August 14, 2023
Source: New York District Office, U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Remote-First Technology Company Refused to Accommodate Deaf Applicant and Refused to Hire the Applicant Based on His Deafness, Federal Agency Charges
Digital Arbitrage, Inc., doing business as Cloudbeds—an international, remote-first technology company that employs individuals around the world—violated federal law by denying an applicant’s request for an accommodation in the interview process and by refusing to hire the applicant based on his disability, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in January 2022, Peter St. John applied to work as a remote IT [Information Technology] administrator at Cloudbeds, a position that involves providing internal IT assistance and support to Cloudbeds employees, and one for which St. John was well-qualified. Upon review of St. John’s application, Cloudbeds advanced his candidacy to the interview stage, at which time he requested an accommodation based on his deafness and use of American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. In response, Cloudbeds simply denied his accommodation request and terminated his candidacy on the basis that verbal communication and hearing were job requirements for the position in a remote setting. Cloudbeds’ Chief Executive Officer (CEO) made the decision to deny St. John’s accommodation request based on his belief that due to the remote-first nature of the company, it would not extend an offer of employment for the position to a deaf candidate in any event.
Such alleged conduct violates the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers engage with applicants to identify and provide reasonable accommodations and prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified applicants based on their disability.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (EEOC v. Digital Arbitrage, Inc. d/b/a Cloudbeds, Civil Action No. 1:23-cv-11856) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the applicant and injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future disability discrimination.
“Companies are increasingly turning to remote work and are recruiting and hiring individuals remotely, said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “The protections of the ADA apply with equal force to in-person and remote workplaces and their hiring processes.”
“The EEOC is committed to ensuring individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing enjoy equal employment opportunities in remote-first workplaces,” said Timothy Riera, acting director of the New York District Office. “This lawsuit seeks to vindicate the statutory rights of this applicant, who was denied the good faith interaction required by the ADA, as well as an employment opportunity on the basis of his deafness, and seeks to educate employers on the many available technologies that individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing utilize to effectively communicate via remote means.”
For more information about disability discrimination against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, January 2023 Guidance issued by the EEOC is available at Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov).
For general information on disability discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/disability-discrimination. An explanation of the ASL videophone contact number that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may use to contact the EEOC, is contained in the press release announcing its implementation in 2015: EEOC Launches Direct Video Access to ASL Speakers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Contact: New York District Office
Anastasia Doherty, Trial Attorney, (617) 865-3685
Kimberly Cruz, Assistant Regional Attorney, (929) 506-5345
ASL videophone 844-234-5122
News source: eeoc.gov/field-office/newyork/location