(Creative Commons photo cropped from original by Alvin Smith)

A Juneau woman is at the center of a federal lawsuit against the company that employs the people who give out samples at Costco. The suit alleges the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. It filed suit on May 8 against Club Demonstration Services, or CDS, which employs the people who give out samples inside Costco stores.

The commission alleges the company denied Terry Baker reasonable accommodations for a medical condition affecting her bladder, which led her to repeatedly endure humiliating work shifts and ultimately to lose her job.

The complaint says Baker made several requests backed by doctor’s notes in 2017 for extra bathroom breaks at work. She had held the position since May of 2016, but in June 2017 her manager said bathroom breaks were limited to only lunch and scheduled breaks. That, the commission alleges, was too infrequent for Baker’s condition.

By late September, the complaint says work had become intolerable for Baker. CDS severed employment a few days later.

CDS did not return requests for comment, but the EEOC complaint quotes a letter from Baker’s human resources contact for the Northwest region, denying her accommodations. The HR letter says, “it would pose an undue hardship to the company and/or necessitate the elimination of essential job functions of (her) position.”

A CDS job listing for a position like Baker’s says candidates must be able to stand comfortably for 6 hours a day. The complaint says in addition to Baker’s bladder issues, her condition also “substantially limited” her ability to stand and walk.

With the lawsuit, Baker seeks her job back with the accommodations she requested, back pay plus interest, compensation for emotional pain and suffering, and punitive damages for “malicious and reckless conduct.” It says dollar amounts should be determined at trial.

CDS has yet to file a response in court.
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