EEOC meant it when they said they are taking a hard look at employer inflexible and terminal leave policies. It cost Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. $120,000 when the company fired an employee for violating its attendance policy. This employee had worked for Pepsi since October 1996 and was promoted to driver in December 1999.
Despite following proper procedure to inform his supervisor and the company that he could not finish his route due to his disability and needed to take medical leave, Pepsi stuck by its policy rather than consider whether this medical leave was a reasonable accommodation. Medical leave is a widely recognized accommodation and in this case, EEOC said this accommodation could have easily been granted, avoiding the loss of a valuable and experienced employee.
This is another reminder that employers should review all leave policies and make sure there is built-in flexibility when leave is needed as a form of reasonable accommodation. So far, every EEOC agreement requires that employers implement training on anti-discrimination laws, post a notice at the work site, & implement other preventive measures based on the situation. Now’s the time to be proactive. Studies show that reasonable accommodations are frequently no- or low-cost, with the added benefit of improving productivity and morale, reducing turnover and building a diverse and loyal work force. Don’t risk losing a valuable employee while incurring needless costs associated with litigation.
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.