Posts Tagged ‘failure to provide reasonable accommodation’

(Not) a Game of Chicken: Poultry Retailer Settles EEOC ADA Suit Over Disability-Related Absences

This poultry company’s failure to excuse an employee’s time off to recover from heart surgery came back to bite it financially.

Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, a leading provider of retail poultry products, will pay $50,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced May 16.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Pilgrim’s Pride failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee by not excusing his disability-related absences. The employee, who worked at Pilgrim’s Pride’s Guntersville, Alabama facility, requested and was granted leave to cover absences due to heart surgery. When he attempted to return to work, however, the company claimed he had not been granted leave and fired him for violating the company’s attendance policy.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, including granting unpaid leave, unless doing so presents an undue hardship to the employer.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, Civil Action No.4:18-cv-01570) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, after first attempting to reach a voluntary, pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $50,000 in monetary relief, the four-year consent decree prohibits Pilgrim’s Pride from subjecting any employee to disability discrimination in the future.  Pilgrim’s Pride must also take specified actions designed to prevent future discrimination, including issuing written notice to employees of their rights under the ADA to a reasonable accommodation in the company’s leave information packet; a requirement Pilgrim’s Pride will not assign points for attendance-related issues when an employee is absent or tardy due to known disability-related reasons; developing and communicating company policies designed to ensure a discrimination-free workplace; and providing annual anti-discrimination training to all supervisors, managers, and other employees at the company’s Guntersville, Alabama facility.

“We commend Pilgrim’s Pride for its willingness to settle this case, which contained serious allegations of discrimination, early in the litigation process,” said EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker. “The significant monetary award and the corrective measures in this decree should prevent this kind of alleged misconduct from happening in the future.”

Bradley Anderson, the EEOC’s district director for the Birmingham District Office, said, “Nearly 30 years after the enactment of the ADA, some employers are still enforcing inflexible attendance policies that ignore the requirements of the law and drive qualified workers with disabilities out of the workforce. This lawsuit is a reminder to employers they have an obligation to make exceptions to attendance policies and provide leave as a form of reasonable accommodation unless doing so would result in undue hardship.”

According to company information, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation operates in 14 states across the United States and in Europe and Mexico. The company has more than 40,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 employees at its Guntersville location.

Addressing emerging and developing areas of the law, including inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The EEOC’s Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.

Extended Leave Denial Challenged in ADA Suit

Some employers still apparently don’t get it when it comes to federal law requiring they give employees leave to deal with their medical conditions.

Spencer Gifts, LLC (Spencer), a Delaware corporation that operates novelty gift stores throughout the United States and Canada, violated federal law when it denied extended disability leave to one of its employees and then fired her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed September 26.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Spencer employed Cindy Sykes as the store manager of its Hickory, N.C. store since early 2009. In 2013, Sykes was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the body’s connective tissue, a condition which Spencer was aware of. In December 2016, Sykes informed Spencer she required surgery on her knee and would need to be out for approximately four to six weeks to recover. Spencer refused to provide Sykes with the necessary leave or with any other accommodation that would allow her to keep her job. Spencer fired Sykes on January 14, 2017, when she exhausted her short-term disability benefits.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division (EEOC v. Spencer Gifts, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-00155) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“The obligation to accommodate an employee with a disability so he or she can keep their job is a fundamental aspect of the ADA,” said Kara G. Haden, acting regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Leave can be a reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot ignore its obligations under the ADA simply because an employee has exhausted leave he or she is otherwise entitled to under the employer’s policies.”

EEOC: Limiting Time Workers Could Sit on Stools During Food Demonstrations Violates the ADA

Workers who show off different foods at giant retailers like Walmart and Sam’s Clubs were unlawfully denied the opportunity to sit down because of their disability, federal law enforcement has charged.

