Employer Denied Needed Bathroom Breaks to Worker with Bladder Condition, Federal Agency Charges
JUNEAU, Alaska - Club Demonstration Services, Inc. violated federal law when it refused to accommodate an employee in Juneau who required additional bathroom breaks due to a bladder condition and effectively terminated her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. Club Demonstration Services' sales advisors demonstrate products in Costco warehouses throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.
According to the EEOC's investigation, the employee began working in May 2016 as sales advisor at Costco Warehouse 107 in Juneau. In June 2017, her manager informed staff they were no longer permitted to use the bathroom except during the lunch break or scheduled 15-minute break. The employee, who has had a neurogenic bladder condition since 2015, promptly submitted a doctor's note requesting that she be allowed bathroom breaks as needed. Despite her consistent efforts to communicate her needs, Club Demonstration Services failed to engage in the interactive process required by law and repeatedly denied her requests, the EEOC said. After months of working through physical discomfort and humiliation, the employee submitted another doctor's note explaining that she could not continue working for CDS without more frequent restroom breaks.
Failure to accommodate a qualified employee with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers are expected to engage in an interactive process, a good-faith effort to discuss with the individual with a disability what may be an appropriate reasonable accommodation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for Alaska (EEOC v. Club Demonstration Services, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-7) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages and reinstatement for the worker and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.
"Maintaining an inflexible break policy at the expense of a worker with a medical need flies in the face of the ADA and its requirement that employers provide a reasonable accommodation," EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said. "Such blanket policies unnecessarily and unjustifiably force out qualified employees with disabilities."
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Amos Blackman added, "This worker went to great lengths to try to keep her job, enduring a lot of physical discomfort and humiliation while doing so. Club Demonstration Services could have easily accommodated her but instead dug in its heels. Her situation demonstrates how important it is for employers to engage in the interactive process to accommodate employees with disabilities."
According to its website, Club Demonstration Services is the preferred in-house event marketing provider to Costco, with over 31,000 associates worldwide, and has brand partners including ConAgra Foods, Duracell, Foster Farms, General Mills, Kellogg's, Pepsi, Tyson, Unilever and Kraft Foods. It is a subsidiary of Advantage Solutions.
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.