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Florida Plaintiff Wins $775,000 in Discrimination Case against Costco

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In July, a deaf woman won $775,000 in damages after one Florida jury found that her disability led her to suffer from discrimination and unjust termination from Costco. She sought damages under Florida’s Civil Rights Act of 1992, claiming that Costco managers acted with a willful, malicious, gross disregard for her rights, and that she had suffered from its failure to accommodate, disability discrimination, and retaliation.

According to her complaint, rather than provide her with written communications or an interpreter, she was given a video phone, which solicited complaints from the company’s managers. When she sent a letter to the company’s CEO complaining about the treatment she received—asking that they better accommodate her disability—she was suspended, then terminated.

Companies Are Liable For the Misconduct of Their Employees

Costco responded that it had taken the issue seriously by providing relevant sensitivity training in 2013, and that it was not responsible for any unlawful conduct by its employees, and therefore not liable. The jury disagreed, awarding the plaintiff $750,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish and $25,000 in punitive damages, finding that the company had failed to provide and even denied her reasonable accommodations.

Previous Civil Rights Issues for Costco

This is not the first time Costco has been accused of violating employees’ civil rights: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission previously brought suit against Costco for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after the company allegedly failed to prevent a male customer from stalking and harassing a female employee at one of its locations. In that case, the employee was subject to harassing behavior and a hostile work environment for over a year, all while Costco failed to take reasonable steps to stop the harassment, and failing to ban customer causing the issues from the store for over a year after the harassment had started and continued. 

Florida Civil Rights Act

There is a very specific procedure that must be followed when it comes to filing a civil action under the Florida Civil Rights Act. A claimant must first file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations within one year of the employer’s violation. The Commission then determines if reasonable cause exists that a covered discriminatory practice has occurred, and the claimant must then file their civil action within 365 days or request an administrative hearing within 35 days. 

Florida Civil Rights Attorneys

Civil rights violations do not just involve gender or race, but also discrimination because of religion, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. If you or a loved one has been the victim of discrimination in Florida, contact our Orlando civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.

Resources:

sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-deaf-costco-worker-wins-discrimination-suit-20180710-story.html

eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12-21-15.cfm

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