Deaf 7-Eleven store manager awarded nearly $1 million in discrimination suit

FORT MYERS, FL—A U.S. District Court jury in Fort Myers found on June 23 that 7-Eleven had violated the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act in firing Jim Soliday, a long-time employee who is deaf, rather than reasonably accommodate his disability. The jury awarded the 58-year-old Naples, FL, resident $178,000 for lost wages and benefits and $756,000 for emotional pain and suffering.

As Soliday’s attorney, Darrin Phillips of Naples, pointed out during the 7-day trial, his client had been able to work successfully and supervise nearly a dozen 7-Eleven stores despite his deafness. To overcome his disability, which started in childhood and worsened during his 26 years with 7-Eleven, Soliday read lips and used a fax machine and pagers to communicate with other employees.

However, in 2008, a new manager stepped in and took away the support system that he had relied on. Not long after that, Soliday was fired because he was unable to do his job. He then brought suit against his former employer.

In an interview with Aisling Swift, a reporter who covered the case for the Naples Daily News, Phillips said, “The law does not permit an employer to take away a man’s livelihood through discriminatory means. We are grateful that the jury carefully weighed the evidence in concluding that 7-Eleven denied Jim Soliday’s requests for reasonable accommodations and unlawfully terminated his employment on the basis of his disability.”

7-Eleven has not yet said if it will appeal the case.

The award to Holiday could increase if Judge John Steele grants the plaintiff’s motion for roughly $675,000 in future wages.