San Diego Last Friday's Union-Tribune featured a front-page story from the Wall Street Journal about the growing number of "learning-disabled workers" who have complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans with Disabilities Act that employers have discriminated against them. "Claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local agencies that cite 'learning disability' as one basis for alleged discrimination rose 74 percent from 1993 to 2003," according to the piece. It added that "few employers have adapted training or job expectations for workers with learning disabilities. The lack of special accommodations has meant a rude awakening for many young workers, fueling on-the-job tensions and a rising tide of discrimination complaints."
Meanwhile, although the paper has yet to report it, Copley Press, the U-T's parent, continues its own epic legal battle with the EEOC in federal court here. More than two years ago the federal agency filed a discrimination case against Copley on behalf of one of the U-T's pressroom workers, Gerard Mitchell, who claims that the company refused to promote him because he is deaf.
"Mr. Mitchell cannot communicate with co-workers because he cannot hear, read lips, verbalize words, or speak with other employees," a U-T lawyer claimed in a court filing. "It would have been an undue hardship on Copley to require it to retool the presses and paperhandler job equipment to accommodate a deaf employee." The fight grew even more heated this summer when the feds filed a motion seeking to rebut evidence unearthed by Copley Press, who allege that Mitchell is a reckless driver and therefore unsuitable for the job. Wrote a lawyer for the government: "Evidence that Mr. Mitchell received a speeding ticket and operated a Van without a Class C license could only be elicited for the purpose of attacking his credibility.... Defendant fails to address how the alleged incident is material to the employment discrimination claim at hand."
The lawyers also wrangled over whether the government could call two witnesses who are "deaf employees of the Arizona Daily News and the Tucson Citizen, and work in the papers' pressroom. Thus, they would provide highly relevant testimony in this case, where the Union-Tribune claims that a deaf person cannot safely and effectively work in a newspaper pressroom." A trial date has been set for next week.