Lawsuit Alleges Hobby Lobby Fired Clerk With PTSD Over Service Dog

A new lawsuit leveled against controversial craft store chain, Hobby Lobby, on Friday alleges that the company unlawfully terminated an employee over their use of a service animal.

The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a former Hobby Lobby store clerk in Kansas. The complaint alleges that a manager at one of the company's locations in Olathe, Kansas, told the worker, referred to only as "S.C.," that their service dog was a hazard, and that they could not bring it with them while working. The worker was ultimately fired when she stopped coming to work, Reuters reported.

The employee, according to the suit, needed the service animal to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other conditions. By refusing to accommodate her needs and allow her to bring her dog to work with her, Hobby Lobby allegedly violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law enacted in 1990.

The ADA requires that U.S. employers make accommodations for workers with disabilities. The law features explicit protections for service animals, unless they are out of control and posing harm to others. In order to beat the suit, Hobby Lobby will have to prove that the service dog posed an undue risk in some way.

hobby lobby service dog lawsuit
Hobby Lobby has been accused of unlawfully terminating a worker with PTSD over their use of a service dog. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

"Due to identified safety hazards and the overall nature of the business, [S.C.] may not utilize a service animal while cashiering or unloading freight and stocking," a denial letter sent to the employee stated, according to the EEOC complaint.

An HR specialist handling the situation for Hobby Lobby told S.C. that the dog posed several undue risks, including the possibility that it might break things, trip guests navigating the store, or cause allergic reactions. The EEOC, however, noted that the company allows customers to bring their own service animals into stores, despite them supposedly presenting similar risks.

The suit calls for Hobby Lobby to begin allowing employees to use service dogs while working. It also calls for the company to pay damages to S.C. and rehire her.

"Employers must not reject service animals, or any other reasonable accommodation, based on stereotypes or assumptions regarding the safety or effectiveness of the accommodation," David Davis, the acting director of the EEOC's regional office in St. Louis, said in a statement on the case.

Hobby Lobby has yet to issue a statement on the suit or return requests for a response from numerous news outlets. Newsweek reached out to the company for comment.