Major Retailer Refused to Hire Applicant Because Kidney Disease Precluded Urine Sample, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE - Kmart Corporation, a leading national retailer, will pay $102,048 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the lawsuit, after Kmart offered Lorenzo Cook a job at its Hyattsville, Md., store, Cook advised the hiring manager that he could not provide a urine sample for the company's mandatory pre-employment drug screening due to his kidney disease and dialysis. Cook requested a reasonable accommodation such as a blood test, hair test, or other drug test that did not require a urine sample, the EEOC charged. Kmart refused to provide that alternative test and denied Cook employment because of his disability, according to the suit.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation, including during the application and hiring process, unless it can show it would be an undue hardship. The ADA also prohibits employers from refusing to hire individuals because of their disability.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Kmart Corporation; Sears Holdings Management Corporation, Civil Action No. 13-cv-02576) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to providing $102,048 in monetary relief to Cook, the two-year consent decree resolving this lawsuit provides substantial equitable relief, including enjoining Kmart from taking adverse employment actions on the basis of disability and failing to provide a reasonable accommodation. Kmart is also revising its drug testing policies and forms to specify the availability of reasonable accommodation for applicants or employees in the company's drug testing processes. The decree also requires Kmart to provide training on the equal employment opportunity laws enforced by the EEOC, and on Kmart's ADA policy and the provision of reasonable accommodation, including as it relates to the company's drug testing processes. This training is required for all store managers, store assistant managers and human resources leads in the district where the alleged discrimination occurred. Kmart will also post a notice regarding the resolution of this lawsuit.
"There was a readily available alternative to the urinalysis test in this situation," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "This case demonstrates that the consequences of failing to comply with the ADA can be far more expensive than the actual cost of providing a reasonable accommodation."
EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "We are pleased that this settlement compensates Mr. Cook for the harm he suffered and contains equitable relief designed to ensure that all employees and applicants with disabilities will receive equal employment opportunities, including reasonable accommodations as required by law."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.