As many companies begin to require their employees to use tablets and smartphones
in the workplace, some workers are having problems dealing with their
small screens (maybe this is the reason Apple is rumored to be coming
out with a larger screen smartphone this fall).
A legally blind former assistant store manager for Home Depot filed a
lawsuit against the company last Tuesday, claiming it failed to accommodate his
disability when it required workers to use small-screened smartphones,
and then fired him.
Leslie W. Gibson began working at Home Depot in Arizona in 2000 as a sales
associate, and was promoted to a supervisor role two years later. After
being transferred to several different sites, including a new store in
Glendale to facilitate its opening, Gibson was placed in the Arrowhead
location as an assistant store manager, he states.
In that role, Gibson was responsible for a range of supervisory tasks,
including hiring and firing employees, opening and closing the store and
keeping the electrical, plumbing and garden departments stocked, according
to the suit.
Gibson alleges that along with other Home Depot employees, he often used
"mobile workstations" that consisted of a normal desktop computer
with a large screen. But in the fall of 2010, the store allegedly replaced
the computer stations with smartphones, which had screens measuring just
The suit states that when the store's manager, Will Bisson, demonstrated
the phones at an employee meeting, Gibson couldn't see the screen
or read its print because of its small size, and immediately told Bisson.
Although Bisson allegedly acknowledged that the screen was hard to read,
Gibson wasn't provided with any accommodation in the following weeks,
the suit claims.
Eventually, Bisson, Gibson and Home Depot's human resources manager
for the district, Dana Sadler, had a meeting about the requested accommodation,
at which time Gibson spoke about his difficulty reading the smartphones,
and asked to be moved to more manageable departments.
But according to Gibson, the store failed to take any steps to assist him
after the meeting, and instead placed him on a purportedly burdensome
performance improvement plan, resulting in the assistant store manager
losing a recent raise, bonus and stock options, the complaint states.
"The [performance improvement plan] posed extra tasks and burdens
on Mr. Gibson, including creating binders for each department [he] managed,"
the suit alleges. "In order to meet defendant's requirements
pursuant to the PIP, Mr. Gibson worked 12-16 hours a day, sometimes six
days per week."
Gibson, who has lodged complaints for both discrimination and retaliation
under the American with Disabilities Act, alleges there is a "causal
link" between his request for accommodation and Home Depot's
firing of him. The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
"The fact that Mr. Gibson is legally blind was a motivating factor
in defendant's decision to terminate him on April 25, 2011,"
the suit alleges. "The unlawful employment practices ... were willful,
malicious, wanton and in bad faith."
The takeaway: Poor eyesight is a disability which is protected under the
Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have been discriminated against
in your New York workplace for your disability, give us a call.