ADA Blog


ADA Blog #109

Another Temp Agency lost its case when it refused to hire a qualified applicant with a disability...

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit recently upheld a jury’s verdict against Service Temps, Inc. regarding disability discrimination under the ADA. The original lawsuit had been filed by the EEOC on behalf of a job applicant who is deaf.

In this case, Service Temps, doing business as Smith Personnel Solutions (a staffing firm that provides security personnel to Texas businesses), refused to hire a female applicant for a stock clerk position when learning that she is deaf. The woman explained via a sign-language interpreter that she was qualified for the job and had several years of store clerk experience. However, the company would neither conduct an interview nor consider her for the position. A manager at Service Temps explicitly said that the woman would not be hired because she could not hear.

The EEOC’s suit, filed in a Texas district court, alleged a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with disabilities as long as it does not pose an “undue hardship.”

In September 2010, a jury ruled that the company had violated the ADA and the applicant was awarded $103,200, plus interest, in damages due to lost wages, emotional harm and punitive damages. The EEOC’s motion for an injunction was also granted by the district court, and Smith Personnel was prohibited from discriminating against persons who are disabled, regarded as disabled or have a record of a disability.

A little more than a year after the award for damages, the appeals court issued a ruling that rejected all of the company’s arguments on appeal. The higher court likewise rejected the company’s arguments and concluded that “misapplication” of a claimed company policy by one of its employees may not subvert the notion that the employee acted within the scope of his employment.

The EEOC’s evidence demonstrated that Smith Personnel’s manager, who had the authority to hire, was employed in a managerial capacity and was acting within the scope of his employment when he refused to allow the woman to apply for a job – even when considering that his action was allegedly in violation of a company policy.

Discrimination based on disability is not legal and this jury’s verdict and the 5th Circuit’s support of it should alert all employers that job applicants who meet their qualifications and standards will not be tolerated. The EEOC is serious about breaking down the barriers that deaf applicants face in applying for employment.

Are you confident that your hiring managers are not unintentionally putting your company at risk by following policies that you’re not aware of “might” be discriminatory against applicants with disabilities. Springboard’s ADA Team can help you determine if your company may be at risk. Contact us today.


This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.