A former employee of Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. is claiming that the giant retailer forced her to quit her job at a store in Westbrook, Maine by failing to make an accommodation in her schedule for a chronic medical condition. The former employee, Pamela Manning, suffers from diabetes. The lawsuit, filed on her behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in August, alleges that she endured significant health complications when Kohl’s switched her from a long-running regular schedule to an irregular one. She states that she notified the company multiple times that she needed a regular schedule, even bringing a doctor’s note explaining that she needed to work regular hours to avoid serious, possibly fatal, complications in her illness. She needed a routine schedule to allow time for her daily insulin injections. Her store manager allegedly laughed off her concerns and denied her request for a different work schedule. Kohl’s reportedly allowed scheduling accommodations for other employees for personal needs like day care. The suit argues that Kohl’s violated antidiscrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination or bias based on an employee’s disability.
Kohl’s has filed an answer in the lawsuit, denying that bias regarding her medical condition played any role in the store’s decisions. Kohl’s asserts that it had “legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reasons unrelated to [her] alleged disability” for the actions it and its employees took. Its answer acknowledges that the store manager changed her schedule in January 2010, but states that the company does not have enough information to form a belief as to the EEOC’s allegations regarding Manning’s health. The company further acknowledges receiving Manning’s doctor’s note, and it states that it made good faith efforts to accommodate her needs. Kohl’s argues that Manning’s demand for a regular schedule was not reasonable. and denies that the company acted with malice in any way.
The ADA applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. It prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s disability in recruiting, hiring, firing, training, promotions, job duties, and other essential workplace functions. Employees who believe an employer has unlawfully discriminated against them must file a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC will conduct an investigation into the employee’s allegations. In a handful of cases, the EEOC itself will pursue damages in court in the employee’s behalf. In most cases, an employee must get a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC before proceeding to lawsuits and litigation. The law allows for monetary penalties and sanctions against employers for violations.
New Yorkers can benefit from antidiscrimination laws at the state and local level. The New York City Human Rights Law protects employees in the city from workplace discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law offers protection at the state level.
New York employment discrimination law firm Phillips & Associates represents employees and job seekers who have suffered injury due to discrimination based on a medical condition or disability. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact the firm today.
Americans with Disabilities home page, U.S. Department of Justice
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws, U.S. Department of Justice, September 2005
New York State Division of Human Rights home page
New York City Human Rights Law, New York City Commission on Human Rights