Retail Giant Punished Worker for Back Impairment, EEOC Charges
NORFOLK, Va. – National retail giant Kmart Corporation violated federal law by firing an employee because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) on behalf of a former worker who uses an assistive walking device.
The EEOC’s suit, filed in he U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Kmart Corporation, Civil Action No. 2:09CV291), asserted that around September 2004 Alonzo McGlone was hired as a greeter at a Kmart Super Center in Norfolk, Va. McGlone, who has a debilitating back impairment, uses a cane to assist him in walking and standing. The EEOC’s suit charged that McGlone was successfully performing his duties as a greeter when he was observed using his cane. According to the EEOC, McGlone was fired because of the use of his cane.
The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The EEOC's lawsuit seeks reinstatement of McGlone into his former position or an equivalent one, as well as back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks an injunction ordering Kmart to institute and carry out policies, practices, and training programs which provide equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, and a work environment free from disability discrimination.
“Mr. McGlone lost his job because he needed to use an assistive device to walk,” said Herbert Brown, director of the EEOC’s Norfolk Local Office. “It is unfortunate that many employers still deny people who are ready and able the opportunity to work simply because of a disability. The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of people victimized by such prejudices.”
During Fiscal Year 2008, disability discrimination charge filings with the EEOC nationwide rose to 19,453 -- an increase of 10 percent from the prior fiscal year and the highest level in 14 years.
Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which includes the Norfolk Local Office, added, “This lawsuit is a reminder that, although we have made great strides in educating employers and the public about disability discrimination, some employers still judge applicants and employees based on a disability rather than on their proven ability to do a job.”
According to its web site, www.kmart.com, Kmart is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Holdings Corporation. As of January 31, 2009, Holdings operated a total of 1,368 Kmart stores across 49 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.