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Big Lots agrees to big settlement in disability discrimination case

There are nine Big Lots stores scattered across Wisconsin, including one in the Milwaukee metro area. The stores offer furniture, clothing, toys, pet supplies and more.

The retail chain recently agreed to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by a pair of employees for $100,000 and other concessions.

According to the lawsuit, a retail worker who has hearing and speech disabilities was harassed by her co-workers. They mocked her hearing disability and her manner of speaking with derogatory comments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.

Members of the company's management knew of the ongoing harassment but took no steps to stop it. Because of her disability and because she reported the harassment, Big Lots also declined to promote the worker, the lawsuit alleged.

In addition, the company also discriminated against and retaliated against a department manager who associated with the harassment victim and tried to protect her from hostility in the workplace. 

The lawsuit stated that the conduct by management and workers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The federal law bans employment discrimination based on disabilities and prohibits discrimination against those who associate with the disabled person and oppose disability discrimination and harassment.

Big Lots will pay the pair of workers $100,000. The company also agreed to take measures to prevent future problems of this type, including employee training.

The EEOC hailed the settlement, noting that "workers have a right to earn a living free from harassment because of their disabilities" and that those who "seek to protect their co-workers or themselves" from unlawful discrimination "should be applauded, not punished."

If a Milwaukee employer has subjected you or a co-worker to discrimination based on disability, contact the law office of Alan C. Olson and Associates to talk over your legal options. 

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