Julie Tufts is feeling a bit more vindicated than she did before. Her employer, Hob Lob, LLC, operating under the name of Hobby Lobby, has been ordered by a judge to pay the fine as part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Hobby Lobby refused to allow Tufts to perform her work from a wheelchair.
Employed since 2005 with the company, Tufts injured herself on the job. She has a medical condition that causes diminished sensation in the legs and feet and she did not realize she’d torn tendons in her right foot. Her doctor instructed her to keep to a wheelchair and avoid any weight on that foot. Hobby Lobby’s response was to come back when she was healthy and any employee had to be able to climb ladders carrying 40 pounds. Her assurances that she was healthy and could perform work from her wheelchair fell on deaf ears After weekly, then monthly requests to be allowed to return to work she was officially fired a year later.
Along with the $35,000 fine, Hobby Lobby was ordered to conduct training on the Americans With Disabilities Act and post a resolution in the branch where Tufts had previously worked. They also had pay substantial equitable relief and have injunctions against retaliation and discrimination. Their employee handbook will have to be revised to include policies for treating those with temporary disabilities. Hobby Lobby is being monitored by the EEOC for 30 months to ensure their compliance.
Discrimination is illegal in Tennessee as well as all 50 states. An employer can’t fire someone for an injury suffered on the job or a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled workers from termination or discrimination.
If you have an employment law question, please feel free to contact our office.