COMPANY WOULDN’T ALLOW EMPLOYEE TO USE SERVICE DOG
In a press release dated May 9, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it had settled a disability discrimination lawsuit that had been brought against a nationally well-known arts-and-crafts retailer, Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.
Apparently, the company refused to allow a part-time clerk at its Olathe, Kansas location to use her service dog (as an accommodation for her disabilities, which included “anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder”). Even though she presented appropriate medical support, the company’s management team denied the request believing (“without any supporting evidence”) that the animal would present a “safety issue.” (The clerk was thereafter fired when she informed the company that she could not work without her service animal.)
Because the employer’s conduct was believed to have violated federal law, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC filed civil litigation (EEOC v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Civil Action No. 22-cv-02258) in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.
As part of the settlement, Hobby Lobby has agreed, among other things, to pay $50,000 in monetary damages to the former clerk, will modify its employment-related practices and procedures, and will notify its employees of their rights to reasonable accommodations under federal law.
In a written statement, Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, observed, “Service animals provide critical assistance to individuals with a range of physical and mental disabilities …. Allowing service animals into the workplace enables qualified workers to provide for themselves and their families and to productively contribute to their communities and the economy. And, with rare exceptions, it is the law.”
Do you think they got a bit too crafty there?
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