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Toys R Us Inc. faces an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit charging the retailer with violating federal law when it allegedly refused to provide an interpreter for a deaf job applicant and then failed to hire her.
The EEOC said Tuesday that Shakirra Thomas applied for a team member position at the Wayne, N.J.-based retailer's Columbia, Md., store in October, 2011.
According to the EEOC, when Toys R Us contacted Ms. Thomas to invite her to a group interview, her mother advised the company that Ms. Thomas was deaf and requested an interpreter for the interview. The company refused and said Ms. Thomas would have to provide her own interpreter.
After Ms. Thomas' mother interpreted for her during the group interview, the company refused to hire Ms. Thomas despite her qualifications and ability to perform the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC said. The agency is charging the company with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Federal law requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation during the interview process, including providing an American Sign Language interpreter, unless the employer can show it would be a significant difficulty or expense to do so,” said EEOC district director Spencer H. Lewis Jr., of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, in a statement.
“It is difficult to understand how it would have been an undue hardship for such a large retailer to provide an interpreter when asked to so,” he said.
The company said in a statement, “As this is a matter of pending litigation, we cannot comment at this time.”
In September 2012, Oshkosh, Wis.-based catalog retailer Miles Kimball Co. reached a $95,000 settlement with the EEOC in a case in which a deaf worker was allegedly fired after the company denied her request for a sign language interpreter to help train her on a new software program for the company's computer system.