PHOENIX — Circle K Stores Inc. will pay $8 million to resolve charges of discrimination for denying reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and those with disabilities, according to a report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Circle K has entered into a nationwide agreement with the EEOC to resolve the disability, pregnancy and retaliation discrimination charges, the federal agency announced Nov. 29.
This resolution resolves multiple charges of discrimination filed against Circle K Stores Inc., based in Phoenix, and related entities, ending an investigation in which the EEOC determined it had reasonable cause to believe Circle K denied reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and those with disabilities, the agency said, subjecting them to actions such as involuntary unpaid leave, retaliation, requiring employees be 100% healed to return to work, or terminations.
These actions violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it said.
“The EEOC investigation stemmed from discrimination charges filed between 2010 and 2015. Circle K expanded our operations and integrated thousands of stores and tens of thousands of employees during this period,” said Circle K Vice President of Human Resources Mark Novak. “Throughout the past decade, we have made a focused effort on centralizing and strengthening our ADA compliance efforts.”
The $8 million payout includes a class fund to compensate aggrieved individuals and will cover impacted individuals employed at Circle K between July 10, 2009, and Sept. 26, 2022.
In addition, the company has agreed to:
- Update its policies, as needed
- Appoint a coordinator to provide oversight on pregnancy-related disability policies, requests for reasonable accommodations and maintenance of records
- Conduct climate surveys and exit interviews with specific attention to their accommodation process
- Conduct anti-discrimination training to all employees, including management
- Require performance evaluation of managers include consideration of compliance with EEOC laws
This settlement is in effect for four years. The pre-litigation agreement was voluntarily entered into by Circle K and obtained through the EEOC’s conciliation process.
“We are pleased Circle K worked cooperatively with the EEOC to reach this conciliation agreement and, through our joint efforts, we have been able to bring about real change at Circle K without resorting to litigation,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows.
“Employers must ensure that all individuals with disabilities or those who are pregnant are given an opportunity to request an accommodation and are granted accommodations when required by law,” said Melinda Caraballo, acting district director of the EEOC Phoenix District Office. “These accommodations can include actions such as additional leave beyond FMLA leave, modified work schedules, modified duties, modified policies, equipment and reassignment, as a last resort.”
Added Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, “When employers have rigid maximum leave policies with no flexibility to give additional leave for a disability or pregnancy-related reason, they are in serious danger of running afoul of the law. Employers who don’t give current employees a reassignment to an open position after the employer decides there is no reasonable accommodation available in the current position are also in danger of violating the law.”
Current and former employees of Circle K who sought a reasonable accommodation such as leave for a disability and/or pregnancy, and were terminated at some period between July 10, 2009, and Sept. 26, 2022, are urged to contact the EEOC v Circle K Settlement Administrator, JND Legal Administration, by mail at P.O. Box 91243, Seattle, Wash. 98111, by phone at 1-844-633-0691, or by email at info@EEOC-ADA-PDA-Settlement.com. Click here for additional information on the settlement website, where individuals can file a claim.
- Alimentation Couche-Tard is No. 2 on CSP’s 2022 Top 202 ranking of U.S. convenience-store chains by store count.
Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard’s 24-country global c-store network includes approximately 9,300 locations in North America, with more than 7,100 in the United States, primarily under the Circle K and Holiday Stationstores banners, and approximately 2,100 in Canada under the Circle K, Mac’s and Couche-Tard banners.
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