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Supreme Court Denies Review Of Punitive Damage Award In ADA Case

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request by FedEx to review a $100,000 punitive damages award against it for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a deaf package handler. Ronald Lockhart worked for FedEx at the company's Baltimore Ramp at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport . Lockhart repeatedly asked his supervisor for a sign language interpreter or written notes from daily, weekly, and monthly meetings and training sessions. Despite these repeated requests, for the first two years of his employment FedEx made no attempts to accommodate Lockhart. After Lockhart complained to the EEOC, FedEx did provide some accommodations, but sporadically.  The case was tried before a jury and the jury awarded punitive damages, The jury found that FedEx did not act in good faith to esnure that it was complying with the ADA,

In contesting the jury's finding of a punitive damages award, FedEx claimed that its adoption of an ADA compliance policy, as well as its internal grievance policy for handling employee complaints, established it had acted in good faith to comply with the ADA . But the court recognized, "an employer maintaining such a compliance policy must also take affirmative steps to ensure its implementation." Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Federal Express, 513 F.3d 360, 374 (4th Cir. 2008). Evidence supported the jury's finding that FedEx had failed in this regard, including evidence that at least 3 higher-ups, in addition to Lockhart's supervisor, knew of his request for accommodation.
The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case means employers who fail to provide reasonable accommodations when requested may be subject to punitive damage awards. The existence of a policy, on its own, won't be adequate evidence of an employer's good faith. Policies must be implemented in good faith by the employer, and if they are not, the employer can held liable for punitive damages. If you have requested a reasonable accomodation at work due to a disability and the employer has denied or refused to request the disability contact our connecticut employment discrimination attorneys.
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