Jonesboro Supermarket Refused to Accommodate Disabled Employee and Unlawfully Fired Him, Federal Agency Charged
Cincinnati-based national grocery store chain Kroger will pay $40,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit out of Georgia filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Monday.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Kroger offered Michael Haugabrook a courtesy clerk position at its Jonesboro, Ga., store on or about March 15, 2016. Haugabrook accepted the position and was required to attend an orientation session on March 23. Due to his visual impairment, Haugabrook requested an accommodation to complete the computer-based portion of the orientation. Kroger’s management refused to accommodate him. While Haugabrook was completing the computer assessment, he was summoned to the store manager’s office where he was immediately fired, the EEOC said.
Refusing to accommodate an employee and terminating him based on assumptions about his disability violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (EEOC v. The Kroger Co., Case No. 1:18-cv-03095-WMR-AJB) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $40,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit requires Kroger to make significant changes to its new-hire process, including but not limited to providing employees with vision disabilities access to tools and resources such as magnification for its computer-based and written onboarding and training programs. To prevent similar discrimination against future vision-impaired employees, Kroger will educate its workforce on disability discrimination via training at its Jonesboro location. For the decree’s duration, Kroger will post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and report to the EEOC all employee requests for an accommodation under the ADA.
“All too often we see individuals with disabilities who are detrimentally impacted by assumptions and stereotypes in the workplace,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “This settlement will assist the company in complying with the ADA by fully understanding its protections for workers with disabilities and the company’s responsibility to engage in an interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations.”
Darrell Graham, acting district director of the Atlanta office, added, “Discrimination against people with disabilities continues to be a serious and pervasive problem. Kroger’s agreement to provide resources for employees and applicants with vision impairments, as well as implement changes in its policies, shows its commitment to making the workplace accessible to all.”
This is a press release from the EEOC.