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EEOC Sues Piercing Pagoda for Disability Discrimination

Major Jewelry RetailerFired Disabled Manager Rather Than Let Her Sit Intermittently, Federal Agency Charges

GREENVILLE, N.C. - Zale Delaware, Inc. dba Piercing Pagoda, a  major jewelry retailer based in Irving, Texas, violated federal law when it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an emp­loyee with a disability and then terminated her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in federal court today. 

According to EEOC's complaint, Rose Gravel was employed as a manager at a Piercing Pagoda kiosk in Greenville, N.C., beginning May 2010.  Gravel has degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia, which cause chronic pain.  On April 26, 2013, Gravel notified Piercing Pagoda she needed to sit for 15 minutes of each hour as an accommodation for her disability.

Before requesting an accommodation, Gravel had been out of work on medical leave related to her disability.  Gravel was cleared by her doctor to return to work with the restriction that she should take sitting breaks within the work day.  Piercing Pagoda refused Gravel's request and insisted that she stand her entire work shift.  Piercing Pagoda fired Gravel instead of allowing her the requested accommodation.

Refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation to a person with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unless it causes an undue hardship for the employer.  EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Zale Delaware, Inc., Civil Action No. 4:15-CV-00149-D in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process.  The suit seeks back pay, front pay or reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Gravel, as well as injunctive relief.

"The need for a stool or other type of assistive device should not disqualify anyone from a job," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District.  "When a qualified employee with a disability is ready and willing to work, the employer has a legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation to make that employment possible unless the employer can show undue hardship."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at