When Good Organizations do Bad – Salvation Army Refused to Hire Qualified Applicant at Wasilla Store Due to His Intellectual Disability
According to the EEOC’s suit, the Salvation Army, a global humanitarian organization, refused to hire Eric Yanusz as a donation attendant, an entry-level position, at its Wasilla, Alaska thrift store. The position required no prior experience and involved accepting and sorting donated clothing, furniture and household goods. Yanusz, who has an intellectual disability, had completed high school and a follow-up job readiness program, finished three internships at medical centers, and held a part-time job at a local church by the time he applied for the attendant position in spring 2014.
After a successful first interview, the EEOC found that Salvation Army imposed a highly unusual second interview on Yanusz and ultimately rejected him due to unfounded concerns about his ability to interact with the public.
“I wanted to have a job and make money like everyone else,” said Yanusz. “I felt really good after my interview and thought I got the job.”
His mother, LuAnn Yanusz, added, “Eric was embarking on a new chapter in his life where the focus was on what he could do, rather than on his limitations. It was a big blow for him when he was rejected due to unfounded fears about his disability.”
Failing to hire a person based on disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska at Anchorage (Case No. 3:16-cv-00240-SLG) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Yanusz was also represented by private counsel, Joanna Cahoon, from Disability Law Center of Alaska in Anchorage.
The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $55,000 to Yanusz in lost wages and compensatory damages. The decree also requires Salvation Army to train its corps officers and human resources personnel on hiring obligations and assessing reasonable accommodations under the ADA.
The Salvation Army will also implement and disseminate a modified ADA policy, and will post a notice for employees about the consent decree and employees’ rights under the ADA.
EEOC attorney May Che said, “The ADA was enacted to ensure that employers evaluate candidates based on individual merit rather than general stereotypes about what people with intellectual disabilities can or cannot do. This settlement helps ensure that all workers have a level playing field and can participate in the workforce to their fullest ability.”
Nancy Sienko, field director for the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office, commented, “We are very pleased with the outcome of this lawsuit. The changes that will be implemented as part of this settlement will go a long way in reaffirming The Salvation Army’s mission.”
According to publicly available information and its website, salvationarmyusa.org , the Salvation Army employs over 100,000 people and serves over 120 countries worldwide.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov