable accommodations and prevents the employer from violating the ADA.”