updated 12:40 pm EST, Wed December 29, 2010
Store worker says jobs denied based on suspicions
A former worker at Apple's SoHo retail store in New York City has filed suit against the company, claiming discrimination on the basis of mental illness. The woman first began a job at SoHo in 2008, but in April 2009 took a four-month leave of absence because of a nervous disorder, seeking help from a psychiatrist. The leave was handled by a third-party company, alleged to have assured her that Apple wouldn't learn the details of her condition. On returning though the woman says it was "obvious" that other workers, "especially" the human resources director, had learned about her problem.
Another person had been given her job, and the woman was told she would be put in a "holding pattern" until a new one could be found. In practice she claims to have been relegated to a room in the basement with a vacant desk, having nothing to do except occasionally help other people. Despite requesting work and applying for specific positions, nothing happened; when she was denied a Genius job, court documents suggest she was told that there were "questions about her mental stability."
Matters worsened when she moved to Chicago, having been told that an Apple Store on North Michigan Avenue had an opening, where she was still unable to get work. Lawyers accuse Apple of "malice and reckless indifference," denying jobs because of a perceived disability even though the woman says she was certified as recovered from any illness.
Apple's behavior resulted in "emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment," documents add. The plaintiff's lawyers are seeking front pay, back pay, benefits and any other compensation that may have been lost. $300,000 in punitive damages are also being demanded given discrimination and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Earlier this month Apple was accused of denying promotions to a Florida man on the basis of age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed that there was "reasonable cause" to suspect age discrimination, but it could not reach a settlement with Apple. The man's supervisor has allegedly denied that he ever pursued a promotion.