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EEOC Wins Disability Discrimination Suit against Payday Lender ‘The Cash Store’

March 28, 2012

Federal Court Awards $56,500 to Employee Terminated for Bipolar Disorder

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a victory in one of its first disability discrimination lawsuits taken to trial concerning bipolar disorder. Following a four-day bench trial, a federal district court entered judgment for $56,500 against Irving, Texas-based Cottonwood Financial. The court found that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) when it fired an employee from its Walla Walla, Washington, store.

After hearing the evidence presented at trial in EEOC v. Cottonwood Financial, Ltd. (No. CV-09-5073-EFS, E. D. Wash.), U.S. District Judge Edward F. Shea noted “Cottonwood’s deficient ADA policies and practices” and found that the company’s half-dozen different rationales for terminating store manager Sean Reilly were a pretext for discrimination and that the company had in fact fired Reilly because it regarded him as too disabled to work due to his bipolar disorder.

The ADA and WLAD outlaw firing an employee due to disability and prohibit adverse employment decisions motivated, even in part, by ill will toward an employee’s real or perceived disability or request for an accommodation. After first trying to reach a voluntary settlement with Cottonwood through the EEOC’s conciliation process, the agency filed suit and was joined by Reilly, through his private counsel, Keller W. Allen of Spokane.

Judge Shea found that The Cash Store broke the law by firing Reilly and awarded him $6,500 in back wages and $50,000 for emotional pain and suffering. The court also issued a three-year injunction, requiring The Cash Store to train its managers and human resources personnel on anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws.

News source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

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