A jury in Sacramento federal court has decided that a Placer County nonprofit that provides independent living services to people with developmental disabilities did not discriminate against a deaf employee.
A lawsuit filed in March 2013 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused Placer ARC of refusing to provide the full services of a certified American Sign Language interpreter to Homeyra Kazerounian, an instructional aide.
Kazerounian, who immigrated from Iran in 2001, had established a good work record over a three-year period at the organization’s Auburn facility, where she was supported with adequate interpretation while training and attending mandatory staff meetings, according to the suit. But, it alleged, that changed in 2008 after she was moved to Placer ARC’s Roseville location, where she was refused interpretation at staff meetings and was forced to communicate almost exclusively in English, even though her supervisors were aware she was far more fluent in American Sign Language.
The suit asserted that the organization failed to strive for a reasonable accommodation by refusing to interact with Kazerounian on the matter, thus violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kazerounian also accused the organization of committing a separate ADA offense when it retaliated against her for complaining about her situation. She alleged she was subjected to such shabby treatment that she was forced to resign, a fate known as “constructive discharge” in the legal world.
But U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller threw out the retaliation claim before trial, ruling that Kazerounian could come up with no direct evidence to support the allegation.
In a written order, Mueller said Kazerounian “concedes there were times going back to 2007 when she herself thought she was not doing a good job, thought she might be fired, and was told by management she was ‘doing a bad job.’ A reasonable fact finder could not find (Placer ARC’s) adverse actions taken against (Kazerounian) were pretextual.”
The jury disposed of the remaining issues last month, declaring that Placer ARC did not discriminate against Kazerounian and that she was not constructively discharged.
Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189