Optical Store Denied Employee's Request to Bring Her Service Dog to Work, Then Fired Her in Retaliation, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit today against Direct Optical, Inc., a Michigan eyewear retailer, for discriminating against an optician because of her disabilities.
In its suit, the EEOC charged that Direct Optical discriminated against Laurel Miller because of her disabilities -- generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder -- when it denied her request to use her service dog at work. The complaint further alleges that Direct Optical fired Miller because of her disability (including for minor performance issues that her service dog could have prevented), and in retaliation for her accommodation request.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Direct Optical Inc., Civil Action No. 2:13-cv-14926) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division after first attempting to reach a pre- litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Direct Optical from discriminating against other employees with disabilities; equitable relief that provides equal opportunities for qualified employees with disabilities; lost wages; compensatory and punitive damages; and other affirmative relief for Miller.
EEOC Detroit Field Office Trial Attorney Lauren Burstein said, "The EEOC works to protect employees with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs. The EEOC's investigation showed that this employer not only denied Miller's request for an accommodation, but then fired her - only making a bad situation worse. The EEOC will stand up for the rights of such discrimination victims."
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees because of disability. The statute also affirmatively requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of their jobs. The ADA also protects employees who assert their rights under the law from retaliatory action.
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of the six national priorities identified by the agency's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
Direct Optical has locations in Farmington Hills and Canton, Mich. It sells frames and lenses for prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses.
The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio. The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov.