Apple Hit with Discrimination Lawsuit by Former Employee

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Apple is the target of yet another lawsuit, this time for allegedly discriminating against a former employee of its SoHo store in New York City. The case was filed by Nicole Sullivan in U.S. District Court in Illinois and claims Apple refused to give her job back after she returned from a four-month medical leave of absence.

AppleInsider reports Ms. Sullivan took the leave of absence in April 2009 to receive psychiatric treatment for a nervous disorder. She claimed the independent company that handled her disability leave told her the details of her condition wouldn’t be disclosed to Apple, although she thinks that’s exactly what happened.

Upon returning to work, Ms. Sullivan claimed it was obvious that store employees and the human resources director knew about her medical condition. She wasn’t given her old job back, but instead was given a desk in the store’s basement without any tasks to perform.

Her complaint states “Many days went by and still Plaintiff was not assigned to any particular job, despite requesting that she be assigned to one.”

Ms. Sullivan’s complaint goes on to claim that she was denied positions she applied for at the SoHo store along with the North Michigan Avenue store in Chicago because of a “perceived disability.”

Ms. Sullivan is asking the court for front and back pay, employee benefits she lost, and US$300,000 in punitive damages for Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Apple hasn’t commented on Ms. Sullivan’s lawsuit.

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This one I can actually comment on (I was hired at the Apple Store where I live twice). Apple retail and Apple Inc. are two very different entities; you really aren’t working ‘for’ Apple at the stores, in a similar sense that Apple authorized service providers aren’t; they have their own management structure completely separate from Cupertino. Their employment agreements can be odd too. I wasn’t guaranteed full time employment in either instance. I’m very sorry that this woman found herself out of work, but Apple is a large corporation as hydra-headed as any other and this sort of thing happens frequently in a lot of them, for better or worse.


Without more details, the story leaves much to the reader’s imagination.

Such as: four-month medical leave of absence

Was it approved? Was she on long term disability? The ADA guarantees 12 weeks of leave, not 16. Anything beyond that is the generosity of the employer and subject to their terms, not ADA.

That is unless the info was leaked. And keeping that info secret is virtually impossible with interconnected computers these days.

And proving anything is going to be very difficult. And going public with the information automatically set her up for a pre-existing condition on her next job. What a mess she’s in!

Stephen Pate

Good for her. Big companies have to obey the law and Apple is no different.


Good for her. Big companies have to obey the law and Apple is no different.

Good for you to judge without knowing any details of the case.

It looks like she had a mental problem, which she perceives as a disability, and which she didn’t want the other employees and management to know about. It is quite possible that they actually _didn’t_ know about the mental problem, but that the mental problem caused behaviour that was deemed unacceptable for someone working with customers in a store, and because nobody was aware of the mental problem, it was seen as her personal fault.

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