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EEOC to Employers Via $20M Verizon ADA Settlement: Can you hear me now?

The EEOC announced on Wednesday July 6, 2011 that it had settled a nationwide class disability discrimination suit with Verizon for $20 Million – the largest ADA settlement in EEOC history.  The EEOC filed suit in federal court earlier this month alleging that Verizon’s “no fault” attendance policies mandated “that when an employee accumulates a designated number of ‘chargeable absences’ an employee is placed on a disciplinary ‘step’ and additional ‘chargeable absences’ during such step period result in the placement of the employee in the next step, which has more serious consequences, up to termination.”

The EEOC noted that such policies made no exceptions for disability-related leaves, which is contrary to the EEOC’s enforcement position that one-size-fits-all leave periods for disabled employees (i.e., disabled employees have x number of days to return to work or face termination) are violative of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The policy did exempt FMLA leave.

The Verizon settlement, which also includes a consent order in which the EEOC will supervise Verizon’s revision of its attendance policies and its training of management, is just the latest step in an ADA enforcement campaign that we have reported on previously.

Employers are well-advised to review their leave policies to ensure compliance with ADA requirements.