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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
3-29-12

EEOC Sues AT&T for Disability Discrimination

Employee With  Hepatitis C Fired for Taking Approved Disability Leave, Federal  Agency Charges

INDIANAPOLIS  -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed suit against  AT&T Corp., a leader in telecommunication services, for failing to  reasonably accommodate a long-term employee’s disability and then firing her  because of that disability.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Lupe Cardona, who worked for  AT&T Corp. as a customer service representative in Indianapolis from 1984, requested a  reasonable accommodation in the form of a finite leave of absence in order to  receive interferon treatment for Hepatitis C.  Without the treatment, her disease could have eventually been fatal. Upon learning of Cardona’s disability and need  for a leave of absence, AT&T granted her leave request. Thus, Cardona was on an approved, paid  medical leave of absence from June 24 to Oct. 24, 2010, when her physician  determined the treatment was successful and released her to return to work  without restriction. Two days later, AT&T  fired her, claiming her use of approved leave to receive life-saving treatment violated  its attendance policy. AT&T refused  to provide Cardona a reasonable accommodation by exempting her leave of absence  from its no-fault attendance policy.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities  Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in  U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (EEOC v. AT&T Corp., Civil Case No.: 1:12-cv-0402-TWP-DKL) after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeksback pay, compensatory and punitive  damages and reinstatement or front pay for Cardona as well as injunctive relief,  including a court order prohibiting AT&T from failing to provide reasonable  accommodation to disabled employees by counting absences caused by their  disability as “chargeable,” or unprotected, absences under its attendance  policy.

“The refusal of AT&T to make a perfectly reasonable  exception to its draconian attendance policy to accommodate the known  disability of an employee violated federal law as well as common sense and  common decency,” said EEOC trial attorney Patrick Holman.

Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St.  Louis District Office, added, “This employer’s conduct is precisely what  Congress had in mind when enacting the ADA. The very essence of reasonable accommodation  is making exceptions to hard-and-fast rules in circumstances like this when to  do so causes no undue hardship to the employer – and failing to do so might  cause grave harm. AT&T’s actions here  were not only baffling, but downright cruel.”

The EEOC is  responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.