Add another multi-million dollar settlement notch to the EEOC’s “inflexible leave” belt. The EEOC announced that national trucking company Interstate Distributor Company will pay $4.85 million to resolve a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit the EEOC had brought against Interstate.
The lawsuit alleged that Interstate had a policy of terminating employees who needed more than 12 weeks of leave, rather than determining whether it would be reasonable to provide additional leave as an accommodation. The EEOC had also alleged that Interstate refused to allow employees with restrictions to return to work and failed to determine if there were reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to return to work with restrictions.
We have posted about the EEOC’s assault on “inflexible leave” policies, and about the EEOC’s failure to issue guidance to employers on the most vexing leave management questions of whether attendance is an essential function of a position and how much leave beyond the FMLA an employer must provide as a reasonable accommodation.
In addition to requiring Interstate to revise its policies, the EEOC’s Consent Decree requires the company to take certain additional affirmative steps, which provides a roadmap for employers who want to take prophylactic measures to manage this risk. These steps include requiring Interstate to “adopt and maintain a written policy that addresses how reasonable accommodations will be provided” and requiring Interstate to conduct ADA-focused “EEO training” to non-supervisory, supervisory and human resource employees annually, with a defined length of training for each of these groups.