EEOC Said Store Refused to Reasonably Accommodate Disabled Worker's Use of Wheelchair; Consent Decree Also Provides Significant Injunctive Relief
MINNEAPOLIS – The EEOC announced today that Chief Judge Michael J. Davis has approved and directed the clerk of court to enter a consent decree resolving an EEOC lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) against Hob-Lob, Limited Partnership, which does business as Hobby Lobby. In the lawsuit, the EEOC contended that Hobby Lobby refused to allow an employee with mobility limitations to perform her job while in a wheelchair.
The EEOC charged that Hobby Lobby prohibited Julie Tufts, an employee in its Rochester, Minn.-based store, to use her wheelchair when performing her job and failed to accommodate her inability to climb ladders. Therefore, Tufts was unable to continue to work at Hobby Lobby due to the alleged discrimination and was discharged because she could not come back to work without use of the wheelchair.
In resolution of the suit, Hobby Lobby will pay $35,000 into a supplemental needs trust account established for Tufts. The decree also includes substantial equitable relief, including injunctions against discrimination and retaliation. Further, the company will revise its internal policies to clarify that persons with temporary impairments of a sufficient duration can be considered as persons with disabilities; update its employee handbooks; conduct training on the ADA; and post a notice to employees about the resolution of the suit in its Rochester store. The EEOC will monitor Hobby Lobby’s compliance with the decree for 30 months.
“This case might never have arisen if Hobby Lobby had clear policies to guide its management and human resources employees in determining whether to provide reasonable accommodations to employees whose impairments are long-lasting but not necessarily permanent,” said EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson of the agency’s Chicago District. “One of the most important provisions in the consent decree, therefore, is the requirement that Hobby Lobby revise its policies to clarify its obligations.”
Hobby Lobby is a national chain of gift and hobby stores. The EEOC suit, captioned EEOC v. Hob-Lob Limited Partnership, d/b/a Hobby Lobby (Civ. No. 08-05240 MJD/JJG), was filed September 22, 2007, in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and conducting agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.