- A Delaware company that provides services to correctional facilities and other state institutions will pay $550,000 to settle a disability bias lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.
- Connections CSP allegedly fired employees with disabilities who needed additional unpaid leave beyond the 12 weeks provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It also, according to EEOC, failed to provide other requested reasonable accommodations, such as reassignment to vacant positions, that would have allowed these workers to stay on the job. Instead, it allegedly placed them on FMLA leave and terminated them when their leaves expired.
- In addition to the monetary relief, which will be distributed to five former employees, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Connections to implement a new reasonable accommodation policy; provide training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), its reasonable accommodation policy and other federal anti-discrimination laws; and post a notice regarding the settlement.
The EEOC's position, summed up by Jamie R. Williamson, director of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, in announcing the settlement, is that "rigid maximum leave policies can be a barrier to the employment of workers with disabilities." While the FMLA requires only 12 weeks of leave, the ADA may sometimes require that additional leave be granted as a reasonable accommodation, according to EEOC and case law.
Several other employers have entered into similar settlement agreements in recent years. In 2017, UPS paid $1.7 million to resolve a lawsuit challenging its 12-month leave policy, and a Las Vegas gaming company paid $3.5 million in 2018 to settle a lawsuit relating to its "100% healed" policy. Employers are required to modify policies that limit the amount of leave employees can take if a worker needs additional leave as a reasonable accommodation, according to the EEOC's Employer-Provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act guidance.
An employer must consider unpaid leave for a worker with a disability as a reasonable accommodation if the employee needs it, assuming this accommodation does not pose an undue hardship to the employer, experts say. This is true even if the worker has exhausted his or her leave, including workers' comp leave, FMLA or comparable leave under local or state law, EEOC has said. The agency has made clear, however, that the law does not require an employer to provide additional paid leave beyond what it already provides as part of its paid leave policy.