Legally Blind Veteran Denied Accommodation and Fired, Federal Agency Charged
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Sneakers Corporation, doing business as Just Sneakers, Inc., will pay $18,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged the athletic specialty store with violating federal law by discriminating against a legally blind sales clerk because of his disability. Just Sneakers is a Georgia corporation operating athletic specialty retail stores in Georgia and Alabama.
The EEOC alleged in its lawsuit that, after rehiring a former employee into a sales clerk position at its Enterprise, Ala., store, Sneakers terminated him because of his blindness without discussion or consideration of any reasonable accommodation. The employee, Kyle Dalton, experienced vision loss during his service in the U.S. Army, and after he was medically discharged, he tried to return to his former job with Sneakers as a sales clerk. After less than a week, Sneakers fired him without considering whether an accommodation, such as a magnifying glass or a new computer monitor, might be reasonable. The EEOC also alleged that Sneakers treated non-disabled employees more favorably, including not terminating them when they actually displayed performance problems.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. The Sneakers Corporation., Case No. 1:12-cv-00827-TFM) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama after an investigation was completed by the EEOC's Mobile Local Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The settlement, memorialized in a two-year consent decree entered by the court on May 2, includes $18,000 in monetary relief for Dalton. The decree requires Just Sneakers to implement new policies designed to prevent disability discrimination; conduct management training on disability discrimination laws; post a notice advising employees and applicants of their rights under the ADA; and to create a procedure for processing employee requests for reasonable accommodations.
"This case is an example of how an employer's unwillingness to explore reasonable solutions for an employee's disability can result in a violation of federal law and more trouble for itself," said EEOC Trial Attorney Ylda Kopka. "The EEOC will remain pledged to ensuring equal access to the workplace for everyone, including workers with disabilities."
EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas added, "This agency is committed to fighting disability discrimination in the workplace. Not only does an employer break the law by refusing to employ disabled workers, but the employer may also lose out on well-qualified employees when it fails to give due consideration to reasonable accommodations."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. In Fiscal Year 2013, the Commission received 25,957 charges alleging disability discrimination, including 683 in the State of Alabama. The EEOC's Birmingham District covers Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.