Safeway Store Must Re-Hire, Accommodate Disabled Worker Under Terms of ADA Settlement

Had a Safeway store in Westminster, Md., done a little bit more to accommodate an employee with a lifting restriction, maybe it would have avoided being sued for disability discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And the $27,000 settlement that ensued–and the other court-imposed conditions that attached.

According to the suit, Patricia Bonds worked as a food clerk at Safeway’s Westminster, Md., store when she sustained a work-related injury that substantially limited her in her lifting ability. Although Safeway initially accommodated Bonds’ disability by reassigning her to work at the customer service desk, the store abruptly placed her on indefinite unpaid leave, claiming that she had exhausted her time limits for modified duty. EEOC charged that Safeway refused to observe its legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation and then unlawfully fired Bonds because of her disability.

In addition to the $27,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Safeway to rehire Bonds with her continued seniority status and to provide her with a hand scanner or other reasonable accommodation to allow her to perform the food clerk job duties.

An accommodation would have been less costly for the company.

As was pointed out in the settlement announcement, acording to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, a high percentage (59%) of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500. Available resources to learn about reasonable accommodations include http://askjan.org and www.eeoc.gov.

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