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Rite-Aid, ex-worker settle disability lawsuit for $250K

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The Camp Hill-based Rite-Aid drug store chain will pay $250,000 to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation complaint filed by an epileptic former worker at one of its Maryland facilities.

Christopher worked as a pharmacy order picker at Rite-Aid’s Mid-Atlantic Customer Service Center in Perryman, Md. The EEOC sued the chain on Christopher’s behalf in 2008 after he claimed the company denied him a promotion because of his epilepsy.

After investigating, the EEOC concluded discrimination most likely occurred. According to a subsequent filing, Rite-Aid then retaliated against Christopher by requiring him to submit to a fitness-for-duty examination before he could return to his position. The doctor—whom Christopher alleges had never before treated anyone with epilepsy—recommended termination and the company agreed.

In court, Rite-Aid asserted that epilepsy was not a disability under the ADA, and that the company did not “regard” Christopher as disabled.

The company also argued that Christopher was a direct threat to himself and others. In one case, the company claimed he had a seizure while driving a forklift and narrowly missed hitting another employee before crashing into some pallets. During another seizure, he allegedly grabbed a co-worker’s hair and wouldn’t let go even as she was screaming. Another time, Christopher allegedly pinched a co-worker’s breast during a seizure. Twice he had seizures at work that required trips to the hospital via ambulance.

Rite-Aid claimed it tried to accommodate Christopher, allowing him to continue working even though he could not perform essential elements of his job—driving a forklift and walking up to the second floor in the building where he worked.

In November 2010, a federal judge ordered a trial, noting it was not clear whether Rite-Aid regarded Christopher as disabled when it placed him on administrative leave, and that co-workers did not regard him as dangerous.

The case went to trial this year, but just before a jury was to begin deliberations, Rite-Aid and Christopher struck a settlement deal. In addition to paying Christopher, the company agreed to revise its ADA policies and provide ADA training for managers.

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