Hobby Lobby is currently facing a lawsuit that was filed against them after a former employee claimed losing her job was a direct result of their refusal to allow her to use her service dog during shifts.
After being told that her service dog was no longer welcome at work, she stopped showing up. Because of that, she was fired. But now, legal action has been taken against them on her behalf.
While she was working at a Hobby Lobby in Olathe, Kansas, an employee was told her service dog was no longer allowed to accompany her. The manager maintained that the dog was a hazard and that she was no longer permitted to bring the dog to work.
But since she is someone who relies on the help of her service dog to enable her to cope with multiple conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she wasn’t comfortable working without her pup.
The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and claims that by not accommodating the needs of the employee and allowing her to bring her service dog to work, Hobby Lobby violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
This law, which was enacted in 1990 in order to establish equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities, also offers explicit protection for service animals.
“Employers must not reject service animals, or any other reasonable accommodation, based on stereotypes or assumptions regarding the safety or effectiveness of the accommodation,” sayd David Davis, the acting director of the EEOC’s regional office in St. Louis.
The ADA requires that U.S. employers make accommodations for workers with disabilities. So, the suit claims that she was unlawfully terminated because of the use of a service animal. She only stopped showing up to work since her service dog, that helps her cope with her conditions, was no longer permitted on the premises.
Service dogs are protected under this law unless they are out of control and pose a safety risk to others. So, for the judge to rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor, they will have to prove that her service dog posed such a threat.
“Due to identified safety hazards and the overall nature of the business, [the employee] may not utilize a service animal while cashiering or unloading freight and stocking,” stated a letter sent to the employee.
Hobby Lobby’s HR specialist cited multiple risks, including the possibility of broken merchandise, potentially tripping guests as they navigate the store, and/or inducing allergic reactions.
However, the EEOC advocated for the employee, pointing out the fact that Hobby Lobby allows customers to bring their own service animals into their stores. Wouldn’t they technically pose the same threat?
The main goals of the lawsuit are for Hobby Lobby to change their policy and allow their employees to use their service dogs while working, along with calling for the company to pay the employee damages and rehire her as a cashier.
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