The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached a $35,000 settlement with Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based retail chain, in response to allegations that the employer discriminated against a disabled worker at its Rochester store.
The EEOC alleged that Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts store, prohibited employee Julie Tufts from using her wheelchair at work and failed to accommodate her inability to climb ladders.
Tufts needed to use a wheelchair for about a year, and had to leave her job as a result of the company's actions, the agency said.
The EEOC opened an investigation in 2006, after Tufts filed a discrimination charge. The agency filed a formal complaint against Hobby Lobby in September 2008.
The lawsuit focused on the company's policies about accommodations for employees with temporary disabilities.
"The way the company was looking at it was that if you were eventually getting better, if your impairment wasn't permanent, it couldn't be a disability," said EEOC attorney Laurie Vasichek.
Joe Schmitt, the attorney who represents Hobby Lobby, said the company denies violating the Americans with Disabilities Act or engaging in other illegal conduct.
"Hobby Lobby is pleased to have the matter resolved and looks forward to working with the EEOC," Schmitt said.
A manager at the Rochester store declined to comment.
As part of the settlement, Hobby Lobby will revise its internal policies to clarify that people with temporary disabilities can be considered disabled. The company also agreed to conduct ADA trainings with staff, and update its employee handbook.
Tufts did not immediately return calls for comment.