Target paying US$275,000 to settle lawsuit brought by employee at its Woodland, California, store who said she was fired over late lunch breaks; employee said she had a disability that made it difficult to keep track of time

WOODLAND, California , May 21, 2012 () – Target Corp. is paying $275,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former employee at its Woodland store who says she was fired because she took her lunch breaks late.

The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday that Margarita Arriaga sued the company for wrongful termination after 16 years of employment. Target states in court records that Arriaga was fired for taking lunch breaks late on three occasions in 18 months, including one break taken two minutes late. The company says in court records that the violations are "automatic ground for termination."

Arriaga claims she has a disability that makes it difficult for her to keep track of time.

A Target spokeswoman tells the newspaper that the company accommodates employees and guests with disabilities and is "confident" in their policies.

Arriaga, now 40, alleged in a civil rights lawsuit in Sacramento federal court that she was fired because she was late going on lunch breaks after working at the Bronze Star Drive store more than 16 years. She worked as a cashier, shelf stocker and saleswoman. By the company's own account in court papers she was "well-liked by her managers and peers, and she received generally satisfactory performance evaluations."

She was fired, Target said in the papers, because she was late taking a meal break three times in 18 months - "an automatic ground for termination of any Target employee."

On one of those occasions, Arriaga was two minutes tardy. Target denied in court papers that store personnel, including its managers, were aware of a disability, according to The Bee.

Arriaga, a graduate of Woodland High School, told the court that it was well known at the store that she consistently lost track of time because of a disability. She pointed out that she obtained her job through a nonprofit community organization that intercedes with employers on behalf of mentally disabled people.

The same organization, she said, furnished her with "job coaches" at the store from time to time to assist in dealing with difficulties she encountered, especially in the early part of her employment, according to the Bee.

Attorney Larry Lockshin filed the suit in Yolo Superior Court on behalf of Arriaga, but Target removed it to federal court, as was its right because the company is based in Minnesota.

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