A chain of convenience stores in the Pacific Northwest learned the hard way this week that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not a piece of legislation you want to mess around with.
Jacksons Food Stores, Inc. settled a lawsuit this week after Nathaniel Prugh, a job applicant who is deaf, was refused a job opportunity due to his disability.
Prugh had applied for the job online, with a resume of experience and qualifications for the position, and was granted an interview at the company’s Sammamish, Washington store. But when the Prugh explained to the store’s manager that he would require an interpreter to fulfill his would-be position, the store manager “balked and refused to give him that opportunity,” according to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The EEOC filed a lawsuit against the Idaho based chain of convenience stores, charging Jacksons with violating a qualified applicant due to their disability, which violates the ADA.
In accordance with the settlement and with the five year consent decree, Prugh was awarded $88,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages. Jacksons Foods has also agreed to train hiring staff on ADA policy and reasonable accommodation, as well as spreading information to their more than 3,000 employees regarding their ADA rights.
“My being deaf does not prevent me from being a qualified worker with much to contribute,” said Prugh. “I’m excited to show Jacksons what a valuable contribution I can make to its team.”
“Congress enacted the ADA to ensure that employers evaluate candidates based on individual merit rather than assumptions about what people with disabilities can or cannot do,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che. “This settlement helps ensure that qualified workers like Mr. Prugh have a level playing field and can participate in the workforce to their fullest ability.”
“We are very pleased with the outcome of this lawsuit,” says EEOC Seattle Field Office Director Nancy Sienko. “We commend Jacksons for its commitment to its obligations under the law and for working with the EEOC and Mr. Prugh to provide him the opportunity he deserves.”
Jacksons is no stranger to legal action from the EEOC. In 2017, just a few months after Mr. Prugh’s case had begun, the EEOC filed another lawsuit against Jacksons subsidiary Jackson Energy on behalf of Penny Wightman, an employee who was injured on the job and was subsequently forced into an unpaid leave.
For many people that are deaf, English is their second language. Reading is sometimes not fully comprehended and is much, much slower than using full sign language to actively engage in a conversation.
Writing notes back and forth or projected captioning are done in a second language, which a person may need more time to fully comprehend. Therefore, using sign language during a job review is critical.
Editors note: ABILTY Job Fair, sponsored by this magazine, has Sign Language interpreters included in it’s online career fair. Jacksons Food Stores it’s not too late to give it a whirl. Next Online Job Fair is October 25th —during the National Disability Employment Awareness Month.