Justice Department Settles with School District to Resolve Disability Discrimination Complaint


The Justice Department today announced that it reached an agreement with Spencer East Brookfield Regional School District in Spencer, Massachusetts to resolve the department’s lawsuit alleging disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The department’s complaint alleges that the school district terminated an elementary-school paraprofessional with knee and shoulder impairments on the basis of her disability. Further, the complaint alleges that the school district unlawfully denied the employee’s reasonable accommodation request that, due to her physical limitations, she be excused from a new policy requiring paraprofessionals to be trained to physically restrain school children and be available to perform restraints. The employee was otherwise qualified to perform her job.

Under the agreement, the school district will revise its policies to ensure compliance with the ADA, train staff on the ADA, and file periodic reports with the department on implementation of the agreement. The school district will also pay over $85,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to its former employee. This matter was based on a referral from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Massachusetts District Office.

“Work provides more than just a paycheck: it provides a sense of purpose, dignity, independence, self-worth, and belonging,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. “Without reasonable accommodations for their jobs, many people with disabilities cannot work and, as a result, are unable to achieve economic self-sufficiency and full participation in the workforce. As we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the ADA, the Civil Rights Division renews its commitment to ensuring that all individuals have an equal opportunity to work free from discrimination based on disability.”

“Even as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this case shows that barriers to equal employment opportunity still exist for employees with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling for the District of Massachusetts. “Public employers must be leaders in prohibiting discrimination in public sector jobs and ensuring a fair workplace.”

July 26, 2020 marked the 30th Anniversary of the ADA. The Justice Department plays a central role in advancing the nation’s goal of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. Please visit the department’s ADA Anniversary webpage to learn more about the ADA’s history and impact.

To read the settlement agreement, please click here, and to read the complaint, please click here. For more information on the Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov.

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