U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Kiosk Manager Fired Because of Orthopedic Disability, Federal Agency Charged
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Zale Delaware, Inc., dba Piercing Pagoda, a jewelry retailer based in Irving, Texas, will pay $30,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Piercing Pagoda violated federal law by firing Rose Gravel because of her disability. Gravel was employed as a manager at a Piercing Pagoda kiosk in Greenville, N.C., beginning in May 2010. Gravel has degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia, which cause chronic pain. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, on April 26, 2013, Gravel told Piercing Pagoda she needed to sit for 15 minutes of each hour as an accommodation for her disability. Before requesting an accommodation, Gravel had been out of work on medical leave related to her disability. Gravel was cleared by her doctor to return to work with the restriction that she should take sitting breaks within the work day. Piercing Pagoda refused Gravel's request and insisted that she stand her entire work shift. Piercing Pagoda then fired Gravel instead of allowing her the requested accommodation.
Refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation to a person with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unless it causes an undue hardship for the employer. EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Zale Delaware, Inc., Civil Action No. 4:15-cv-00149-D in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Eastern Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process.
In addition to providing monetary relief to Gravel, Zale entered into a two-year consent decree requiring, among other things, that it conduct annual training for its Piercing Pagoda human resource business partners, regional managers and district managers on the ADA and its requirement that employers make reasonable accommodations for qualified persons with disabilities. Zale must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit at its Piercing Pagoda kiosk locations in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions, as well as provide periodic reports to the EEOC concerning certain employee accommodation requests.
"The need for an assistive device such as a stool should not disqualify anyone from a job," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "When a qualified employee with a disability is ready and willing to work, the employer has a legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation to make that employment possible unless the employer can show undue hardship - which EEOC contends was not present in this case."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.