Circle K to pay $8 million to settle discrimination, retaliation charges

Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2022 - 5:10pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2022 - 5:30pm

A well-known convenience store chain in Arizona will pay $8 million to resolve pregnancy, disability and retaliation charges as part of a nationwide agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC said it had reasonable cause to believe Circle K denied reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and those with disabilities. For example, subjecting them to involuntary unpaid leave, retaliation or termination. 

In a press release, Melinda Caraballo, acting district director of the EEOC Phoenix District Office said, “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. 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.”

Circle K’s Vice President of Human Resources Mark Novak 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. Throughout the past decade, we have made a focused effort on centralizing and strengthening our ADA compliance efforts.”

To avoid a court case and resolve the matter, Circle K agreed to update policies, conduct anti-discrimination training and pay $8 million, which includes a fund to compensate individuals who were wronged. 

Impacted people who worked for Circle K between July 10, 2009, and Sept. 26, 2022, can apply for financial compensation through the EEOC. The federal agency said current or former employees “who sought a reasonable accommodation such as leave for a disability and/or pregnancy, and were terminated” may be eligible.

The EEOC page for the compensation fund says, “The settlement does not constitute an admission by Circle K of any wrongdoing, and Circle K denies that it engaged in any such conduct or unlawful action.”