EEOC Files Disability Lawsuits in El Paso and Ft. Worth Based on COVID Related Discrimination

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DALLAS – The EEOC filed two lawsuits in Texas courts today, alleging that a pharmacy in Fabens and a coffeehouse in Ft. Worth both discriminated against employees with disabilities that rendered them vulnerable to serious illness if they contracted COVID-19. The two employers took different approaches to the virus, but both ran afoul of the ADA.

According to the EEOC’s suit against U.S. Drug Mart d/b/a Fabens Pharmacy, the pharmacy discriminated against a pharmacy technician with asthma who asked to wear a facemask at work as an accommodation of his disability immediately following the COVID-19 outbreak to help protect him from the virus. The employee was harassed because he requested this accommodation and was sent home twice when he asked to wear a mask, and then taunted and humiliated for questioning management’s policy prohibiting masks, leading him to quit, according to the suit.

The EEOC filed its suit, Civil Action No. 3:21-cv-00232, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

EEOC filed suit in Ft. Worth against 151 Coffee, LLC alleging that the company violated the ADA by denying reasonable accommodation to two baristas with disabilities and terminating their employment. According to the EEOC’s complaint, the employees were not allowed to return to work until a vaccine for COVID-19 was developed, even though they were ready and willing to work.

The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 4:21-cv-01081, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Ft. Worth Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

“The employers in this case took actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that had the effect of discriminating against disabled employees in violation of the ADA,” said Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney for the EEOC. “Employees cannot be refused the opportunity to work just because their employer believes it is protecting them from illness. Absent a direct threat to the safety of themselves or others, employers cannot deny employment opportunities based on disability.”   

Added Sr. Trial Attorney Joel Clark: “Employees with disabilities should not be subjected to harassment, threats and intimidation just because they asked for a reasonable accommodation. That violates the ADA.”

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.

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