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July 22, 2014

EEOC Sues Toys “R” Us for Disability Discrimination

Retailer  Refused to Provide Accommodation or Hire Deaf Applicant, Federal Agency Says

Toys "R" Us, Inc., one of the world's largest retailers of toys and juvenile products, violated federal  law when it first refused to provide an interpreter for a deaf applicant and  then failed to hire her, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.  

The EEOC charged that Shakirra  Thomas, who is deaf, applied for a team member position at the retailer's  Columbia, Md., store in October 2011.   Thomas communicates by using American Sign Language, reading lips and  through written word.  When the company  contacted Thomas to attend a group interview, Thomas' mother advised that  Thomas was deaf and requested the company to provide an interpreter for the  interview.  The retailer refused and said  that if Thomas wished to attend a group interview in November 2011, then she  would have to provide her own interpreter, the EEOC alleges. 

Thomas's mother interpreted for her  during a group interview, but the company refused to hire Thomas despite her  qualifications for and ability to perform the team member position, with or  without a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC said in its lawsuit. 

Such alleged conduct violates the  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that employers provide  reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with disabilities unless  it would cause an undue hardship.  The  ADA also prohibits employers from refusing to hire someone because of a  disability.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S.  District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, Civil Action  No. 1:13-cv-00756-CCB, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process.

"Federal law requires employers to provide  a reasonable accommodation during the interview process, including providing an  American Sign Language interpreter, unless the employer can show it would be a  significant difficulty or expense to do so, said EEOC District Director Spencer  H. Lewis, Jr., of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office.  "Given the size and resources of Toys "R" Us,  it is difficult to understand how it would have been an undue hardship for such  a large retailer to provide an interpreter when asked to so."  

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M.  Lawrence added, "It's not only bad business to forgo hiring a qualified  employee simply because of fears, biases or stereotypes against people with  disabilities, it's also a violation of the law." 

According to its website, http://www.toysrusinc.com, Toys "R" Us,  Inc. employs approximately 70,000  employees worldwide.

The Philadelphia  District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West  Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. 

The EEOC enforces federal laws  prohibiting employment discrimination.   Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov .

© Copyright U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

About the Author

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

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