U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Grocery Store Chain Asked Applicants Illegal Disability-Related Questions and Fired Employee Because of His Epilepsy, Agency Charges
NEW YORK - The Food Farmacy, Ltd. and J&T Enterprises, LLC, doing business as Foodworks, a chain of grocery stores in Connecticut, violated federal law when they asked applicants disability-related questions and fired an employee from their store in Monroe, Conn., because of the employee's epilepsy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Foodworks asked disability-related questions of a class of applicants before offering them jobs, including asking, "Do you have any health problems?" on its application and asking applicants in interviews whether they had any health problems, physical problems, whether they were on any medications, and if so, which medications.
The suit also alleges that when an employee with epilepsy had a seizure at work, Foodworks fired the employee a few days after the seizure, despite the employee having performed his job successfully and presenting medical documentation indicating he was capable of returning to his normal work day. According to the suit, Foodworks also failed to post the required notices describing the Americans with Disabilities Act provisions prohibiting disability discrimination in its Monroe store.
Disability discrimination, including asking applicants pre-offer disability-related questions, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-01438, in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary relief for the employee, a change in the company's application and interview practices, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent disability discrimination, training on discrimination for its managers and employees and other relief.
"One of the reasons why the ADA prohibits employers from subjecting employees to disability-related inquiries is to protect employees from actions based on harmful and unfounded stereotypes about medical conditions," said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry. "Such stereotyping not only occurs at the application stage but also occurs when an employee's disability is revealed during employment."
Konrad Batog, the trial attorney assigned to the case said, "The EEOC is committed to ensuring that employees and applicants will be fairly assessed on their ability to do a job and not wrongfully excluded due to myths or misconceptions about medical conditions."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.