EEOC News: Jacksons Food To Pay $158K To Settle 2nd Disability Discrimination Suit This Year

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San Francisco District - Seattle Field Office


Jackson Energy Fired Dispatcher After Refusing Reasonable Accommodation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:            December 21, 2018

Nancy Sienko, Seattle Field Director (206) 220-6878
Roberta Steele, Regional Attorney (415) 522-3011
John Stanley, Supervisory Trial Attorney (206) 220-6896
May Che, Senior Trial Attorney (206) 220-6919

BOISE, Idaho — Meridian-based Jackson Energy, a division of Jacksons Food Stores, Inc., will pay $158,000 to a former dispatcher and implement other preventative measures to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. This is the agency’s second disability discrimination settlement with this employer this year.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Jacksons violated federal law when it failed to accommodate an employee recovering from wrist surgery and fired her because of her disability. During the nearly two years that Penny Wightman worked as a dispatcher in Meridian, Idaho, Jackson Energy recognized her as an excellent and valued employee. Then Wightman suffered a wrist fracture requiring surgery. Although she was not expected to be fully released to work for at least four to six months, at the company’s request, Wightman returned to work on modified light duty one week after her surgery to train a colleague on her regular duties. A few weeks after, the company forced her to take unpaid medical leave until she could return to work without restrictions.

The EEOC said that Jacksons ignored Wightman’s requests for an accommodation, such as speech recognition software, that potentially would have allowed her to continue to perform her dispatcher duties, and instead the company fired her when she exhausted her leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) before making a full recovery.

“I loved my job and took a lot of pride in being a dispatcher for Jacksons,” said Wightman. “I wanted desperately to return to work, so when Jacksons refused to consider reasonable accommo­da­tions that might have allowed me to perform my duties and instead later fired me, I was devastated. I’m glad that, with this settlement, Jacksons will implement changes along with training so that hope­fully this type of discrimination will not happen again to other qualified workers.”

Terminating a qualified employee because of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho (EEOC v. Jacksons Food Stores, Inc. d/b/a Jackson Energy, Case No. 1:17-cv-00407-REB) after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Gustavo Irizarry and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  

The five-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides Wightman $158,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages. The decree also requires Jackson Energy to train corporate officials, human resources personnel, managers and supervisors, and employees on the ADA, reasonable accommodations and the complaint process. Jackson Energy will also implement and disseminate a modified ADA policy, and will post a notice for employees about the consent decree and employees’ rights under the ADA.

“Employers should know they violate federal law when they mandate that employees with disabilities can only return to work without restrictions,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che. “When a qualified employee with a disability is ready and willing to work, the employer has a legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation, unless the employer can show undue hardship.”

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko noted, “The EEOC has made a national priority of identifying inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, and we will vigorously prosecute these violations. We commend Jacksons for its commitment to its obligations under the law and for taking these affirmative steps to ensure it provides equal employment oppor­tunities for workers and job applicants with disabilities.”

This was the second disability discrimination lawsuit recently lodged and settled by the EEOC against Jacksons. In August 2018, the company agreed to pay $88,000 and provide a full-time job as well as other remedial relief, in order to resolve the EEOC’s lawsuit filed in the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Jacksons Food Stores, Inc., 2:17-cv-01285-TSZ), charging that Jacksons refused to interview a qualified job seeker because he was deaf.

Jackson Energy is a wholesale and transportation company delivering fuel to over 800 branded retail locations in 9 western states, and is a division of Jacksons Food Stores, Inc. According to its website,, Jacksons Foods is national chain of over 230 Chevron-, Shell-, and Texaco-branded convenience stores and one of the largest privately held corporations in Idaho, with operations in six Western states and over 3,000 employees.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at

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