Costco entrepreneur agrees to pay $ 50,000 to Juneau employee who was denied extra bathroom breaks

The sun is shining on Costco in Juneau on March 26, 2019 (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh / KTOO)

About a year after she was hired to work inside Juneau’s Costco in 2016, Terry Baker was told she couldn’t use the washroom except during the two scheduled breaks of her regular shift.

This is despite the production of evidence that she had a health condition that could require a trip to the bathroom more than twice in a 6.5-hour period, a federal lawsuit has said.

In 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission intervened on the basis of a discrimination complaint it had lodged with the watchdog.

“We saw an employee here who really suffered needlessly,” EEOC lawyer Amos Blackman told CoastAlaska. “This refusal to give extra breaks in the bathroom was likely to have an impact on a number of workers.”

Commission says employees with health problems have legal protections

The more than two years of legal wrangling did not directly involve Costco. The retail chain does not hire the people who offer the product samples in its aisles. They are employees of Club Demonstration Services, a subsidiary of a larger global company, which has tens of thousands of people on its payroll.

Many of those employees are older, Blackman says, and may have underlying health issues that employers are in many cases required to take care of under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It employs a lot of physically disabled employees and older workers – and that’s great, isn’t it? Blackman said. “But that doesn’t give any employer the right to say, ‘Well, because we hired you in the first place, we can easily replace you. “

CDS was represented by Littler, an international law firm with an office in Anchorage. Lawyer Renae Saade did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. Neither did Costco, which contracted with the sample distribution company for decades.

Club Demonstrations Services, Inc. to pay $ 50,000 in back wages and damages

A settlement approved by a federal judge on Tuesday also places the company under what’s known as a consent order. Regional directors will need to be trained on the company’s legal obligations under federal anti-discrimination laws.

The consent decree also requires regular reports to the EEOC, which will monitor the company’s treatment of its Alaska workforce over the next two years.

“And if there are any complaints, let them be dealt with more rigorously,” Blackman said. “So we can see if they are getting their end of the bargain. “

The lawsuit asked Baker to get his job back. Instead, the company agreed to pay him $ 50,000 in back wages and other compensation.

Baker, who still lives and works in Juneau, declined to comment.

In court records, the company did not dispute many of the central allegations in the trial. But he denied that Baker was fired, saying she quit instead.

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