Company Refused to Accommodate or Hire Deaf Applicant, Says Federal Agency
SEATTLE — Dollar Tree Distribution, Inc., violated federal law when it failed to accommodate or hire a deaf applicant for an entry level warehouse job at its Ridgefield, Washington facility, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC, a Dollar Tree Distribution supervisor deliberately conducted the interview in a manner in which the applicant could not fully understand the supervisor, even though the applicant had clearly identified himself as deaf and wore visible hearing aids. The supervisor also failed to respond to questions from the applicant about potential accommodations that would enable him to do the work if hired. The company later notified the applicant that he had not been hired, even though records show that in the same month it hired many other applicants without hearing impairments.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal to ignore a deaf applicant's request for an accommodation and to refuse to hire an applicant because of his disability. After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Dollar Tree Distribution, Inc., Civil No. 3:20-cv-05959) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of the deaf applicant, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.
“The ADA is a promise that applicants with disabilities will be given the full opportunity to prove their capabilities and contribute to this nation,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “To disregard an applicant’s request for an accommodation during the interview sabotages that person’s opportunity to compete on a level playing field.”
“Congress enacted the ADA to remove barriers that keep qualified people with physical or mental disabilities out of the work force,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley. “We hope this lawsuit will highlight the importance of ensuring that all staff involved in recruiting and hiring understand how to respond to a disability accommodation request.”
Dollar Tree Distribution is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dollar Tree, Inc., a nationwide retailer headquartered in Virginia with 15,237 store locations throughout the United States and Canada. Dollar Tree Distribution, Inc. employed approximately 600 employees at twelve distribution centers in the U.S. in 2019.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination in the public and private sectors. Further information about the EEOC is available online at www.eeoc.gov.