Rite Aid, one of the nation's largest drug store chains, will pay $250,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability and retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC charged that Rite Aid Corporation terminated a pharmacy order picker at its Mid-Atlantic Customer Service Center in Perryman, Md., because he was epileptic and because he had previously filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC alleging that he had been denied promotions because of his disability. The EEOC said that after it issued an administrative finding in the employee's favor, Rite Aid retaliated against the employee and forced him, under threat of termination, to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination with an occupational health doctor who had no experience treating individuals with epilepsy. The EEOC said Rite Aid improperly used the opinion of this doctor to remove the employee from his employment and ignored numerous medical releases from his neurologist, an epilepsy specialist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

The EEOC also charged that Rite Aid failed to consider whether reasonable accommodations could have eliminated or reduced any alleged safety concerns related to the eployee's epilepsy. When Rite Aid removed the employee from his employment, he had worked at the Perryman facility for 10 years without serious injury to himself, or any injury to coworkers caused by his seizures.

According to the EEOC, this type of conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to undertake a rigorous assessment of whether a disabled employee poses a safety threat in the workplace. The EEOC's regulations state that an employer's direct threat assessment must be "based on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective evidence." The ADA also prohibits employers from firing or otherwise taking adverse actions because an employee filed a discrimination charge.

In addition to the $250,000 in monetary relief to the employee, the three-year settlement resolving the lawsuit enjoins Rite Aid from further violating the ADA, including by failing to provide reasonable accommodations; discharging qualified individuals with disabilities because of their protected status; or requiring employees to undergo medical examinations that are not job-related or consistent with business necessity. Rite Aid is also prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination. It must revise its ADA policies and provide ADA training for managers at the Perryman facility and all persons responsible for the reasonable accommodation process. The retailer will post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit and report to the EEOC on its compliance with the terms of the settlement decree.

More information on the ADA