EEOC Says Neighborhood Thrift Store Fired Stocker Due to Epilepsy
MODESTO, Calif. – Modesto retailer Buy-Rite Thrift Store violated federal law by firing an employee for having epilepsy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed today under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that Buy-Rite Thrift Store illegally fired Chris Cherling, a stocker on the night shift who has epilepsy, after he experienced mild seizures at work. Rather than request Cherling to take a fitness exam or provide medical documentation of his ability to perform the job duties required of his position, the thrift shop relied on its own judgment – which is not consistent with the law -- to determine that Cherling was a danger to himself and others, the EEOC said.
“I was shocked that Buy-Rite Thrift Store fired me because of my epilepsy,” Cherling said. “Prior to working for this company, I had performed the duties of a stocker and cashier successfully for 17 years at a grocery store, despite having mild seizures during work.”
The ADA prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. BRT Management Company, Inc. dba Buy-Rite Thrift Store and W. & J. Capitol and Mgt. Co., Inc. d/b/a Buy Rite Thrift Store, Case No. CV 11-4536-HRL) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay and compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages, as well as measures to prevent future discrimination.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Epilepsy reportedly affects two million Americans. And it affects each person in different ways, with varying degrees of symptoms. This lawsuit emphasizes that employers cannot fire employees with epilepsy based on preconceptions about that disability. Please don’t assume that having seizures caused by epilepsy automatically disqualifies your employee from doing a job, in this case as a stocker. It’s critical to use objective evidence to determine whether that particular individual can perform the duties of the job.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “It is both illegal and bad business to target disabled workers for discriminatory treatment. Employers lose talented and loyal employees when they fire workers because of their disabilities.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.