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Claustrophobic Settles ADA Claim

A stylist working for SmartStyle hair salon suffered from claustrophobia. Nora Jacquez let her employer know that she could not work at a hair station that was in a confined space between other stations. Initially, she was assigned to an open station where she was able to work without feeling claustrophobic. However, when Ms. Jacquez was moved to a station between other stylists, she began suffering from anxiety attacks. Her requests to move back to the open station were denied. Ms. Jacquez' anxiety became so bad that she had to go to the emergency room for treatment. She needed two months off of work for medical treatment. When the company failed to help her fill out the medical leave paperwork as agreed, she was fired.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on Ms. Jacquez' behalf, alleging that she was discriminated against in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Claustrophobia has been defined as an anxiety disorder that can result in panic attacks. According to the EEOC, "Claustrophobia is a serious matter. When we discovered management refused to give this employee some space, our investigation closed in on what amounted to intolerance by management."

A settlement in the monetary amount of $60,000 was reached. In addition, SmartStyle's parent company, the Regis Corporation has entered into a two-year consent decree. Regis owns hair salons throughout the U.S. The decree requires annual ADA training for the district leader, all salon managers, and hair stylists at Regis salons in Midland, Odessa, and Big Spring, Texas.