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EEOC Sues Safeway For Disability Discrimination

Safeway, Inc., a leading grocery store chain, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a clerk and terminated her because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

According to EEOC, Patricia Bonds worked as a food clerk at Safeway's Westminster, Md. store, when she sustained a work-related injury that caused adhesive capsulitis and a torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder. As a result, she was substantially limited in her musculoskeletal functioning and lifting ability.. Safeway initially accommodated Bonds' disability by reassigning her to work at the customer service desk. Despite her satisfactory performance, Safeway placed Bonds on unpaid, indefinite leave, claiming she had exhausted her time limit for modified duty. Safeway refused to grant Bonds' request for a reasonable accommodation by allowing her to continue working at the customer service desk and, instead, unlawfully fired her.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination. The ADA also requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, including reassignment to a vacant position, unless it would cause a significant expense or difficulty to the employer. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Safeway Inc., Civil Action No.-----) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"Ms. Bonds suffered a work-related injury that resulted in a significant impairment to her musculoskeletal functioning and a lifting restriction, which is a disability under the ADA," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "Unfortunately, Safeway made it worse when it decided to no longer provide her with a job reassignment as required by the law."

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, "No one wins when an employer imposes an arbitrary limit on how long it will provide a reasonable accommodation-not the employee who suddenly is out of work and not the employer who must face an EEOC enforcement action."

EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

This post originally appeared on the agency website as a Press Release, www.eeoc.gov.

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© Copyright U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 274
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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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