Hotel chain settles discrimination suit

SAN DIEGO - Tarsadia Hotels, doing business as Comfort Suites, a hotel developer and operator in California, will pay $132,500 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed on behalf of a hotel clerk with autism.The EEOC charged that a front desk clerk at the Comfort Suites Mission Valley Hotel in San Diego was denied a reasonable accommodation, disciplined and ultimately fired in 2008 due to his disability. The clerk, who has autism, had prior hotel experience in a similar position, where he work earned him a positive recommendation, state officials said. Shortly after starting at Comfort Suites, he sought free job coach services from the state. A job coach would have helped the clerk learn to master his job by using autism-specific training techniques. However, Tarsadia allegedly refused to allow the assistance of a job coach and then fired him. The EEOC filed a lawsuit in September 2010, charging that Tarsadia violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. As part of the settlement, Tarsadia agreed to pay the clerk $125,000 and donate $7,500 to Partnerships With Industries, a San Diego-based non-profit that provides employment support to people with disabilities. The hotel operator also agreed to "sweeping changes," including revising its policies and procedures with respect to ADA compliance; hiring a consultant to train employees on ADA rights and responsibilities and ensure the proper handling of reasonable accommodation requests; and agree to hold managers and supervisors accountable in their evaluations for compliance with policies against disability discrimination and retaliation. Tarsadia will submit annual reports to the EEOC on its compliance with the settlement agreement. "We commend Tarsadia for implementing widespread change, assuring that people with disabilities have a fair shot at gaining and retaining employment," said Ann Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles district office. "Other employers should also learn to comply with the ADA rather than be driven by stereotypes about disabilities like autism." Marla Stern, local director of the EEOC's San Diego office, said "reasonable accommodations" can be minimal in cost and usually involves open communication between the employer and employee. "The results can make all the difference for people with disabilities, allowing them to succeed in the workplace," she said.

********** Published: December 22, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 36