Retailer Refused to Accommodate or Hire Deaf Applicant, Federal Agency Said
BALTIMORE - Toys"R"Us, Inc., one of the world's largest retailers of toys and juvenile products, will pay $35,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, after Shakirra Thomas applied for a team member position at the retailer's Columbia, Md., store, Toys"R"Us contacted her and requested that she attend a group interview. The EEOC said that when Thomas's mother told Toys"R"Us that Thomas was deaf and requested that it provide an interpreter for the interview, the retailer said that Thomas would have to provide her own interpreter for the interview. Thomas communicates by using American Sign Language, reading lips and through the written word.
According to the lawsuit, Thomas's mother interpreted for her during a group interview, but the retailer refused to hire Thomas despite her qualifications and ability to perform the team member position, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Disability discrimination in employment violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides that employers provide reasonable accommodations where necessary to individuals with disabilities, including to applicants. The EEOC first attempted to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process before filing suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (EEOC v. Toys"R"Us-Delaware, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-00756-CCB).
"This settlement should remind all employers that, absent an undue hardship, the ADA requires providing a reasonable accommodation to job applicants and employees who request one," said EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "Hiring decisions should be made based on an individual's qualifications and not because of a disability."
In addition to the $35,000 in monetary relief to Thomas, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Toys"R"Us from future discrimination on the basis of disability. Toys"R"Us will provide training on the ADA, including non-discriminatory interviewing and hiring practices, to managers and supervisors at its Columbia store and at 24 other stores in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The retailer will also post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "We are pleased that Toys"R"Us worked with us to resolve this lawsuit. This settlement, including the extensive training provisions, should protect applicants and employees from disability discrimination."
According to its website, http://www.toysrusinc.com, Toys"R"Us, Inc. employs approximately 70,000 people worldwide.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.