U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
EEOC Said Beloit Store Unlawfully Fired Worker Because of Back Condition
MINNEAPOLIS – A federal judge has approved a consent decree resolving a disability discrimination lawsuit against Woodman’s Food Market’s, Inc. filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. In its lawsuit, the EEOC contended that Woodman’s unlawfully fired employee because of her back condition.
The EEOC charged that a Woodman’s store in Beloit, Wis., terminated Kimberly McMillan-Goodwin, a long-term Woodman’s employee who worked as a clerk at its gas station, because she had a back condition that kept her from lifting more than ten pounds. The EEOC contended that McMillan-Goodwin had successfully worked in that position with the lifting restriction for many years. Woodman’s, however, placed McMillan-Goodwin on medical leave and then terminated her.
Disability discrimination violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. On August 11, 2011, Chief Judge William M. Conley of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin approved the decree ending the suit.
In resolution of the suit, Woodman’s will pay $35,000 to McMillan-Goodwin. The decree also includes substantial other relief, including injunctions against any further discrimination and retaliation. Further, the company will adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination based on disability; update its employee handbooks; conduct training on the ADA; and post a notice to employees about the resolution of the suit in all of its locations. The EEOC will monitor Woodman’s compliance with the decree for two years.
“This case might never have arisen if Woodman’s had had clear policies and training to guide its management and human resources employees on the requirements of the ADA,” said EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson of the agency’s Chicago District, which has jurisdiction over Wisconsin. “Among the most important provisions in the consent decree, therefore, are the requirements that Woodman’s adopt a policy to clarify its obligations and provide training to its management and human resources staff.”
According to the company’s website (www.woodmans-food.com), Woodman’s is an employee-owned corporation operating 13 grocery store locations in Wisconsin and Illinois. The EEOC suit, captioned EEOC v. Woodman’s Food Markets. Inc. (Civ. No. 10-cv-562-wmc), was filed September 28, 2010, in U.S. District Court in Madison.
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and conducting agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.