Clothing Retailer Refused to Hire Applicant in Wheelchair, Federal Agency Charged
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Pacific Sunwear of California, LLC (PacSun), an Anaheim, Calif.-based specialty retailer that sells casual apparel, accessories and footwear for teens and young adults, will pay $85,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that PacSun violated federal law by failing to hire a paraplegic applicant, who requires the use of a wheelchair, because of his disability. The EEOC also alleged that PacSun failed to maintain required employment records.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, when the disabled applicant visited a St. Augustine, Fla. PacSun store to submit his application, the store manager took one look at him in a wheelchair and told him that the store was not hiring, though that same manager advised non-disabled applicants in the same time frame that the store was, in fact, hiring.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants for employment based on disability, including using walking and/or the absence of a wheelchair as a qualification standard or selection criteria for hire. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00863) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $85,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree settling the lawsuit provides for extensive injunctive relief to help secure a workplace free from disability discrimination. This includes PacSun revising and redistributing its anti-discrimination policy and conducting mandatory live training for managers and employees by a subject matter expert approved by the EEOC. Both the policy and management training will address discrimination based on disabilities as well as stereotypes and assumptions about them. Further, PacSun has been barred from discouraging or deterring applicants who are unable to ambulate without assistance and/or who are wheelchair-bound from seeking employment at the company. PacSun must also maintain a telephone hotline to report incidents of workplace discrimination and post a notice prepared by the EEOC on the career page of PacSun's website, where most applicants submit their applications, advising them of their rights. Additionally, PacSun must post a hard copy notice to its employees at its stores advising them of their rights. Both notices include contact information for the EEOC. Although the PacSun location where the discrimination occurred has since closed, the consent decree covers eight PacSun locations in Central and Northern Florida (Jacksonville, Orlando, Gainesville, Daytona Beach, Altamonte Springs, Sanford, Orange Park, and Winter Garden).
"This settlement reflects the EEOC's commitment to protecting the rights of qualified applicants to seek and obtain employment without regard to their disability," said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District. "Hiring decisions based on stereotypes about disabilities or people in wheelchairs will not be tolerated."
Michael Farrell, director of the EEOC's Miami District, said, "Rejecting qualified applicants based on disability is a clear violation of the law. This settlement brings the EEOC another step closer to achieving our mission of eradicating such conduct from the workplace."
The EEOC's litigation effort was led by Trial Attorney Robert Adler.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.