When Christine D’Onofrio was fired in 2013, she had been working for Costco for 24 years, first at the Davie location, then in Pompano Beach. D’Onofrio, who is deaf, says she spent the previous year begging the company to better accommodate her disability.
Instead, she claims she repeatedly got in trouble for being “loud and aggressive” when managers tried to communicate with her. Finally, on October 23, 2013, she was told she was being fired from her job as a stocker. That time, Costco brought in an interpreter to let her know she was out of a job.
Last month, a jury found the company had failed to reasonably accommodate the 48-year-old woman. She was awarded $775,000 in damages, though her attorney says she was mostly relieved that Costco was found to have broken the law.
“She was fired and lost literally her entire purpose,” says D’Onofrio’s attorney, Chad Levy. “No spouse or kids. Costco was her life and how she would communicate with the outside world. This is not like a regular person losing a job and moving on. She had nowhere else to go.”
During the three-year battle in the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse, Costco claimed D’Onofrio was fired because she couldn’t control her temper. The company said it had accommodated her by installing two video phones and insisted D’Onofrio had simply refused to use them. Costco also argued that sensitivity training conducted in 2012 proved it had taken D’Onofrio’s complaints seriously.