Cleburne Store Demoted Department Manager After Denying Him an Accommodation for Spinal Cord Injury, Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS - Lowe's Companies, Inc., a chain of home improvement and hardware stores with locations across the United States, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a department manager with a disability at its store in Cleburne, Texas, and instead demoted him to a lower-paying position, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the employee is disabled because of a spinal cord injury that substantially limits the use of his right arm. The employee was hired by Lowe's in 2006 as a customer service associate and was promoted to a department manager in 2008. The company was aware of his disability at the time he was selected for promotion, and he successfully worked as a department manager for six years. The EEOC said that the disability prevents the employee from using power equipment that requires the use of two hands, but that he delegated that task to associates under his supervision. The EEOC claims that in June 2015, Lowe's notified the employee that he could no longer be provided with a reasonable accommodation, and demoted him to a non-supervisory associate position. Because of the demotion, his hourly rate of pay was cut by over $4 an hour.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for known disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Lowe's Companies, Inc., Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-02589-M), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, reinstatement of the discrimination victim to the department manager position, and compensatory and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief.
"This employee devoted over a decade of his life to Lowe's, and spent the vast majority of those years in management working successfully with an effective accommodation for his disability," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard. "The sudden revocation of that accommodation and the demotion in responsibility and pay clearly constitutes discrimination in violation of federal law."
EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino added, "It does not appear that Lowe's engaged in a constructive approach - which the law requires - to maintain a fair accommodation and retain a proven employee when the company denied him the authority to delegate and use teamwork. Establishing a solid foundation through a workforce should include building on opportunities for employing persons with disabilities."