Testimony of Disabilities Assessment Expert Witness Allowed

The EEOC filed a an Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) discrimination case on behalf of former employee of defendant. The plaintiff filed a motion to exclude the testimony of their expert witness.  The court denied the motion.

Facts: This case (UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION v. PLACER ARC d/b/a PLACER ADVOCACY RESOURCES & CHOICES – United States District Court – Eastern District of California – November 24th, 2015) involves the alleged violation of the ADA by the defendant and involves a motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Shana Williams, Psy.D, a disabilities assessment expert witness.  The EEOC stated in their complaint that the defendant, Placer Advocacy Resources & Choices (ARC) did not reasonably  accommodate the former employee’s (Ms. Kazerounian) disability because they didn’t provide qualified sign language interpreters for Kazerounian during her employ.  ARC stated that they did provide reasonable accommodation and that, if they provided interpreters as requested by Kazerounian, it would cause undue hardship to their company.

The plaintiff’s hired Dr. Williams as an expert to opine about Ms. Kazerounian’s ability to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) and in English.  After administering four different tests to analyze her abilities, Dr. Williams same to numerous conclusions.  Dr. Williams opined that Ms. Kazerounian communicated solely in sign language.  She also relies on other cues to understand communication from others.  Her English reading and comprehension scores are in the low range.  She could also not understand verbal presentation even when she was able to see the person’s lips.  Dr. Williams also opined that the Ms. Kazerounian was able to communicate in ASL, but very detailed instructions would not provide her with effective communication.  In other words, she would benefit from an interpreter for more detailed communication exchanges.

Discussion:  The defendants challenge the expert witness testimony on three grounds:  1) Dr. Williams’ testing of Ms. Kazerounian in 2014 cannot establish what her cognitive abilities were like between 2005 and 2010; 2) The reasonableness of ARCs accomodations for Ms. Kazerounian lack facts and data about her abilities between 2008 and 2010; and 3) Dr. William’s opinions about deaf culture does not take into account Ms. Kazerounian’s immigration from Iran nor the differences between deaf culture in Iran and the deaf culture in the United States.

The court opined on each of these arguments.  First, in relation to the time lag issue, the court stated that there is no evidence that Ms. Kazerounian’s cognitive abilities changed from 2008 to 2014 and that any challenges of this sort should be done on cross examination and closing arguments.  Regarding the second question, the court opined with the same answer as above.  In addition, Dr. Williams’ opinions have a reliable factual basis and that, after, reviewing the results of her testing, Ms. Kazerounian would have likely been able to perform her tasks if she had the necessary accommodations.

Last, regarding the Deaf culture, the court opined that Dr. Williams’ testimony on deaf culture will assist the jury in their deliberations as most laypersons have little or no first hand knowledge of the Deaf community.  In addition, the defendant does not offer any evidence on the differences between the Deaf community in Iran and that of the United States.  Any arguments on this matter is better suited on cross examination or closing arguments.

Held: The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Shana Williams was denied.