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Grocery chain pays $280,000 to settle deaf job applicants’ EEOC claims

(Reuters) – Arizona-based supermarket operator Sprouts Farmers Market will pay $280,000 to settle claims that it refused to hire three deaf job applicants or provide sign-language interpreters during job interviews, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.

Sprouts, in a consent decree filed jointly with the EEOC in Colorado federal court, on Friday also agreed to overhaul its policies on disability accommodations and provide training to managers. Sprouts, which is represented by Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart, denied wrongdoing.

The EEOC in a September complaint said Sprouts managers had contacted the three applicants to interview them for cashier positions at Colorado stores. But the company then failed to make arrangements for sign-language interpreters and ignored the applicants when they followed up about their requests for accommodations, the commission said.

One of the applicants, Raymond Clark, intervened as a plaintiff in the case last month.

Sprouts, which operates 340 stores in 23 states, and its lawyers at Ogletree, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Neither did Clark’s lawyer, Iris Halpern of Rathod Mohamedbhai in Denver.

Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, said in a statement deaf workers face barriers to employment not encountered by others.

“This settlement highlights the EEOC’s commitment to breaking down those barriers and ensuring deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals are afforded equal employment opportunities,” she said.

The EEOC has filed a series of similar lawsuits accusing employers of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to provide sign-language interpreters at job interviews.

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