EEOC Obtains $50,000 for Worker Fired Due to Epilepsy
MODESTO, Calif. – Modesto retailer Buy Rite Thrift Store has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that Buy Rite illegally fired a stocker on the night shift who has epilepsy after he experienced mild seizures at work. Rather than requesting that the worker 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 the employee was a danger to himself and others, the EEOC said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. After an investigation by EEOC Investigator Rosa Salazar and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the EEOC filed suit (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 last September after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Buy Rite chose to work with the EEOC and settle the case before the owners sold the business in December 2011.
“It was a hard blow to lose my job because of my employer’s response to my epilepsy,” said the worker. “For 17 years, I have done similar work before as a stocker and cashier at a grocery store. Having mild seizures at work never stopped me from getting my job done successfully.” He added, “I hope my experience can help others learn to look beyond their fears about epilepsy, and instead focus on what a worker like me can actually do.”
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “The Centers for Disease Control estimates that two million Americans have epilepsy. Given that each person is impacted by epilepsy to varying degrees and in different ways, it would be a huge mistake to assume that having seizures automatically disqualifies an employee from performing a job. It’s critical to use objective evidence to determine whether that particular worker can perform the duties of the specific position.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “Disability discrimination is both illegal and bad business. Employers may lose out on talented and loyal employees if they rely upon myths and stereotypes about disabilities instead making an unbiased evaluation of each individual.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.