Kmart Will Pay Complainant $102,048 and Change its Hiring Practices In Response to Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

When Lorenzo Cook was offered a position at Kmart‘s Hyattsville, Md. store, he told the hiring manager that he would not be able to provide a urine sample as part of the company’s pre-employment drug screening because of his end stage renal disease and dialysis. He requested a reasonable accommodation, some alternative method of testing such as a blood or hair test. Kmart refused any such accommodation and ultimately communicated to him their refusal to allow him to take any drug screening test other than a urine test. Mr. Cook then sued the company for discriminating against him on the basis of his disability, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took up his cause.

On January 22, 2015, Judge George J. Hazel of the District of Maryland issued a Consent Decree approving a proposed settlement of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Kmart Corporation et al. Under the agreement, Cook would receive $102,048, representing his lost wages and benefits from the Customer Service Associate position he was denied in early 2010. Mr. Cook was also awarded extensive non-monetary relief: Kmart must provide reasonable accommodation to applicants in Cook’s situation, provide training to managers and employees regarding ADA complaince, change its policies regarding hiring and drug testing procedures, post applicants’ and employees’ rights in public places.

The interesting kernel of this court decision, the reason the EEOC selected this case for its symbolic value, is that the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to persons with disabilities, or perceived disabilities, in all stages and areas of employment including the application and interview process. This was a relatively straightforward case of an employer who had several reasonable accommodations available, but chose not to provide any of those accommodations despite having no good reason for failing to do so.

EEOC Philedelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. sums up the point that the Commission was trying to make with this case: “This case demonstrates that the consequences of failing to comply with the ADA can be far more expensive than the actual cost of providing a reasonable accommodation.”

If you believe an employer has discriminated against you on the basis of a disability or perceived disability, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.