Safeway to pay $75,000 to resolve disability discrimination lawsuit

Chopper 7 photo of the Capitol Hill Safeway.

SEATTLE — Safeway will pay $75,000 and will make changes to its policies and hiring practices to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Monday.

The EEOC said Joel Sibert applied online for several jobs at the Safeway store in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in July 2017 and was selected for an interview based on his qualifications and previous experience working similar jobs.

“However, once Sibert explained that he is deaf and would need an interpreter for the interview, the in-store hiring recruiter told him she did not know anything about providing an interpreter and then never got back to him about the interview,” the EEOC said in a news release.

The EEOC said Safeway instead hired several hearing individuals to fill the vacant position.

Rejecting a qualified applicant because of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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An EEOC investigator first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, but later filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

“The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides Sibert with $75,000 in damages for emotional distress and back pay, and calls for important changes to Safeway's hiring policies and practices,” the EEOC said.

In addition to the settlement, the EEOC said Safeway has agreed to revise its website application to make it easier for applicants to request accommodations, to include contact information in its ADA policy, to conduct ADA and accommodation training, to distribute its modified ADA/accommodation policy to all employees annually and to ensure that recruiters understand Safeway’s obligations under the ADA.

"I was excited when I was selected for an interview at Safeway," Silbert said. "But when I requested an interpreter during my interview and placed multiple calls to the store over the following week, I was placed on hold or told no one was available. I felt so disregarded. I'm glad Safeway is taking steps to make their workplace more inclusive. This will make a difference for so many deaf applicants."