Grocery Store Chain Asked Applicants Illegal Disability-Related Questions and Fired Employee Because of His Epilepsy, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - The Food Farmacy, Ltd. and J&T Enterprises, LLC, doing business as Foodworks, a chain of grocery stores in Connecticut, will pay $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Foodworks asked disability-related questions of a class of applicants before offering them jobs. The questions included "Do you have any health problems?" on applications and asking applicants in interviews whether they had any health/ physical problems; whether they were on any medications; and if so, which medications.
The EEOC also alleged that when an employee with epilepsy had a seizure at work, Foodworks fired the employee a few days after the seizure, despite the employee having performed his job successfully and presenting medical documentation indicating he was capable of returning to his normal work day. According to the suit, Foodworks also failed to post the required notices describing provisions of federal law prohibiting disability discrimination in its Monroe, Conn., store.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process before filing suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut (EEOC v. The Food Farmacy, Ltd. d/b/a Foodworks, and J&T Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Foodworks, Civil Action No. 13-CV-01438).
In addition to the $25,000 in monetary relief to the individual who was fired, the four-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit prohibits Foodworks from asking pre-offer disability-related questions of applicants in the future and prohibits the company from firing an employee because of that employee's disability or perceived disability. The decree also requires Foodworks to post posters concerning federal anti-discrimination laws in all of its stores; provide anti-discrimination training to all of its employees; adopt a new anti-discrimination policy that will be distributed to all employees; and provide periodic reports to the EEOC regarding any internal complaints of disability discrimination.
"This settlement should remind employers that the ADA prohibits employers from asking applicants disability-related inquiries before offering them jobs," said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry. "When employers take measures to ensure that such inquiries are not made of applicants before making job offers, and that the job selection process is based on non-discriminatory factors, we all win."
Konrad Batog, the trial attorney assigned to the case, added, "We are pleased that Foodworks worked with us to resolve this lawsuit. We are confident that the individual relief for the former employee and the injunctive relief obtained will help ensure that employees and applicants will be fairly assessed on their ability to do a job, and not wrongfully excluded due to myths or misconceptions about medical conditions."
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.