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April 14, 2014 • joedolson

An optical store in Farmington Hills, Mich., will pay $53,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the entity denied an optician’s request for the reasonable accommodation to bring her service dog to work because of her generalized anxiety disorder. The dog alerted her to oncoming panic attacks, helped alleviate symptoms during a panic attack, and could also do other tasks, such as retrieve small objects, retrieve her medical bag and guide her to an exit. The suit further alleges that after the company denied the request it began disciplining and ultimately discharged the employee because of her disability and in retaliation for her request. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Direct Optical, Inc., 2:13-cv-14926) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In the consent decree settling the suit, the company agreed to pay $53,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, company agreed to a permanent anti-discrimination injunction; employee training; ADA policy changes; notice posting; and reporting to the EEOC for three years. The injunction, training, policy revisions and EEOC monitoring constitute targeted equitable relief that aims to prevent similar violations in the future. As detailed in its Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2012-2016, the EEOC has made obtaining targeted, equitable relief one of its top priorities.

“This is a favorable resolution for everyone,” explained EEOC Trial Attorney Lauren Gibbs Burstein. “We appreciate that Direct Optical worked with us to resolve this case before we had to engage in lengthy discovery and litigation proceedings.”

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