The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed two lawsuits in Texas against two companies the EEOC says discriminated against employees with disabilities that rendered them vulnerable to serious illness if they contracted COVID-19, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the suit against U.S. Drug Mart dba Fabens Pharmacy, the EEOC alleges that the pharmacy discriminated against a pharmacy technician with asthma who asked to wear a facemask at work as an accommodation immediately following the COVID outbreak to help protect him from the virus. The EEOC alleges the technician was harassed because he requested this accommodation, was sent home twice when he asked to wear a mask and was taunted and humiliated for questioning management’s policy prohibiting masks. The EEOC further alleges this behavior led the employee to quit. The lawsuit alleges the pharmacy technician informed the company of his asthma and frequently used his inhaler at work. After the COVID outbreak, the employee asked his supervisor if he could wear a mask at work because of his susceptibility to the virus but was told no employee was allowed to wear a facemask since it might give the appearance to customers that the employee was sick. After the employee pressed that he needed to wear a mask because of his asthma, his supervisor gave him two options: stay at work without a mask or clock out. The next day, when the employee again asked to wear a mask, the Lead Pharmacy Tech sent him home. A few days later, he was scheduled to work again. He again asked to wear a facemask, again explained his concerns about the virus and his asthma, but in response was threatened by the Pharmacist-in-Charge (PIC) with termination multiple times, called a “disrespectful, stupid little kid,” and was told if it were up to the PIC, the PIC would “fire his ass” and that the technician’s only option would be to quit. The employee felt he had no option but to resign. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. U.S. Drug Mart, Inc., No. 3:21-cv-00232 (W.D. Tex. filed Sept. 24, 2021). In its suit against 151 Coffee, LLC in Ft. Worth, the EEOC alleges the company denied reasonable accommodations to two baristas with disabilities and unlawfully terminated their employment. When 151 Coffee reopened its stores after closing them at the beginning of the pandemic, one employee who had multiple sclerosis asked to return work but have minimal contact with employees. Another employee, who had pulmonary valve stenosis, asked to not work the drive-thru window or as a drink runner, and asked to be given preference for assignment in other areas of the store because her disorder classified her as high risk with respect to COVID. The company told both employees they could not return to work until a COVID vaccine was developed even though they were ready and willing to work, and then terminated their employment. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n v. 151 Coffee, LLC, No. 4:21-cv-01081 (N.D. Tex. filed Sept. 24, 2021). What this means to you: Ensure your managers understand how to handle accommodation requests, including with respect to COVID-19, and that they are trained to avoid retaliating against employees who request accommodations or question employer policies. To learn about our Managing Within the Law program or to book a workshop, please call 800-458-2778 or email us. Updated 10-04-2021 Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.