Crossmark, Inc., a Plano, Texas-based sales and marketing services company that provides food demonstrators to Walmart and Sam’s Clubs, violated federal law by discriminating against disabled employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Sept. 24 The suit claims that Crossmark’s failure to accommodate a nationwide class of qualified disabled workers who needed to use a stool violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Crossmark established a qualification standard permitting its ubiquitous employees who offer shoppers food samples at Walmart and Sam’s Clubs stores to sit on stools for no more than ten minutes every two hours. For example, during the four years that Kathryne Guilfoyle worked directly for Sam’s Club, doing food demonstration events part-time, she was permitted to use a stool as necessary because of her disability. However, when Crossmark took over doing such events in Guilfoyle’s store and she asked for the same accommodation, Crossmark denied her request and she was fired. In addition to the illegal qualification standard, the EEOC also charges that Crossmark’s policies for considering an employee’s request to use a stool violated the ADA. During its investigation, the EEOC identified hundreds of employees, in addition to Guilfoyle, who were discriminated by Crossmark’s qualification standard and procedures.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Crossmark, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-1760), in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for each class member as well as a judgment and order requiring the company to implement policies and practices to prevent future discrimination.

“The ADA’s mandates are clear,” said EEOC St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr. “Crossmark’s failure to accommodate its employees with disabilities, when Walmart and Sam’s Clubs were able to do so, is especially unacceptable.”

Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis, added, “People with disabilities have the ability to contribute greatly to our workplaces and economy. When employers fail to give them the opportunity to do so, everyone suffers.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois.

Disabled Employees’ Rights Violated by Health Care Services Co., EEOC Alleges in ADA Suit

Overly stringent return-to-work policies that deny employment opportunities to disabled workers don’t sit well with the EEOC. The latest case in point:

Nationwide health care companies Corizon Health Inc., and Corizon LLC (collectively, “Corizon”) violated federal law by discriminating against employees with disabilities through the application of a 100% return-to-work policy and other unlawful practices, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Sept. 19. Corizon provides health care services to jail and prison inmates in 518 correctional facilities across 26 states, including Arizona.

The EEOC charged that Corizon refused to accommodate employees with disabilities who exhausted their leave under Corizon’s 30-day medical leave policy or the Family and Medical Leave Act. According to the EEOC, Corizon repeatedly failed to consider accommodations, including but not limited to alternative placements, additional unpaid leave, and modified work schedules that would have allowed employees with disabilities to return to work. The EEOC also said that Corizon required employees with disabilities to be 100% healed or to be without any medical restrictions before they were allowed to return to work. As a result, Corizon terminated employees because of their disabilities and/or because of their need for accommodation, the EEOC said.

The EEOC also charged that Corizon subjected employees to a hostile work environment based on disability and retaliated against employees because they complained about discrimination by, among other things, disciplining them and assigning them more strenuous job duties. Additionally, on at least one occasion, Corizon failed to promote an employee because of her disability, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals on the basis of disability. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Corizon LLC & Corizon HealthCare Inc., CV-18-2942-PHX-JZB, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that will eradicate and prevent discrimination based on disability going forward.

“Employers should value and utilize the skills of all of their employees, including employees with medical conditions,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Employers must work with qualified individuals with disabilities to find available and effective reasonable accommodations so that employees can keep their jobs. Employers who ignore the duty to accommodate their employees with disabilities violate the law-and they lose valuable contributors in their workplaces.”

Elizabeth Cadle, district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “The EEOC is committed to ensuring equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities. And we will continue to challenge employers who violate these employee’s federally protected rights. Employers should never have 100% return to work policies that require employees to have no medical restrictions. That policy tells employees that the company will not provide reasonable accommodations for employees with medical restrictions.”

Corizon LLC is a Missouri corporation, and its operation headquarters is in that state. Corizon Health Inc. is a corporation formed in Delaware and its corporate headquarters is in Tennessee. They operate in facilities across the nation, including in Arizona.

$50K Settlement in Suit Over Medical Leave

This employer decided to throw in the towel rather than fight the federal government in court over its refusal to extend short–term an employee’s unpaid medical leave.

Kessinger Hunter Management, Inc. (KHMI), a national commercial property management company with its primary corporate offices in Kansas City, Mo., will pay $50,000 to a former employee, change its policies, and provide training to employees to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC charged that KHMI violated federal law when it refused to extend employee Richard Shipe’s unpaid 30-day leave of absence by one week to allow him to recover from surgery. Shipe requested the short extension of leave as a reasonable accommodation to comply with his doctor’s orders, but KHMI denied his request because it would violate its 30-day maximum medical leave policy. When Shipe was unable to return to work after 30 days, the company fired him, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in September 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (EEOC v. Kessinger Hunter Management Co., Inc., Case No. 4:17-cv-809-HFS) seeking relief for Shipe and injunctive remedies to prevent future violations of the ADA, which protects employees from discrimination based on disability and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to known disabilities.

