OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An arts and crafts retailer based in Oklahoma City will pay thousands of dollars following a disability discrimination lawsuit.
Hobby Lobby Stores will pay $50,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
According to the lawsuit, Hobby Lobby violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it failed to allow a part-time clerk to use her service dog on the job.
“Service animals provide critical assistance to individuals with a range of physical and mental disabilities,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “Allowing service animals into the workplace enables qualified workers to provide for themselves and their families and to productively contribute to their communities and the economy. And, with rare exceptions, it is the law.”
Officials say when the clerk sought permission to bring her service dog to the store, the manager asked her to provide medical documentation to support her request. The federal agency said she did that and also provided information at the request of corporate human resources.
However, the district manager and human resources decided the dog would present a safety issue, even though customers are allowed to bring service and pet dogs to the store.
Hobby Lobby ultimately fired the clerk when she said she could not work without her service dog.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of the District of Kansas, after attempting to reach a settlement.
The three-year consent decree requires Hobby Lobby to pay $50,000 in damages to the former clerk and to adopt and maintain policies to ensure future compliance with the ADA.
“The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to workers with disabilities which allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs and receive the same privileges and benefits of employment as other workers,” said David Davis, acting director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “Employers cannot reject service animals, or any other reasonable accommodation, based on unfounded assumptions regarding safety.”