Retailer Refused to Excuse Asthmatic Employee's One-Day Absence and Fired Her, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO - Macy's will pay a former long-term employee $75,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC's lawsuit charged Macy's with firing an asthmatic employee, rather than excuse a one-day absence the employee needed to address emergency complications arising from her disability. This alleged conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Macy's, Inc/Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc.; Civil Action No. 17-cv-05959) on Aug. 16, 2017 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC's conciliation process.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the asthmatic employee worked for Macy's for nearly eight years, but she was fired after a one-day absence due to needing immediate medical attention for her asthma. Macy's policy permits absences for disability-related reasons. However, in this case, Macy's denied the employee's request to excuse the absence, even though she had to be seen in a hospital emergency room, and fired her three weeks later.
Macy's will pay $75,000 in monetary relief to the employee as part of a consent decree settling the suit and will provide additional relief intended to improve Macy's workplace for employees with disabilities. Under the decree, Macy's will train certain employees on disability law and accommodation requirements under the ADA. Macy's will also monitor requests for accommodation and complaints of disability discrimination at its two Chicago stores and report those to the EEOC.
"The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate disability-related absences that enable their employees to perform their job," said Julianne Bowman, EEOC's district director in Chicago. "Here, a one-day absence would have enabled the employee to return to the job she held for almost eight years. We are pleased with today's settlement which will compensate the victim and monitor Macy's accommodation practices with respect to the ADA."
Greg Gochanour, the regional attorney of EEOC's Chicago District Office, said, "Macy's response to the employee's absence was not reasonable. The employee found herself in a potentially life threatening circumstance and phoned Macy's to explain her absence before going to the hospital. The following day, she provided Macy's documentation from the hospital showing she was treated for asthma. Rather than accommodate the employee, Macy's fired her."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with area offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.