Hair Salon Refused to Accommodate Stylist's Claustrophobia, Agency Charged
MIDLAND, Texas - Minnesota-based Regis Corporation, doing business as SmartStyle, will pay $60,000 in damages and back pay to former hair stylist Nora Jacquez to settle a federal disability discrimination suit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to EEOC, Regis denied Jacquez an accommodation for her claustrophobia and then fired her. EEOC said Jacquez was hired as a hair stylist in January 2014 at the company's Midland location. Due to her claustrophobia, Jacquez could not work at a salon station if it was in a confined space located between others. Although at first she was assigned to a more open station at the salon, the company later moved her to work between other stylists. Despite repeated requests to continue working in her original spot, Regis refused to move her back to a station that would allow her to not feel claustrophobic and increase the potential for episodic anxiety attacks. This decision by Regis resulted in a physical reaction that sent Jacquez to the hospital emergency room for treatment for her claustrophobia. EEOC also claimed when Jacquez needed two months off from work to undergo medical treatment, the company failed to follow through to assist her with the necessary paperwork for medical leave and fired her.
The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") prohibits disability discrimination, including denying an employee a reasonable accommodation, in the workplace. EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 7:15-cv-00160-XR) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief, the two year consent decree requires substantial injunctive relief, including conducting annual ADA training for the district leader, all salon managers, and hair stylists at Regis salons in Midland, Odessa, and Big Spring. The company will post a notice regarding disability discrimination, and describe the reporting procedure for employees who believe they have been discriminated against on the job.
"This settlement is an important reminder to employers of their obligation to comply with the ADA and ensure that employees who need a reasonable accommodation will receive the protections and opportunities available to them under federal law," said EEOC senior trial attorney Devika Seth.
EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino said, "Claustrophobia is a serious matter. When we discovered management refused to give this employee some space, our investigation closed in on what amounted to intolerance by management. The consent decree provides an avenue for the employer to change its approach and communicate its commitment to its employees with disabilities."
SmartStyle is owned by Regis Corporation, which operates salons worldwide under the trade names SmartStyle, Supercuts, Regis Salons, Mastercuts, and Sassoon Salon. According to the company website, Regis owns, franchises, or has ownership interest in over 10,000 locations worldwide and the SmartStyle salon chain has over 2,500 locations in 49 states.
EEOC's Dallas District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in northern Texas and parts of New Mexico.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.