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Retail chain to pay $8 million to resolve EEOC charges

A convenience store and gas station chain has entered into a nationwide agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to resolve disability, pregnancy and retaliation discrimination charges, according to the agency.

The agreement resolves multiple charges of discrimination filed against Circle K Stores Inc.  and related entities, ending an investigation in which the EEOC found that it had reasonable cause to believe Circle K denied reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and those with disabilities.

The agency found that the store subjected employees to involuntary unpaid leave, retaliation and terminations, and required employees be 100% healed to return to work.

The EEOC found that these actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Circle K will pay $8 million to resolve the matter, which includes a class fund to compensate affected employees and will cover impacted individuals employed at Circle K between July 10, 2009, and Sept. 26, 2022.

In addition, the company has agreed to update its policies, as needed; appoint a coordinator to provide oversight on pregnancy-related disability policies, requests for reasonable accommodations, and maintenance of records; conduct employee surveys and exit interviews with specific attention to the accommodation process; conduct anti-discrimination training for all employees, including management; and require that performance evaluations of managers include consideration of compliance with EEO laws.

The settlement is in effect for four years. The agreement was voluntarily entered into by Circle K and obtained through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

“Employers must ensure that all individuals with disabilities or those who are pregnant are given an opportunity to request an accommodation and are granted accommodations when required by law,” said Melinda Caraballo, acting district director of the EEOC Phoenix District Office, which handled the matter. “These accommodations can include actions such as additional leave beyond FMLA leave, modified work schedules, modified duties, modified policies, equipment, and reassignment, as a last resort.”

“When employers have rigid maximum leave policies with no flexibility to give additional leave for a disability or pregnancy-related reason, they are in serious danger of running afoul of the law,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the office. “Employers who don’t give current employees a reassignment to an open position after the employer decides there is no reasonable accommodation available in the current position are also in danger of violating the law.”

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