Verizon Communications Corp. will pay $20M to settle a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC--the largest disability discrimination settlement in a single lawsuit in EEOC history. The lawsuit states that Verizon denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of disabled employees and disciplined or fired them for absences directly related to their disabilities. Leave is generally a reasonable accommodation under the ADAAA & EEOC has been taking a hard look at this issue, especially terminal leave policies when employers require their employees to return to work when the leave under their policy expires...or fire them if they don’t return to work. “Flexibility on leave can enable a worker with a disability to remain employed and productive -- a win for the worker, the employer and the economy,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien in a written statement. “By contrast, an inflexible leave policy may deny workers with disabilities a reasonable accommodation to which they’re entitled by law – with devastating effects.”
Employers should carefully examine their leave policies or practices to determine whether there is an inflexible maximum limit to the leave that requires or results in the employee being terminated if unable to return to full duty. Such policies are likely to be found to violate the ADA and should be amended. Engaging interaction and dialogue between the employer and employee in every disability situation is a wise HR practice...and these actions should be well documented. Remember: FMLA, state worker’s compensation laws, or short-term or long-term disability insurance policies do not define or limit the employer’s obligations concerning leave as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities under the ADA.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.