The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued an informal advisory letter setting forth guidelines for employers to use in accommodating individuals with hearing impairments. Although not considered a formal EEOC agency opinion, it provides ground rules for employers dealing with employees with hearing-related disabilities.
According to the letter, where there is more than one effective accommodation available, the employer can choose the easier or less expensive alternative so long as it is effective. However, the disabled individual’s preference should be given primary consideration.
The determination of what is an appropriate accommodation is an individualized one and depends on the setting in which the communication occurs and the ability of the employee to use certain types of communication. By way of example, an employee may be able to read lips in small face-to-face conversations but may need an interpreter in larger discussions or meetings. Failure to provide appropriate accommodation, however, may constitute employment discrimination.
Reasonable accommodations for those with a hearing impairment can include:
- Sign language interpreters
- Readers or assistive technology such as Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART)
- Captioning of videos and video-streamed presentations
- Use of relay services and video remote interpreting services
As an individual with a hearing related disability or an employer who may be required to provide reasonable accommodations, you may have questions about the law and its application. If so, please give Sommers Schwartz a call to discuss your situation with one of our employment attorneys.