Sullivan Law Group represented a physician assistant in a two-week federal jury trial against the Navy in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and found that the U.S. Department of the Navy had failed to reasonably accommodate the plaintiff by failing to provide her with a video relay phone or a sign language interpreter.
The plaintiff was a physician’s assistant formally employed by a government contractor. The court determined that the Navy was also her employer because of the degree of control exercised over the work she performed and the environment in which she worked under the joint employer doctrine.
The Court ruled that joint employer relationship does not create liability in the co-employer for actions taken by the owner employer. Each employer is only liable to the employee for its own actions, not for each other’s actions. However, a joint employer is liable if it participates in the co-employer’s discrimination or if it knew or should have known about the co-employer’s discrimination and failed to undertake prompt corrective measures within its control.
The Court also allowed the plaintiff to present evidence of events prior to the date of filing of the EEOC claim for the jury’s consideration of whether the parties had engaged in the interactive process in good faith.
The jury found that the approximately fourteen month delay between the plaintiff’s request for an accommodation and the Navy’s installation of a video phone to assist her in making and receiving phone calls did not constitute a reasonable accommodation.
After the filing of cross briefs, the Court will determine the amount of back and front pay to award the plaintiff and attorney fees.