U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Foothill Ranch Store Denied Accommodation for Attendant With Cerebral Palsy, Federal Agency Charged
SAN DIEGO — Retail giant Target Corporation will pay $160,000 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 Target refused to provide a reasonable accommodation for a cart attendant with cerebral palsy at its Foothill Ranch store in Orange County, Calif.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Target hired Jeremy Schott in 2002 as a part-time stocker. By 2003, he was dubbed the “Target Hero of the Month” and transferred to a cart attendant position at his request, according to the EEOC. Schott suffers from cerebral palsy, limited intellectual functioning and a seizure disorder. His disabilities require that he be reminded to do certain tasks and that a job coach assist at times with his duties and job-related meetings. However, the EEOC said that Schott was able to perform the essential functions of the job with the accommodation of a job coach.
The EEOC’s suit charged that while Schott succeeded early on with the assistance of a job coach and task reminders, Target later failed to ensure the presence of a job coach during work-related and job performance meetings. Following a 2004 medical leave of absence due to a seizure, Schott’s work hours were decreased dramatically, sometimes down to only eight hours per week.
The EEOC originally filed its lawsuit in August 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Southern Division (EEOC v. Target Corporation, Case No. SA CV 09-0963 AG (ANx)), arguing that this conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the parties ultimately entered into a three-year consent decree, which also required that Target designate an ADA coordinator in its corporate level human resources department and implement a company-wide policy regarding requests for reasonable accommodations. The company also agreed to train executive team leaders and team lead employees on handling requests for reasonable accommodations. Target will also submit reports to the EEOC regarding certain complaints of disability discrimination occurring within Target’s corporate district encompassing the store in question.
“People with disabilities can be productive employees when their needs are heard and met,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “However, employers must be mindful to treat workers with disabilities fairly and decently and ensure that reasonable accommodation requests are properly carried out.”
Marla Stern, local director for the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, which has jurisdiction over Orange County, added, “Unfortunately, most employers are still unfamiliar with how easy it is to work with individuals with disabilities. “The first step is honest and respectful communication between managers and employees on how to best assist workers with disabilities in reaching their full potential, and the cost of reasonable accommodation is often minimal.”
According to Target’s website, the Minneapolis-based company operates more than 1,750 stores in 49 states nationwide, including more than 240 Super Target stores.
The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.