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Deaf State Employees File Discrimination Lawsuit Against CA

Several deaf and hard-of-hearing state employees have filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court against the state of California alleging pervasive discrimination in the workplace. Seven state employees are named as plaintiffs and the lawsuit seeks class action status. The plaintiffs claim that the state has violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The discrimination lawsuit seeks improvement to the state procedures for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and attorney fees.

The lawsuit specifically names the Department of Rehabilitation, Department of Justice, California Public Employees Retirement System and Department of Social Services as failing to comply with the laws created for disabled workers. Among numerous problems the plaintiffs cite in the lawsuit, they claim that deaf and hard-of-hearing workers have been left behind during emergency evacuations.

The plaintiffs say that the state of California recognizes the need to accommodate its disabled workers, but in practice the state has consistently failed them. The plaintiffs say that deaf and hard-of-hearing employees are routinely denied qualified sign language interpreters for training, work-related events, meetings with staff and clients, performance reviews, and meeting with the public. The state cites budget limitations for failing to provide interpreters. The lawsuit says that the state will use ineffective substitutes for proper communication, such as lip-reading and e-mails.

The state of California employs around 1,500 deaf and hard-of-hearing workers. One woman named as a plaintiff works for the Office of Deaf Access in the Department of Social Services. She says she cannot adequately serve the deaf community because she has not been provided with professional sign language interpreters.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office says that the state is committed to providing proper accommodation for disabled workers so that they are able to do their jobs, and they hope the problems can be resolved soon.

Related Resources:

  • Lawsuit: Calif fails to accommodate deaf workers (The Associated Press)