The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
9-25-09

EEOC SUES GARDEN RIDGE FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION

Home Décor Retailer Refused to Hire Qualified Applicants Because of Hearing Impairments, Federal Agency Charged

AUSTIN, Texas – Garden Ridge Corporation, a Houston-based home décor retail company with stores nationwide, violated federal law by discriminating against hearing-impaired applicants at its Austin store, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Garden Ridge failed to hire two applicants for stocker positions based upon their deafness. One of the applicants had previous employment experience as a stocker with Garden Ridge, and held a current job as a stocker at a competitor, Hobby Lobby. The other applicant had previously held a position in floor sales and had the necessary experience to perform the stocker job. The hiring official responsible for screening the applicants nevertheless flatly told one of the applicants that she was excluded because of her impairment, the EEOC said.

“Simply eliminating deaf job applicants from consideration, without even attempting an accommodation, is unfair and unlawful,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru.

Refusing to hire a qualified individual because of his or her disability violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC’s San Antonio Field office determined that Garden Ridge violated the law, and filed suit (CASE NO. A09CA707SS) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.

“This suit sends a clear message to employers that employees and applicants must be judged strictly on their ability to do the job, rather than on myths, fears, and stereotypes associated with hearing impairments,” said Eduardo Juarez, senior trial attorney for EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “The EEOC is committed to preventing disability discrimination in the workplace.”

Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, added, “An employer must make reasonable accommodation to the known physical limitations of a qualified applicant with a disability unless it can show that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship.”

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


This page was last modified on September 25, 2009.

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