Woman wins $180K settlement against Minnesota hospital she said denied her a job because she's deaf

A Minnesota hospital agreed to pay $180,000 to a woman who said the hospital refused to hire her for a job because she is deaf.

Kaylah Vogt filed a federal lawsuit last year against North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale, stating that she was discriminated against after the hospital learned about her disability.

A spokesperson for the hospital could not immediately be reached Wednesday, but it has repeatedly denied the discrimination allegations.

Vogt said that in July 2020 she applied for a role as a greeter at North Memorial Health. The job required welcoming visitors, providing directions, ensuring the face mask requirement was being followed and reading from a script to check for Covid symptoms, according to the suit.

The suit also said greeters had access to a poster that displayed images associated with Covid symptoms that could be used when communicating with hospital visitors.

Vogt interviewed with a recruiter as well as a manager at a recruiting firm North Memorial Health uses to fill temporary positions. According to the lawsuit, her interview with the manager was conducted via a video relay service with an American Sign Language interpreter.

The suit stated that Vogt informed the recruiting company that she was deaf. It noted that she can communicate verbally and with sign language, and uses hearing aids that help her hear people speaking “without any difficulty.” The lawsuit said Vogt could perform the job duties of a greeter.

The manager told Vogt that they would need to contact North Memorial Health about her disability, the suit said. Shortly afterward, the hospital told the recruiting manager that they would not be able to move forward with her application, according to the lawsuit. The manager relayed the news to Vogt, it stated.

A spokesperson for North Memorial Health could not immediately be reached Wednesday.

The hospital repeatedly denied the allegations in court documents filed in response to the lawsuit, stating that it “did not engage in any alleged unlawful employment practices, it did not discriminate against Kaylah Vogt, it did not fail to accommodate Vogt.”

In the court documents, the hospital acknowledged that it was contacted by the recruiting firm about a candidate described as “hard of hearing.” The hospital said it was never given a name for the candidate and has no knowledge of what the manager told Vogt.

The hospital had asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed. But on Thursday, it reached a consent decree, meaning that it would agree to a $180,000 settlement while making no admission of wrongdoing. In addition, the hospital has to review its workplace policies relating to disability discrimination, make any changes that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and train managers and supervisors on laws prohibiting discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit on Vogt’s behalf, said it was “pleased” with the decree.

“Unfortunately, some employers continue to discriminate against deaf applicants based on myths, fears and stereotypes about their ability to do the job because of their disability,” said Gregory Gochanour, an attorney with the agency.

Vogt spoke about her experience in a 2021 article with the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing and Professional Studies, where she studied Integrated Behavioral Health. She said she had repeatedly been denied jobs because of her disability.

“This time, I took legal action. … Ultimately, it affected my career choices and how I navigate the world,” she said.

source: nbcnews.com