Hobby Lobby illegally banned worker’s service dog, US agency claims


The seal of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seen in their office in Manhattan, New York City, US, September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Company allegedly barred Kansas worker’s dog and then fired her
  • Agency says Hobby Lobby violated federal disability law

(Reuters) – Hobby Lobby Stores Inc illegally fired a Kansas store clerk with post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions after barring her from bringing a service dog to work, the US Equal Employment Opportun Commission claimed in a lawsuit filed on Friday.

The EEOC, in a complaint filed in Kansas federal court, said a manager last year telling the worker, identified as SC, that the dog was a safety hazard and she could not have it in the store during her shifts, and fired her when she stopped coming to work.

The agency accused Hobby Lobby of violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to accommodate the worker and firing her on account of her disability.

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The ADA requires employers to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities unless they would create an undue hardship.

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

David Davis, the acting director of the EEOC’s regional office in St. Louis, Missouri, said service animals allow people with a range of disabilities to live and work independently.

“Employers must not reject service animals, or any other reasonable accommodation, based on stereotypes or assumptions regarding the safety or effectiveness of the accommodation,” he said.

According to the lawsuit, SC obtained a service dog to manage her PTSD, depression and anxiety in October 2020, a few weeks after she started working at a Hobby Lobby store in Olathe, Kansas.

The store manager told SC that someone could be allergic to or trip over the dog, or it could break merchandise. SC did not return to work and was fired for job abandonment, the EEOC said.

The commission is seeking to require Hobby Lobby to allow workers with disabilities to have service dogs and to pay money damages to SC and re-hire her.

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, US District Court for the District of Kansas, No. 2:22-cv-02258.

For the EEOC: Dayna Deck

For Hobby Lobby: Not available

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Daniel Wiessner

Thomson Reuters

Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.

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