EEOC Sues Kohl's Department Stores For Disability Discrimination
Employee Forced to Quit After Store Denies a Regular Schedule to Accommodate Her Diabetes
PORTLAND, Maine – Kohl’s Department Stores, a nationwide, Wisconsin-based retailer, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a diabetic employee’s request for a regular schedule and forced her to quit her job at a Westbrook, Maine, Kohl’s store, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No.11-00320, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, alleges that Kohl’s failed to accommodate Pamela Manning, who began to suffer significant complications to her diabetes after Kohl’s switched her from her long-held set schedule to an irregular schedule. The EEOC’s suit states that her oral requests for a return to a set schedule were repeatedly ignored. After Manning brought in a note from her doctor that explained the need for her to work a predictable day shift to help prevent serious complications from her diabetes, Kohl’s again refused to change her schedule. When Manning told Kohl’s that the scheduled hours could kill her, its store manager laughed and told her that she would not accommodate her, the EEOC said. Manning then had no choice but to resign her employment to protect her health. Kohl’s refused to accommodate Manning even though it had numerous employees on set schedules and had accommodated employees’ scheduling requests for such reasons as day care, transportation and other personal needs.
Disability discrimination, including the failure to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability, violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary relief for Manning, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent disability discrimination by Kohl’s, training on discrimination for its managers and employees, and more.
“Employers are obligated to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities, and this obligation becomes even more serious when a worker has a potentially life-threatening illness,” said Markus L. Penzel, trial attorney in the EEOC’s Boston Area Office, which has jurisdiction over Maine.
Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District, added, “Keeping Ms. Manning on a regular, set schedule would have posed no undue hardship on this company. When one considers the possible dire consequences of ignoring her needs, refusing her request out of hand was unconscionable.”