There’s a new entry on the list of conditions that can qualify as a disability in the workplace: claustrophobia.
A Minnesota-based corporation has agreed to pay $60,000 in damages and back pay to a former hair stylist to settle a federal disability discrimination suit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced.
Nora Jacquez worked at SmartStyle, a hair salon in Midland, TX that is owned by Regis Corporation. She suffered from claustrophobia, which she said prevented her from working in a confined space located between others.
Although at first she was assigned to a more open station at the salon, the company later moved her to work between other stylists. Despite repeated requests to continue working in her original spot, Regis refused to move her back to a station that would allow her to not feel claustrophobic, which increased her potential for anxiety attacks.
Regis’s refusal to accommodate her resulted in a physical reaction that sent Jacquez to the hospital emergency room for treatment for her claustrophobia. EEOC also claimed when Jacquez needed two months off from work to undergo medical treatment, the company failed to follow through to assist her with the necessary paperwork for medical leave and fired her.
After attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, EEOC filed suit against Regs, claiming the corporation violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to paying Jacquez the $60,000, Regis agreed to:
- conduct annual ADA training for the district leader, all salon managers, and hair stylists at three Regis salons in Texas
- post a notice regarding disability discrimination, and
- describe the reporting procedure for employees who believe they have been discriminated against on the job.
Regis Corporation operates salons worldwide under the trade names SmartStyle, Supercuts, Regis Salons, Mastercuts, and Sassoon Salon. According to the company website, Regis owns, franchises, or has ownership interest in over 10,000 locations worldwide and the SmartStyle salon chain has over 2,500 locations in 49 states.