Press Release 04-07-2020

Former Convenience Store Owner to Pay $160,000 to Resolve Disability Discrimination Suit

Federal Agency Charged Brown-Thompson General Partnership With Firing Employees with Disabilities

ST. LOUIS - The former owner of a chain of Oklahoma convenience stores will pay $160,000 to nine alleged victims of disability discrimination to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Brown-Thompson General Partnership fired a warehouse worker and eight other employees with medical conditions who needed reasonable accommodations, including modified duty or an exception to the company's practice of terminating employees who missed more than three days of work and didn't qualify for other company leave. Such alleged conduct violates the anti-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals because of qualifying medical conditions and refusing to provide reasonable accommodations to employees, which can include modified duty or work schedules.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Brown-Thompson General Partnership, Case No. 5:16-cv-1142-PRW) in September 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Patrick R. Wyrick, requires Brown-Thompson General Partnership to pay lost wages and compensatory damages to the nine individuals for whom the EEOC sought relief in the lawsuit. Effective March 1, 2020, the company sold its business and no longer operates the warehouse or chain of Oklahoma convenience stores where the individuals were employed.             

"Businesses need to work with employees who have medical conditions and who request a reasonable accommodation," said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC's Regional Attorney in St. Louis. "The first choice should always be to find a way to keep employees working or to get them back to work as quickly as possible. Abruptly firing workers based on disability will frequently run afoul of the law."

The EEOC's St. Louis District Director, L. Jack Vasquez, added, "We are pleased to obtain a resolution that provides relief for these nine workers who were unlawfully fired."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

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