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

The hospital reached a consent decree, meaning that it would agree to the payout, but made no admission of wrongdoing in the discrimination case.
Entrance of North Memorial Health Hospital in Minnesota.
North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale, Minn.Anthony Gilbert / Gaffer Photography

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

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

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 mask requirement was being followed and reading from a script to check for Covid symptoms, according to the suit.

The suit also says greeters had access to a poster that displayed images associated with Covid symptoms that could be used in 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 through a video relay service with an American Sign Language interpreter.

The suit says Vogt informed the recruiting company that she was deaf. It says she can communicate verbally and with sign language and that she uses hearing aids that help her hear people speak "without any difficulty." It says Vogt could perform the duties of a greeter.

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

North Memorial Health repeatedly denied the allegations in court documents filed in response to the lawsuit, saying 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 a statement Wednesday, the hospital said it recognizes "that our onboarding processes in place for temporary roles may have been compromised during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and we understand Ms. Vogt’s disappointment in the decisions that were made at that time."

"North Memorial Health is committed to our inclusive culture and hiring practices and we embrace the unique contributions, abilities and experiences of each team member and all prospective team members," it continued.

The hospital said that it has since reviewed its practices and "will continue to strive to ensure our customers, our current, past and future team members, and our providers feel valued and respected."

In the court documents, the hospital had asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed. But on Jan. 12, it reached a consent decree, meaning 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 in policies that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and train managers and supervisors about laws prohibiting discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit on Vogt's behalf, said it was "pleased."

"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.