Breaks as a Disability Discrimination Accommodation

     The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a lawsuit against The Hershey Company alleging that the company refused to accommodate and then terminated an employee with a disability.  The EEOC’s lawsuit claims that Hershey became aware that its employee Kristina Williams had herniated discs and lifting restrictions around the time that she was hired in 2011 as a part-time retail sales merchandiser.  Around 2015, Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and took a medical leave of absence.  Williams requested flexibility to adjust her daily break from one large break into smaller breaks throughout the day, which would allow her to meet her lifting restrictions.  Instead of granting the accommodation, Hershey did not allow Williams to return to work, which resulted in an effective three-month suspension.  Subsequently, Hershey denied Williams’ request for accommodation and terminated her employment.  The EEOC alleges that this conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who suffer from a disability.  See EEOC v. Hershey Company, No. 2:17-cv-01092 (W.D. Wash.).    

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