Lifestyle Clothing Retailer Refuses to Hire Applicant in Wheelchair, Federal Agency Charges
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Pacific Sunwear of California (PacSun), a leading specialty retailer that sells casual apparel, accessories, and footwear designed to appeal to teens and young adults, violated federal law when it refused to consider an applicant in a wheelchair for a job, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, PacSun told John Sumner, a then 18-year-old student, that the store was not hiring when he applied for a position while in his wheelchair, and at the same time, told applicants without disabilities that it was looking to fill multiple positions. Although Sumner was qualified for the position, PacSun refused to give him a chance at the job, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00863-BJD-JRK) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"Employers must make hiring decisions based on an individual's qualifications rather than on generalizations, ignorance, patronizing attitudes or stereotypes," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. "PacSun could have saved itself a lot of trouble if it had simple inquired into Mr. Sumner's ability to do the job instead of lying to him based on its prejudices."
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, including exclusionary policies and practices towards people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). Addressing emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including qualification standards that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, is another SEP priority.
Michael Farrell, director of the EEOC's Miami District Office, said, "Federal law prohibits employers from treating job applicants with disabilities differently from any other applicant during the application process. Such conduct has been illegal since the ADA was first put into effect over 25 years ago, and the EEOC will enforce that law."
The EEOC's Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa and San Juan EEOC offices, and has jurisdiction over Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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.