POSTED: 9:06 a.m. HST, Jan 30, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 10:00 a.m. HST, Jan 30, 2013
Kintetsu International Express Inc. has agreed to a $77,500 settlement to end a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging the international travel company with harassing and discriminating against a tour coordinator in Maui because of her malignant rheumatoid arthritis.
The 2010 lawsuit also alleged the company unlawfully retaliated against the tour coordinator’s co-worker for engaging in protected activities.
The federal agency said a supervisor at the Kintetsu office in Maui demeaned Yuko Lesher, who worked as a tour coordinator in 2005 and 2006. The EEOC contends that Lesher walked with difficulty due to her disability, prompting the supervisor to continuously harass her with disparaging remarks about the way she walked and ridiculing her for walking with a limp. When Lesher’s condition required surgery, the EEOC alleged that the supervisor refused to schedule Lesher back to work following her recovery until the human resources department intervened.
Lesher, along with a co-worker and witness to the harassment, Nozomi Hoshi, allegedly reported the harassment and discrimination to the vice president of Kintetsu; however, no corrective action was taken, the EEOC said. Instead, both Lesher and Hoshi received less favorable work performance evaluations despite prior high marks.
The EEOC also said that Lesher was further harassed and eventually forced to resign in retaliation for her reporting the disability harassment and discrimination by Kintetsu’s management. When the supervisor learned of Hoshi’s complaint to the vice president, the supervisor made Hoshi write an apology letter under threat of termination. Finally, the EEOC said, Hoshi was also forced to resign in retaliation for her reporting activities.
As part of the settlement, Kintetsu will be required to hire an equal employment opportunity consultant to monitor the company's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; create new policies and procedures to address disability discrimination; and train all employees on the ADA annually.
“Employees with disabilities deserve the same respect on the job as any other productive worker,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii. “Kintetsu is taking steps in the right direction by implementing new policies to comply with the law and give workers equal protections.”
Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “Employers must investigate and effectively deal with reports of discrimination and harassment. Companies that ignore such reports — or retaliate against those brave enough to come forward — violate federal law.”