As a follow up to our recent article, Time to Check Your Leave Practices: EEOC Issues Resource Document on Employer-Provided Leave Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC has scored an $8.6 million dollar settlement with Lowes on alleged violations of the ADA for maintaining a fixed leave policy. In the suit against Lowes, the EEOC alleged that Lowe's discharged employees with disabilities and failed to provide reasonable accommodations to them when their medical leaves of absence exceeded a 180- or 240-day maximum leave policy.
Under the EEOC's consent decree, in addition to monetary relief, Lowe's is required to:
- Retain a consultant with ADA experience to review and revise company policies, as appropriate;
- Implement effective training for both supervisors and staff on the ADA;
- Develop a centralized tracking system for employee requests for accommodation;
- Maintain an accommodation log;
- Post documentation related to the settlement.
The EEOC's General Counsel stated in the EEOC's May 13, 2016 news release that, "This settlement sends a clear message to employers that policies that limit the amount of leave may violate the ADA when they call for the automatic firing of employees with a disability after they reach a rigid, inflexible leave limit... We hope that our efforts here will encourage employers to voluntarily comply with the ADA."
As noted in the EEOC's news release on this settlement, addressing "emerging and developing issues" under the ADA is a national priority identified in the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The Lowe's settlement acts as stark reminder to all employers covered by the ADA that it really is time to check your leave practices.