Worker with medical condition was forced to stand at hotel job, feds say. It’ll pay up

An employee at a New York hotel struggled to stand all day due to a medical condition, so she asked if she could sit while working the front desk, federal officials said.

The hotel told her no, officials said. Now it owes her $42,000.

Library Hotel settled the disability discrimination lawsuit after federal officials said it denied the woman’s “reasonable accommodation” and she was forced to resign, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Jan. 25.

McClatchy News reached out to Library Hotel and its attorneys on Jan. 26 but did not immediately hear back.

‘Detrimental to my physical health’

Elizabeth “Eli” Perez emailed her manager on Dec. 13, 2022, asking for a chair or stool for her to use at the front desk, according to the legal complaint.

The EEOC described this request as a reasonable accommodation.

“I’m making this request because I can no longer stand up for 40 hours a week, as it has become detrimental to my physical health,” Perez wrote in her email. “I have a bone spur in my right heel and my left knee is injured due to overcompensation, both of which are symptoms of hypermobility, for which I am currently being treated.”

She provided documentation from her doctor on her need for the accommodation.

Hotel staff reviewed her request and said they “completely understand the medical need,” according to the complaint.

However, the hotel requires desk agents to stand when working with guests, the human resources consultant said in an email, according to the complaint.

So they said they had to deny her request.

In a meeting on Jan. 4, 2023, Perez’s supervisors offered her the opportunity to apply for two other roles: an accounting position she believed she was unqualified for or an overnight position that required her to work 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

She turned down these options and continued to work without a stool or chair for two months, federal officials said.

‘Slowly wrecking my body’

From January through March, Perez reported “significant pain during nearly every shift” and had to occasionally miss work when the pain “became unbearable,” officials said.

In a March 13 text to her supervisor, she wrote, “Unfortunately this job is slowly wrecking my body and I’m not doing very well health-wise. … I do hope to be back tomorrow, but I can’t even stand up straight right now, much less for 8 hours.”

The next day, she moved a stool to the front desk to help with her back pain so she could get through her shift — and the hotel sent her home, federal officials said.

Her supervisor said she knew that she was breaking the rules, according to an email included in the complaint.

“This whole ‘sit down at the desk’ thing has been an ongoing issue,” he said in an email, according to the complaint.

The next day Perez resigned.

The EEOC sued the hotel on Sept. 20, 2023, saying it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to “reasonably accommodate Perez’s disabilities.”

Four months later, the hotel entered a consent decree with the government.

Hotel officials denied that the company violated the ADA but agreed to pay the former employee and end “standing only” policies for employees whose disabilities prevent them from standing during their shifts.

Library Hotel is a boutique hotel in Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood.

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