EEOC Sues Recreation Lobby Over Disability Discrimination | United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Company refused to allow service dog as reasonable accommodation, federal agency charges

ST. LOUIS — Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a national arts and crafts retailer, violated federal law by refusing to reasonably accommodate a cashier at its Olathe, Kansas store by allowing her to use a service dog, then firing her because of her disabilities, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the lawsuit, the employee informed her manager that she needed to bring her fully trained service dog to work to help her overcome symptoms caused by PTSD, anxiety and depression. The company’s human resources representative met with the employee to discuss her request, but concluded that the dog would present a safety issue because a co-worker or customer might be allergic or trip over the dog, or the dog might break something. Even though Hobby Lobby allows customers to bring service dogs and other dogs to Olathe’s store, officials were unwilling to allow the employee’s service dog in the store to see s there was a real security problem. Hobby Lobby eventually fired the employee when she couldn’t work without her service dog.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:22-cv-02258) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its conciliation process. . The EEOC seeks back wages, compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement of the employee, and an injunction to prevent future discrimination.

“Millions of Americans are productive, successful workers despite mental health issues that can be debilitating,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “The ADA guarantees equal employment opportunity for these people, including those who are assisted by service animals.”

David Davis, Acting Director of the EEOC’s St Louis District Office, added, “Service animals help people with many types of disabilities – from impaired vision and mobility to seizure disorders and mental health issues – to live and work independently Employers should not reject service animals, or other reasonable accommodations, based on stereotypes or assumptions about the safety or effectiveness of accommodation.”

According to the company’s website, Hobby Lobby is the world’s largest privately owned arts and crafts retailer, with more than 43,000 employees working in more than 900 stores in forty-seven states.

For more information on disability discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/disability-discrimination.

The St. Louis District Office of the EEOC oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and part of southern Illinois.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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