Deaf Woman Suing Former Employer For Not Providing Sign Language Interpreter

ROSEVILLE (CBS13) – A local nonprofit dedicated to helping people with special needs is being sued for allegedly discriminating against a former employee with disabilities.

The lawsuit says Placer ARC violated federal law when it failed to provide reasonable accommodations to a deaf employee.

Homeyra Kazerounian is deaf and uses sign language to communicate. And according to a lawsuit, her supervisors failed to provide an interpreter for her during daily staff meetings and forced her to speak only in English.

“Literally she doesn’t speak anything. She uses American Sign Language,” said David Offen-Brown, Kazerounian’s attorney.

Kazarounian started working at Placer ARC’s Auburn office in 2005 was always given an interpreter during mandatory staff meetings, according to the federal lawsuit. But when she transferred to Roseville three years later, her attorneys says that all changed.

“They required her to communicate by writing notes,” said Offen-Brown.

According to a lawsuit filed by an attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Kazerounian’s consistent requests for an interpreter went unfulfilled.

“This didn’t allow her to participate in the meetings, to ask questions, to make statements, to participate in discussions,” said Offen-Brown.

Placer ARC Executive Director Barbara Guenther wouldn’t go on camera, but released this statement:

“Placer ARC is steadfastly dedicated to the support, education and well-being of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are committed to adhering to all laws and regulations in regard to our employment practices as well as services for the people we serve.”

Kazarounian’s attorney says this time Placer ARC fell short of that dedication.

“Placer ARC at one point said it was too expensive for them to provide interpretation,” said Offen-Brown. “I find it quite surprising and quite disappointing that an organization of this character would fail to properly accommodate her needs.”

The EEOC says they only filed the lawsuit after attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation.

Kazerounian’s attorney says she left ARC in 2010 and found another job where she is provided an interpreter when she needs one.

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