Trucking company to pay $300,000 to settle disability discrimination lawsuit

Employer allegedly failed to provide reasonable accommodations

Posted September 28, 2015

An Arizona trucking company will pay $300,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC. According to EEOC's suit, the company denied reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. Specifically, it denied requests for unpaid leave beyond 12 weeks and transfers into open positions for which the disabled employees were qualified.

For example, the EEOC charged that the company discriminated against an employee because of her disability. She was employed as a payroll and billing clerk from November 2002 until August 2010. She suffered from a rare eye disease that substantially limited her eyesight, and she needed multiple surgeries to correct her eyesight. The employee took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Prior to the expiration of her FMLA leave, the company wrote her a letter informing her that if her doctor did not release her to "full, unrestricted duty" by the time her FMLA leave expired, her employment and benefits might be terminated. The employee asked the company for additional time to recover, but the company denied her requests, refused to explore possible accommodations, and terminated her on the day her FMLA leave expired.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The settlement requires the company to pay $300,000 to the disabled employees, and take the following actions:

  • Hire a neutral, outside consultant to ensure compliance with the ADA;
  • Eliminate its policy of requiring employees to return to work with no medical restrictions;
  • Eliminate its policy of not considering leaves of absence, extended time off, light duty, or reassignment as reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities;
  • Every six months for five years, report to the EEOC on compliance;
  • Train all its employees, including president, vice president, and human resources manager, on the ADA each year for five years;
  • Give the terminated employee and other aggrieved individuals an apology and positive letter of reference;
  • Make job offers to the terminated employee and other aggrieved individuals if there are job openings; and
  • Institute an evaluation system for supervisors and managers regarding their compliance with EEO laws.

"Employers should know they violate the law when they have blanket policies requiring disabled employees not to return to work until they are 100 percent healed," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Such employers violate the ADA because they fail to conduct individualized assessments to explore reasonable accommodations that may allow disabled employees to return to work. Employers also violate the ADA when they have inflexible, rigid policies limiting unpaid leave to 12 weeks. Again, employers have an obligation beyond the FMLA to provide unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation unless to do so would result in an undue hardship to the employer."

ADA Essentials ManualJ. J. Keller's ADA Essentials Manual reviews Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and provides plain-English explanations to help you stay in compliance.


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