UPDATE: Sept. 26, 2019: In a statement emailed to HR Dive, a spokesperson for PacSun said the company has "zero tolerance" for discrimination. "We are committed to treating all customers and employees with dignity and respect, and have a longstanding history of being an employer of choice for people with disabilities," the spokesperson said. "We are pleased to have resolved this matter."
- Specialty retailer Pacific Sunwear of California, also known as PacSun, will pay $85,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency said in a statement.
- PacSun violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when a store manager at a now-closed location in St. Augustine, Florida, told an applicant who requires a wheelchair that the store was not hiring, even though the same manager had told applicants without disabilities the store was hiring within the same time frame, EEOC alleged. "The manager saw an applicant who was in a wheelchair and made a rushed determination that the person could not be qualified for the position for which he was applying," Robert Adler, trial attorney for EEOC, told HR Dive in an interview.
- In addition to monetary relief, the settlement will provide injunctive relief including training for regional HR managers, store managers, district managers and regional managers with any responsibility for PacSun stores located within 100 miles of the location at which the incident occurred, according to a copy of the settlement shared with HR Dive.
The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against applicants and employees based on a disability. The law also prohibits the use of "qualification standards, employment tests or other selection criteria" that may screen out or tend to screen out applicants or employees who have disabilities, unless such criteria are job-related for a particular position and consistent with the needs of the business.
For example, a trucking company agreed in August to settle EEOC allegations that it improperly discriminated against three applicants by requiring them to take assessments requiring them to balance and stand on one leg, among other things. The assessment was used to screen out job candidates with pre-existing injuries or conditions who had been given conditional offers of employment, despite the fact that the applicants had been given medical certifications by the U.S. Department of Transportation authorizing them to drive trucks, EEOC said.
Employers are also required by the ADA to provide workers with disabilities reasonable accommodations, unless the accommodations would cause them undue hardship. This is commonly achieved via an interactive process, but employers frequently trip up in their execution of this process, experts have previously told HR Dive. Inadequate training and even resistance to the process itself from managers may prove a problem to employers looking to ensure compliance.
PacSun managers will be required to undergo the interactive process with applicants who are unable to ambulate or who use a wheelchair, Adler said. The training outlined in the settlement will include instructions on how to respond to a request for reasonable accommodation and guidance on how to address a concern about an applicant's or employee's ability to perform a job, among other elements.