Amazon refused to provide an American Sign Language interpreter, charge says

May 30, 2024

Amazon fired a Deaf Raleigh woman after she requested an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for onboarding and training for a new position at its Garner facility, according to a US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Charge of Discrimination filed this month.

Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) filed the charge on behalf of MarQuetta Holdbrooks, who primarily communicates through ASL and requires an interpreter for effective communication during critical conversations.

Ms. Holdbrooks worked for Amazon at its Morrisville facility for more than a year when it approved her transfer request to work at the Garner distribution center in October 2023. When staff at her new workplace informed her that she needed additional in-person orientation and training due to the transfer, she requested an ASL interpreter as an accommodation. Amazon refused to provide Ms. Holdbrooks the accommodation she needed.

Instead, Amazon assigned Ms. Holdbrooks to an involuntary medical leave of absence and terminated her in November 2023, less than two weeks later. Even during important communications about her leave status and her termination, Amazon failed to provide Ms. Holdbrooks an ASL interpreter or any other communication-related accommodation, forcing her to rely on typing text on her smart phone and other ineffective methods of communication.

Ms. Holdbrooks said she was surprised and confused when her employer did not accommodate her because she had not been denied an interpreter before, either at Amazon or any other job. Because ASL is her primary form of communication, Ms. Holdbrooks emphasized that on-site interpreting is necessary to guarantee she is able to communicate and understand important information typically shared verbally. Once Ms. Holdbrooks is trained, she is able to support and complete her work without an interpreter.

“Onboarding and training are standard and expected parts of employment, and a large employer like Amazon should be prepared to accommodate all employees,” Holdbrooks said. “Even though I only needed an ASL interpreter for a short part of my employment, not only was I not provided one, I ended up losing my job after requesting one. I want to work and can work; work is an important and necessary part of my life. Disabled people should have the same opportunities to work as people who don’t have disabilities.”

Lena Welch, a DRNC attorney representing Ms. Holdbrooks, agrees. “An ASL interpreter to ensure effective communication is an accommodation needed by many employees, and an employer like Amazon must understand and fulfill its obligation to provide communication and other reasonable accommodations.” Welch said. “When an employer fails to provide necessary accommodations and ensure effective communication, it not only contributes to the many barriers to employment that exist for people with disabilities and discriminates against them, it violates the law.”

Amazon has more than a dozen distribution and fulfillment centers in North Carolina. By some estimates, it employs more than 30,000 people in North Carolina and in 2022 was the third-largest private employer in Wake County.


About Disability Rights North Carolina
Disability Rights North Carolina is the federally mandated protection and advocacy system in North Carolina, dedicated to advancing the rights of all people with disabilities, of all ages, statewide. DRNC is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a member of the National Disability Rights Network. Learn more about Disability Rights North Carolina at

Lena Welch, attorney