It seems that (my local) Toys ‘R’ Us store has been sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the Complaint filed by the EEOC in the United States District Court for Maryland, Toys ‘R’ Us- Delaware, Inc. discriminated against a job applicant because she is deaf.

In October 2011, Shakirra Thomas (“Thomas”) applied for a job with Toys ‘R’ Us at their Columbia, Maryland location. Thomas communicates through sign language and writing and reads lips. She was asked to attend a “group interview” at the store but when she requested an interpreter she was told that she would have to provide one at her own expense. Accordingly she attended the interview with her mother, who interpreted for her. She was not hired.

The EEOC investigates, on an administrative basis, claims of discrimination such as Thomas’. In most cases at the conclusion of the investigation it issues a “right to sue” letter, which means that the EEOC itself will not prosecute the claim and permits the complainant to file a lawsuit. The failure of the EEOC to prosecute a case does not mean the case is not meritorious; many more complaints are filed than can be dealt with administratively.

When the EEOC does determine to prosecute an action, it usually means that it has found an employer’s conduct to be particularly egregious or widespread. The agency often seeks an injunction to forbid the employer from engaging in certain conduct in the future.

In Thomas’ case, the EEOC claims that Toys ‘R’ Us violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because it refused her a reasonable accommodation – an interpreter – during the hiring process, and because it did not hire her. The EEOC will have to establish that Thomas’ disability was the basis for the company’s failure to employ her, but again, the fact that the EEOC is prosecuting the claim suggests that strong evidence exists.

Toys ‘R’ Us has not yet responded to the complaint. I assume, though, that they will not argue that it would have been difficult to provide an interpreter, since the Columbia campus of the Maryland School for the Deaf is about ten minutes from the Toys ‘R’ Us store involved.

The case is Equal Opportunity Employment Commission v. Toys ‘R’ Us – Delaware, Inc., Case No. 1:13-cv-00756-CCB, filed on March 12, 2013.