Home Improvement Retailer Fired Employee Who Required Disability-Related Emergency Break, Federal Agency Charged
Home Depot, the large national home improvement retailer, has agreed to pay a former employee $100,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC, Home Depot failed to provide an emergency break to an employee with irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia at its Peru, Ill., store. Instead of accommodating the employee, Home Depot fired her for allegedly violating company policy by leaving her post unattended, the federal agency charged.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.
The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. The Home Depot/Home Depot, U.S.A, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-06990, on Sept. 28, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
The consent decree, entered by Judge Robert Gettleman on August 16, 2018, prohibits disability discrimination and retaliation at Home Depot's Peru store. In addition to monetary relief of $100,000, the consent decree requires Home Depot to provide training on the ADA to all managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel in the Peru store regarding their responsibilities in the reasonable accommodation process under the ADA, including the duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, policies and procedures for requesting and providing accommodations to employees for disability-related absences, and the range of potential accommodations at Home Depot facilities. Home Depot will also communicate to all other employees their rights under the ADA and provide information on whom to report requests for accommodations or disability-related complaints. Over the next two years, Home Depot will also keep a record of all accommodation requests and disability-related complaints at that store and provide a report to the EEOC every six months.
"The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities that enable them to perform their jobs," said Greg Gochanour, the regional attorney of EEOC's Chicago District Office. "It is regrettable that instead of working with the employee to help secure coverage of her post in the event of a disability-related emergency restroom break, Home Depot fired her when, despite her best efforts, she was unable to find coverage."
"We are pleased with today's settlement, which will both compensate the victim and provide ADA training to Home Depot's employees at its Peru store," said Julianne Bowman, EEOC's district director in Chicago. "Training employees on their rights and responsibilities under the ADA is an essential piece in maintaining an accessible workplace."
EEOC Trial Attorneys Ann Henry and Kelly Bunch and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason litigated the case against Home Depot.