EEOC Lawsuit Accuses Big Lots Store in W. Va. of Harassment of Employees With Disabilities

The Big Lots store in Elkins, West Virginia is inhospitable to workers with disabilities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In this Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed yesterday, the EEOC charges that a retail employee with hearing and speech disabilities was subjected to harassment by her co-workers at Big Lots’ Elkins, W.V., store.

Co-workers often mocked the employee’s hearing disability and manner of speech, and frequently used derogatory and highly offensive terms in reference to her and her disabilities.

Numerous Big Lots officials were aware of the long-standing pattern of disability harassment taking place at their store but failed to take appropriate action to end the harassment and prevent it from recurring, the EEOC asserts. Additionally, the EEOC charges that Big Lots refused to select the employee with disabilities for several vacant jobs that she sought at the store because of her disabilities and in retaliation for her reporting of the harassment to company officials and to the EEOC.

Further, the EEOC’s lawsuit also charges that Big Lots subjected a department manager without disabilities at the Elkins store to discrimination and retaliation by changing her work schedule and withdrawing its permission for her to hold outside employment with the U.S. Postal Service, thereby forcing her to quit in order to save her Postal Service career. The EEOC says that Big Lots punished the department manager because of her long-term association with the harassment victim and in retaliation for her opposition to discrimination, such as her efforts to protect her co-worker from harassment by reporting the hostile work environment to Big Lots management officials and human resources. Big Lots officials also subjected both the harassed employee and the department manager to intimidation, threats, coercion, and interference with their exercise and enjoyment of rights protected by federal anti-discrimination law, according to EEOC’s lawsuit.

For a refresher on disability and harassment from the EEOC, click here.

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