EEOC: Bath & Body Works manager humiliated employee who requested accommodation
- Bath & Body Works violated federal law when it denied an employee's request for a larger monitor at the cash register, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has alleged in a lawsuit (EEOC v. Impressions Inc., No. 0:18-cv-02758 (D. Minn., Sept. 26, 2018)).
- Instead, the employee, who has a vision impairment related to diabetes, was sent home and had her hours reduced, EEOC said; the Minnesota store manager then "bought a cheap magnifying glass and humiliated [the employee] by presenting it to her in front of her co-workers."
- The commission said the employee contacted the HR department but it "did not try to provide the larger monitor." Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), EEOC said in a press release announcing the suit. Greg Gochanour, an EEOC regional attorney, said that "[e]mployers must give serious consideration when an employee requests an accommodation for a disability."
Employers are expected to engage in an interactive, good-faith process to look for accommodations and must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities unless doing so results in undue hardship for the employer.
An employer can demonstrate good faith in many ways, such as meeting with the employee, requesting information about the employee’s conditions and limitations and asking the employee what accommodation she believes will work.
If an employee is granted a reasonable accommodation, information about the accommodation cannot lawfully be disclosed, according to a guide from the Arizona Center for Disability Law. An employer cannot disclose information about an employee’s reasonable accommodation to co-workers because this usually amounts to a disclosure that the employee has a disability, it says. Supervisors can be looped in as needed, however. If asked why an employee is receiving "special treatment," employers can say "the law permits different treatment and requires confidentiality," the guide suggests. If supervisors would be uncomfortable speaking with such heavy-handed legal jargon, they can say "it's private information and I can't tell you," David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute's (NELI) ADA & Equal Employment Opportunity Services, told attendees at a recent conference. It's a harsh reply, Fram said, but it can protect employers from liability.
Managers also should be trained to properly respond to accommodation requests. Because an employer can be liable for failing to provide an accommodation if it knew or should have known that an employee needed something, managers need to know to listen for things that might not be an obvious request. Employees don't need to use any special words to trigger the ADA's protections.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act