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Press Release 01-28-2013

America's Thrift Stores Pays $50,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Company Refused to Accommodate Employee With Joint Condition And Then Fired Her, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - America's Thrift Stores of Alabama, Inc. will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  The EEOC had charged that the company violated federal law by refusing to provide an employee with a reasonable accommodation and subsequently firing her because of her disability, degenerative joint disease. America's Thrift buys new and used items from local charities and department stores to sell to the public, and operates 17 stores in five states.

According to the EEOC's suit, the company's Alabaster, Ala., store discriminated against Jenny Grimes when it failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation after she informed them of her disability and her need for an accommodation.  The EEOC contended that Grimes had maintained a good work record during her three years at the company.  When she requested an accommodation to perform some of her job duties as a result of lifting and reaching restrictions, America's Thrift denied her request. A week after Grimes presented the employer with documentation of her disability, the company fired her, calling her a "liability." The EEOC contended that Grimes was able to perform the essential functions of her job with an accommodation.  The EEOC also contended that the company had a blanket policy of refusing to allow employees with non-work-related injuries to return to work with restrictions.  America's Thrift denied the allegations of the EEOC complaint.

The conduct alleged violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (EEOC v. America's Thrift Inc., Case No. 2:11-cv-03466-AKK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, approved by U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon, requires America's Thrift to pay monetary damages of $50,000.   The decree also contains non-monetary provisions.  The company is required to train its employees, including its managers and supervisors, regarding an employer's obligations and the rights of employees under the ADA.

"A person who happens to have a disability should not be excluded from or limited in employment opportunities," said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas.   "We appreciate America's Thrift's willingness to provide relief for Ms. Grimes and to ensure that this sort of discrimination does not recur."

C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District, added, "The ADA and its amendments prohibit discrimination based on disability against people who are able to perform their jobs.  The EEOC is committed to enforcing the law and defending the right of employees to work with an accommodation."

The EEOC's Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.

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