Grocery Store Chain Settles Claims of Discrimination Based on Failure to
Hire Deaf Applicants, Federal Agency Charged
SFM, LLC, doing business as Sprouts Farmers Market — which operates grocery stores in Colorado and other states — will pay $280,000 to three Deaf injured parties and provide other significant relief to settle lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Raymond Clark, the federal agency announced today. The lawsuits charged that Sprouts denied employment to applicants because of their disabilities and that Sprouts denied them reasonable accommodation in the application and hiring process.
According to the lawsuits filed by the EEOC and Clark, after Sprouts managers contacted the applicants to interview them for available positions in Colorado, the applicants requested the assistance of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for their interviews. The EEOC alleged Sprouts managers failed to make any arrangements for ASL interpreters and ignored the applicants when they followed up about their requests for an accommodation and the interviews.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Civil Action No. !:21-cv-02600 NYW, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process and continued negotiations prior to filing suit. Clark joined in the EEOC’s lawsuit, which sought relief for the other two charging parties, and was represented by his own attorney. Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, Sprouts will pay a total of $280,000 to resolve the claims in these lawsuits. The decree enjoins Sprouts from engaging in discrimination based on disability in the future; requires that Sprouts review and revise its ADA policies; adopt written guidance on reasonable accommodations; and provide ADA training. Sprouts will also send a letter of apology to each of the charging parties.
“We appreciate Sprout’s agreement to resolve this case without protracted litigation,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “This consent decree compensates the charging parties, and it will help build policies and practices that will ensure Sprouts affords equal employment opportunities to Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, including by providing reasonable accommodations during the hiring process and throughout the course of employment.”
Field Director Amy Burkholder of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office said, “Deaf and hard-of-hearing people face barriers to employment not encountered by other applicants and employees. This settlement highlights the EEOC’s commitment to breaking down those barriers and ensuring Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are afforded equal employment opportunities.”
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