Marshmallow Manufacturer to Change Leave Policy to Resolve Disability Discrimination Suit

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, has agreed to change its leave policies to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the company had capped the duration of leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities, without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. This can include making exceptions to leave policies to allow an individual with a disability to successfully return to work and perform his or her job. 

The EEOC filed suit under the ADA on Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (EEOC v. Doumak, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-7492) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Teamsters Local 703 was also joined as a party to the action for relief purposes, since the leave policies in question were codified in collective bargaining agreements between Doumak and the union.

Doumak and the union agreed to resolve the suit without further litigation, and a consent decree was entered on Nov. 4 by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah. Under the decree, Doumak and the Union will not enforce the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements in any manner that would deny a qualified individual with a disability additional leave when it is needed as a reasonable accommodation. Doumak will also negotiate with the union to amend the relevant provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. The company will pay a total of $85,000 to five individuals who the EEOC said were affected by the prior policies, and it will conduct training about the ADA for current employees.

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