Club Demonstration Services to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Employer Denied Needed Bathroom Breaks to Worker with Bladder Condition, Federal Agency Charged

JUNEAU, Alaska – Club Demonstration Services, Inc., the in-house event marketing provider whose sales advisors demonstrate products in Costco warehouses throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, will pay $50,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal civil rights agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the employee was working for Club Demonstration Services as a sales advisor at the Costco Warehouse in Juneau when, in June 2017, her manager informed staff they were not permitted to use the bathroom during their six-and-a-half-hour shift except during their two scheduled breaks. The employee, who had a bladder condition requiring more frequent use of the restroom, promptly submitted a doctor’s note requesting that she be allowed additional bathroom breaks. Despite her repeated efforts to communicate her needs, Club Demonstration Services denied her requests and never provided her with additional bathroom breaks, the EEOC said.

Failure to accommodate a qualified employee with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To ensure they meet this requirement, employers are expected to engage in an interactive process, a good-faith effort to discuss with the employee what reason-able accommodations would enable them to fulfill their essential job duties. After first attempting to reach pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for Alaska in Juneau (EEOC v. Club Demonstration Services, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00007-HRH).

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Club Demonstration Services agrees to pay $50,000 in monetary relief, implement policies to ensure compliance with laws prohibiting disability discrimination and requiring reasonable accommodation, provide anti-discrimination training with an emphasis on disability and reasonable accommodation, and report to the EEOC all complaints of disability discrimination it receives from its employees in Alaska for the next two years.

“The EEOC is committed to enforcing the ADA’s requirement of reasonable accommodation,” said Nancy Sienko, acting district director for the EEOC’s San Francisco District, which includes Washington state. She added, “This case demonstrates how important it is for employers to engage in good faith in the interactive process to accommodate employees with disabilities.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Amos Blackman said, “The ADA was designed to eliminate the unnecessary and counterproductive barriers that keep Americans with disabilities from finding and keeping their jobs. We are encouraged, however, that Club Demonstration Services has made a genuine commitment to remedying what happened here and taking meaningful steps designed to ensure that it does not happen again.”

According to its website, Club Demonstration Services is the preferred in-house event marketing provider to Costco, had 31,000 associates worldwide as of 2019, and has brand partners including ConAgra Foods, Foster Farms, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Duracell, McCormick, Pepsi, Tyson, Unilever, Bibigo, Kraft Foods, and Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. It is a subsidiary of Advantage Solutions.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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