Denied job, blind man receives cash

Published: Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013 - 11:59 am

A national education provider has paid $100,000 to extract itself from a lawsuit over its refusal to hire a blind man for a position at its Rancho Cordova campus.

While Kerry Kirksey, who lives in Foothill Farms, had "the requisite skills, background and education" to be a recruiter when he applied at ITT Technical Institute in October 2009, he had to undergo a timed, online assessment, according to the lawsuit. He knew the answers to the questions, the suit said, but his screen-reading software was too slow to enable him to complete the test on time.

Kirksey suggested an accommodation of either a live reader or additional time, but was told "there was nothing they could do," and was turned away, the suit alleged.

On Kirksey's behalf, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. The agency then sued the parent company, ITT Educational Services Inc., in Sacramento federal court, accusing the company of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not granting Kirksey's reasonable request for an accommodation and denying him a job because he is blind.

In addition to the money paid to Kirksey, a consent decree filed in court Thursday calls for the company and its more than 140 sites of ITT Technical Institutes to revise their hiring assessments and website testing.

Under the terms of the decree, the company will also provide training to relevant personnel on how to accommodate applicants such as Kirksey.

According to the court filing, the "consent decree is not an adjudication or finding on the merits of this case and shall not be construed as an admission of a violation of the ADA or any other law or statute by (the company)."

"I was really shocked and surprised when ITT Tech would not provide an accommodation," said Kirksey, 52, according to an EEOC news release at the time the suit was filed in September 2011. "It would have cost them nothing to comply with the law.

"I had received computer training from a school like ITT Tech and worked in the computer industry for five years, so I was excited by the opportunity to help other people discover the benefits of this kind of school."

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado is quoted in a news release issued Friday as saying, "With online applications, assessments and recruiting becoming more and more prevalent, employers must keep in mind how to (make) these processes accessible to people with disabilities. When alerted that an applicant needs an accommodation, they must provide one unless doing so would cause an undue hardship."

According to its website, ITT Educational Services, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange, provides accredited, technology-oriented undergraduate and graduate programs and is headquartered in Carmel, Ind. It owns and operates ITT Technical Institutes and has approximately 80,000 students at campuses in 38 states and online, its website proclaims.

Call The Bee's Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

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