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Advocacy Group for Disabled Accused of Discriminating Against Deaf Employee

An attorney for the Disability Network Wayne County says all of its employees re disabled and it didn't discriminate against an employee fired for alleged poor performance. The EEOC says the the group failed to make reasonable accommodation.

An employee fired from Disability Network Wayne County claims in a federal lawsuit that his former employer, which advocates for the disabled, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Patch file photo)
An employee fired from Disability Network Wayne County claims in a federal lawsuit that his former employer, which advocates for the disabled, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Patch file photo)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in a lawsuit being heard in U.S. District Court that the Disability Network Wayne County failed to provide an employee with TTY (text telephone) and other equipment he needed, then fired him because of his disability.

The lawsuit said the organization, which helps disabled individuals live independently, refused “to provide a reasonable accommodation to Steven Jeffries, who is deaf, and by firing him on the basis of his disability, The Detroit News reports.

EEOC attorney Nedra Campbell, who is representing Jeffries, said the nonprofit violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide the TTY and video equipment, and text messaging services.

However, an attorney for Disability Network Wayne County countered that Jeffries was fired in April 2010 because he performed poorly at his job as an independent living specialist, a job he had held since 2005.

All of the employees at the nonprofit have some kind of disability, and Jeffries was “counseled consistently on his poor performance,” Greg Liepshutz, an attorney for Disability Network, said.

Liepshutz also said Jeffries failed to request the special equipment in writing.

A scheduling conference in the case before U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

The EEOC says Jeffries is entitled to back pay, and past and future monetary losses From “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience and humiliation.”

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