Jonesboro Kroger to pay employee $40K in EEOC settlement

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says a Jonesboro Kroger will pay a visually-impaired man who was hired, then fired during orientation because of his disability, $40,000.

JONESBORO — In the second federal disability discrimination settlement in Clayton County in recent weeks, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says a Kroger location in Jonesboro will pay $40,000 to a disabled employee after unlawfully firing him.

The EEOC filed suit on behalf of a visually-impaired man whom Kroger had offered a job as a courtesy clerk in March 2016. According to the suit, the man had accepted the position and asked for an accommodation to complete a computer-based task during orientation. Instead, he was called to the manager’s office during the session and fired on the spot, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the store manager saw the new hire, Michael Haugabrook, having trouble viewing the screen and called him into the office. The manager asked Haugabrook whether he had a visual impairment. When he responded yes, the store manager told Haugabrook that “he was being terminated because he posed a direct threat to the health and safety of others.”

The EEOC filed suit “after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.”

The consent decree also requires Kroger to change its hiring practices, “including but not limited to providing employees with vision disabilities access to tools and resources such as magnification for its computer-based and written onboarding and training programs.”

In addition, Kroger will train the location’s employees on disability discrimination and post a notice to employees about the lawsuit for the duration of the decree. Kroger also must report all employee requests for disability accommodation to the EEOC.

Neither Kroger nor the EEOC responded by press time to requests to clarify which Jonesboro location was affected. The chain operates two stores on Tara Boulevard.

“All too often we see individuals with disabilities who are detrimentally impacted by assumptions and stereotypes in the workplace,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “This settlement will assist the company in complying with the ADA by fully understanding its protections for workers with disabilities and the company’s responsibility to engage in an interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations.”

Darrell Graham, acting district director of the Atlanta office, added, “Discrimination against people with disabilities continues to be a serious and pervasive problem. Kroger’s agreement to provide resources for employees and applicants with vision impairments, as well as implement changes in its policies, shows its commitment to making the workplace accessible to all.”

In June, Value Village in Forest Park settled a case in which accommodations were refused to an employee who used an oxygen tank and was forced to quit her job.

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