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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Employment Discrimination Case

A release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Tarsadia Hotels, doing business as Comfort Suites, a hotel developer and operator in California, will pay $132,500 and implement substantial changes to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed on behalf of hotel clerk with autism.

The EEOC charged that a front desk clerk at the Comfort Suites Mission Valley Hotel in San Diego was denied a reasonable accommodation, disciplined and ultimately fired in 2008 due to his disability. The clerk, who has autism, had prior hotel experience in a similar position, where his work earned him a positive recommendation. Shortly after starting at Comfort Suites, he sought free job coach services from the state. A job coach would have helped the clerk learn to master his job by using autism-specific training techniques. However, Tarsadia refused to allow the assistance of a job coach and then fired him.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit against the company in September 2010 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Tarsadia Hotels dba Comfort Suites, Case No. 10-CV-1921-DMS-BGS).

As part of settlement, the parties entered into a three-year consent decree under which Tarsadia will pay the claimant $125,000 and donate $7,500 to Partnerships With Industry, a San Diego-based non-profit organization that provides employment support to people with disabilities. Tarsadia further agreed to sweeping changes, including revising its policies and procedures with respect to ADA compliance; hiring an EEO consultant to train all Tarsadia employees of their ADA rights and responsibilities and ensure the proper handling of reasonable accommodation requests and disability-related complaints; and agree to hold managers and supervisors accountable in their evaluations for compliance with policies against disability discrimination and retaliation. The company will also submit annual reports to the EEOC on its compliance with the decree’s terms.

Mark Berger, president and chief executive officer of Partnerships with Industry, stated, “We are grateful that EEOC took a stand against disability discrimination, a serious problem which all too often plagues individuals with developmental disabilities. We believe that individuals with disabilities can make productive workers as long as employers are willing to work with them through accommodations.”

Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, said, “We commend Tarsadia for implementing widespread change, assuring that people with disabilities have a fair shot at gaining and retaining employment. Other employers should also learn to comply with the ADA rather than be driven by stereotypes about disabilities like autism.”

Marla Stern, local director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “A reasonable accommodation is often minimal in cost and merely involves open communication between the employer and employee to make it work. The results can make all the difference for people with disabilities, allowing them to succeed in the workplace.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at