SEATTLE–An Idaho-based convenience store chain, Jacksons Food Stores, Incorporated, will pay $88,000 and hire a deaf worker as well as provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said.
The EEOC lawsuit charged that Jacksons refused to interview Nathaniel Prugh because of his deafness. After applying online for a position at the company’s Sammamish, Wash., store, Prugh was selected for an interview based on his qualifications and experience working similar jobs. However, once he explained that he was deaf and would need an interpreter, the store manager balked and refused to give him that opportunity, the EEOC said.
Rejecting a qualified applicant because of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Jacksons Food Stores, Inc., Case No. 2:17-CV-01285) after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Elizabeth Kidd and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“My being deaf does not prevent me from being a qualified worker with much to contribute,” said Prugh. “I’m excited to show Jacksons what a valuable contribution I can make to its team.”
The five-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides Prugh with a job and $88,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages. The decree also requires Jacksons to train staff regarding hiring and reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The company will also implement and disseminate a modified ADA policy, and will post a notice for employees about the consent decree and their rights under the ADA.
“Congress enacted the ADA to ensure that employers evaluate candidates based on individual merit rather than assumptions about what people with disabilities can or cannot do,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che. “This settlement helps ensure that qualified workers like Mr. Prugh have a level playing field and can participate in the workforce to their fullest ability.”
Nancy Sienko, director for the Seattle Field Office, added, “We are very pleased with the outcome of this lawsuit. We commend Jacksons for its commitment to its obligations under the law and for working with the EEOC and Mr. Prugh to provide him the opportunity he deserves.”
According to its website, Jacksons Foods is one of the largest privately held corporations in Idaho, operating over 230 Chevron-, Shell-, and Texaco-branded convenience stores in six Western states, with over 3,000 employees.