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PRESS RELEASE
9-9-10

Eckerd Corporation / Rite Aid Sued for Disability Discrimination

EEOC Charges Large Drug Store Chain with Failing to Accommodate Employee’s Disability and Discharging Her

ATLANTA – Eckerd Corporation, doing business as Rite Aid, a nationwide drug store chain, subjected an employee to unlawful discrimination when it failed to accommodate the employee’s disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.  

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Eckerd Corporation d/b/a Rite Aid, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-2816-JEC, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia), Fern Strickland worked as a cashier for Eckerd Corporation, d/b/a Rite Aid, for 18 years.  Due to severe arthritic symptoms in her knees, which limited her ability to walk and stand for long periods, Strickland periodically used a stool while stationed behind the counter.  She had been allowed to use the stool by the employer since 2001.  However, in January 2009, after a new district manager was assigned to Strickland’s store, the district manager decided to no longer accommodate Strickland’s disability because he “did not like the idea” that she used a stool.  Strickland was terminated several weeks later because the manager refused to accommodate her disability “indefinitely.”

Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.  The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Strickland, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such violations in the future.

“The ADA protects the employment rights of disabled individuals who can perform their jobs with a reasonable accommodation,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert K. Dawkins.  “This situation was especially egregious since Ms. Strickland had been successfully accommodated for over seven years before the new manager terminated her.  The EEOC is here to vindicate the rights of people victimized by this sort of misconduct.”    

This case is one of three ADA suits announced by the agency today, all of which were brought under the broader and simplified definition of disability set forth in the ADA Amendments Act.  The other two are EEOC v. Fisher, Collins & Carter (Case No. 10-cv-2453, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland), filed in Baltimore, involving the layoff of two employees who had diabetes and hypertension; and EEOC v. IPC Print Services (Case No. 10-cv-886 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan), which involved the discharge of an employee with cancer who requested a temporary part-time schedule as an accommodation of his disability.

“These cases, among the first filed by the EEOC under the ADA Amendments Act, illustrate the continuing need for rigorous enforcement of the law, as well as further education about the ADA’s requirements,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez.  “Congress has made the scope of the ADA clear and broad:  Individuals with disabilities — including serious medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and severe arthritis — must be evaluated according to their qualifications, and not based on unfounded fears or stereotypes.”

According to company information, Eckerd Corporation, d/b/a Rite Aid, operates more than 4,900 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.  Eckerd Corporation, d/b/a Rite Aid, is the largest drug store chain on the East Coast and the third largest drug store chain in the U.S.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.