Staples Cashier With Spina Bifida Alleges Discrimination

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

Staples the Office Superstore East Inc. is facing a lawsuit filed by a former cashier with a spinal defect who alleges that the retailer discriminated against him because of his disability ( Erickson v. Staples the Office Superstore East, Inc. , M.D. Pa., No. 17-00410, complaint filed 3/3/17 ).

Staples Inc. and its subsidiaries have defended only three other Americans with Disabilities Act employment bias lawsuits in federal courts over the past three years, according to Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics. Those were filed in Florida, New York and North Carolina. Only one of those cases, the New York one, remains pending.

In the current lawsuit, store management allegedly allowed Casey Erickson to use a stool or chair only on an intermittent basis, despite doctor’s notes requesting that he be allowed to sit at the cashier’s station. Erickson has spina bifida, a spinal defect that impairs his ability to walk or stand for long periods of time.

When Erickson missed about 10 days of work because of a hospital stay related to his disability, Staples allegedly demanded that he provide separate medical notes for each day of absence, according to the complaint, filed March 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Similar demands weren’t made of non-disabled workers, he claimed.

Erickson alleged that he was no longer scheduled for work after he complained to Staples human relations officials about the resistance to his accommodation requests and the doctor’s note requirements.

Erickson brought disability bias claims against Staples under the ADA and Pennsylvania state law, including retaliation and failure to accommodate his disability through the use of a stool or use of leave.

A Staples spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA March 6 that the company doesn’t comment on legal topics.

Providing leave and other reasonable accommodations to disabled employees continues to be a hot topic in the area of disability discrimination law.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May issued guidance on the use of leave as a reasonable accommodation for a disabled worker. Granting leave as an accommodation is consistent with the purpose of the ADA “when it enables an employee to return to work following the period of leave,” the EEOC said. However, a company isn’t required to leave a job open indefinitely.

Representatives of Erickson didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s March 6 requests for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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