$4.85 Million Settlement in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against Trucking Company, Training Ordered

Monday, November 12, 2012

Question:  Would disability discrimination training have prevented this case?  See our trainings at http://www.hrclassroom.com.

Interstate Distributor Company will pay $4.85 million and provide other significant relief to settle a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC's suit said the nationwide trucking firm unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees and fired them pursuant to Interstate's maximum leave policy. 

According to the EEOC's suit, under the challenged leave policy, if an employee needed more than 12 weeks of leave, Interstate automatically terminated them rather than determining if it would be reasonable to provide additional leave as an accommodation. The EEOC also charged that Interstate violated federal law by refusing to make exceptions to its "no restrictions" policy. Under this policy, if an employee had restrictions, Interstate refused to allow them to return to work and failed to determine if there were reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to return to work with restrictions.

Interstate's maximum leave and no restrictions policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The law requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation, such as paid or unpaid leave or some modifications to the job functions or reassignment, to an employee with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Civil Action No. 12-cv-02591-RBJ, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The consent decree resolves the EEOC's lawsuit and seven charges of discrimination filed by individuals with the EEOC. The systemic investigation was conducted by the EEOC's Denver Field Office, which is part of the Phoenix District Office. 

In addition to the $4.85 million in monetary relief, the three-year decree includes injunctions against engaging in any further discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and requires the company to revise its policies and ADA policy to include reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. Interstate will provide mandatory periodic training on the ADA to employees. The company will also report to the EEOC about all employee complaints of disability discrimination relating to the attendance policy and about Interstate's compliance with the consent decree. The company also agreed to post a notice about the settlement. Finally, Interstate will appoint an internal consent decree monitor to ensure its compliance with the decree. The settlement applies to all of Interstate's facilities and employees throughout the country.

    Interstate Distributor Company, headquartered in Tacoma, Wash., is a trucking company that operates in 48 states and       Canada and employs 1,800 people nationwide.
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