Landmark Verdict: Deaf Job Applicant Awarded $1.7 Million After Company’s Discrimination

SYRACUSE, New York – In a recent case, a jury awarded a job applicant a staggering $1.7 million in damages after a distribution company refused to interview her upon discovering her deafness. The verdict against McLane Co. Inc., a subsidiary, included $25,000 in back pay, $150,000 in damages for emotional distress, and a remarkable $1.5 million in punitive damages.

The lawsuit, titled “U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. McLane/Eastern Inc. D/B/A McLane Northeast,” was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in 2020. According to the complaint, McLane violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not interviewing or ultimately hiring the applicant due to her disability.

The applicant had applied for two warehouse selector positions at McLane’s facility in Baldwinsville, New York, in 2018. Despite being able to meet the minimum requirements, including English language skills and passing a physical capabilities test, she was denied an opportunity solely based on her deafness.

During a phone call between the applicant and McLane’s human resources department, which took place on March 12, 2018, it became apparent that the applicant had a hearing impairment. Despite being told she would receive a return call or email, the company failed to follow up and effectively eliminated her from further consideration the following day.

In the end, McLane went on to hire candidates who did not have hearing impairments. Bart McKay, the senior vice president and general counsel for McLane, expressed disappointment with the jury’s decision. In a statement, he reiterated the company’s commitment to inclusive employment and highlighted their history of hiring and accommodating employees with disabilities. McKay also mentioned that they are currently evaluating all available options, including the potential for an appeal.

This case highlights the importance of equal opportunity and fair treatment for individuals with disabilities in the job market. Despite existing legal protections, instances of discrimination still occur, leaving affected individuals to fight for their rights. The substantial damages awarded in this case serve as a notable reminder to employers about the consequences they may face when failing to comply with anti-discrimination laws. Moving forward, it is crucial for companies to ensure that their hiring practices promote inclusivity and provide equal opportunities for all candidates.