Salvation Army Refuses To Hire Man With Intellectual Disability: EEOC

Salvation Army, Christmas Music

Say it ain’t so!  Not the Salvation Army!

Alas, it is so.  The EEOC has just sued a Salvation Army thrift store in Wasilla, Alaska (I think I can see it from my roof!), for allegedly refusing to hire an otherwise qualified young man for an entry-level job accepting and sorting goods because he has an intellectual disability.  The EEOC says that he was rejected because of “stereotypes about his ability to interact with the public.”

“Fears, biases or stereotypes” against people with disabilities is at the core of many lawsuits filed by the EEOC under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).   One EEOC attorney said last year that “It’s not only bad business to forgo hiring a qualified employee simply because of fears, biases or stereotypes against people with disabilities, it’s also a violation of the law.”

Said another EEOC attorney a year ago: “People with disabilities have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Providing equal employment opportunities to all job applicants – including those with disabilities – is not just the law, it is good for our economy and our workplaces.”

Takeaway:  As I have commented before, the ADA provides that an employer must engage in an “interactive process” with an otherwise qualified employee (or applicant) who is claiming a disability, towards the end that a reasonable accommodation is provided.  That is, it must engage in meaningful discussions as to the proposed accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual.   The EEOC, and the courts, have consistently held that an employer has an “affirmative duty” to engage in this interactive process with the applicant or employee.

PS:  Please don’t make me keep repeating that this kind of lawsuit is “low hanging fruit” to the EEOC.  As a regional director of the EEOC said some time ago (about an ADA suit against a medical facility), it is “ironic when a hospital, which is dedicated to caring for the health of its patients, ignores the medical concerns of an employee, refuses to even discuss providing a needed workplace modification, and instead fires him because of his disability.”

The same would appear true for the Salvation Army.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]