In addition to requiring the payment to Shipe, the consent decree settling the suit, entered today by Senior Judge Howard F. Sachs, enjoins KHMI from terminating employees because of disability and from failing to make a reasonable accommodation to known physical or mental limitations of applicants or employees in the future. The decree also requires KHMI to provide additional training to its director of human resources and change its policies to comply with the ADA, ensuring that no accommodation request from an employee is denied without KHMI engaging in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation. It also enables the EEOC to monitor KHMI’s compliance with the decree and requires the company to submit periodic reports to the agency.

“Maximum leave policies that do not allow flexibility for reasonable accommodation of employees with disabilities rob workers of the opportunity to earn a living and support themselves and their families,” Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for EEOC’s St. Louis District, said. “We are happy that KHMI will work to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities going forward, benefiting both workers and the company.”

James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, added, “With this resolution, we trust that KHMI’s employees will not have difficulty being accommodated in the future, especially when requesting a short extension to medical leave.”

The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

$15K Awarded EEOC in Settlement of ADA Suit Over Denial of Transfer for Disabled Employee

Evidently this hospital in Indiana lost sight of the requirement under federal law to consider a transfer for an employee whose disability keeps her from doing her current job.

St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc. will pay $15,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a lawsuit disability discrimination filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday. The EEOC had charged that the hospital violated federal law when it failed to provide its employee with a reasonable accommodation of a transfer to a vacant position for which she was qualified.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, when St. Vincent learned that Latoya Moore’s lifting restrictions caused by her disabilities were indefinite, St. Vincent required Moore to take leave at reduced pay, even though she wanted to continue working. Instead of transferring Moore to vacant positions she was qualified for and could perform, St. Vincent fired her, the EEOC charged.

The EEOC brought the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual because of disabilities. Under the ADA, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability unless the employer can demonstrate the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Transfer to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified can be a reasonable accommodation. The case (EEOC v. St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-3426-RLY-DML) was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division on Sept. 26, 2017.

Under a consent decree settling the suit, entered by the court on May 24, St. Vincent will pay Moore $15,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages. In the future, the hospital will be required to notify employees whose disabilities prevent them from performing the essential functions of their existing positions that reassignment to a vacant position for which they are qualified is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. St. Vincent will also be required to provide training on the ADA’s requirements to appropriate personnel, and submit annual compliance reports to the EEOC during the decree’s two-year term.

“This lawsuit demonstrates that employers should be aware of their obligation to provide a transfer as a reasonable accommodation for employees who are qualified individuals with disabilities,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird.

The EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and western Ohio, with field offices in Louisville, Cincinnati, and Detroit.

EEOC Recovers $50K for Employee Denied Additional Time Off to Recover From Toe Surgery

But for being a little more accommodating of this employee, this N.C. company might have avoided the hassle of an EEOC lawsuit and ensuing settlement.

Heritage Home Group, LLC, a North Carolina corporation that designs, manufactures, sources and retails home furnishings, will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on May 22. The EEOC charged that Heritage Home violated federal law when it failed to provide a machine operator at its Hickory Chair Company manufacturing plant in Hickory, N.C., an accommodation for his disability. The federal agency further charged that Heritage Home fired the employee because of his disability.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee (who wishes to remain anonymous) is a person with diabetes. He developed an infection and underwent surgery for amputation of one of his toes in March 2016. The employee was also diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and needed additional leave to recover fully. The employee informed Heritage Home of his anticipated return to work the first week of June 2016. Heritage Home informed the employee in a letter dated April 29, 2016 that it would be terminating his employment because the employee would not be able to return to work until June.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division (EEOC v. Heritage Home Group, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-CV-00018) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As part of the settlement, Heritage Home is required to pay the employee $50,000. In addition, the company has entered into a two-year consent decree that requires it to implement an ADA policy; conduct annual training for its human resources and management personnel on the ADA and its requirement that employees be provided with reasonable accommodations absent an undue hardship; and report to the EEOC on its accommodation practices.

“This settlement recognizes that employees with disabilities are important members of the workforce and should be provided equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.