Retail Home Improvement and Appliance Store Chain Fired Thousands of Workers With Disabilities Due to Rigid Leave Policy, Federal Agency Charges
LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the approval of the resolution of a nationwide disability discrimination case against home improvement, appliance and hardware giant Lowe's. U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. approved the consent decree which calls for the distribution of $8.6 million.
According to EEOC's suit, Lowe's violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against people with disabilities by firing them and by failing to provide reasonable accommodations to them when their medical leaves of absence exceeded Lowe's 180-day (and, subsequently, 240-day) maximum leave policy. EEOC also charged that Lowe's violated the ADA by terminating individuals who were "regarded as" disabled, had a record of disability, and/or were associated with someone with a disability.
In addition to monetary relief, the four-year consent decree settling the suit requires that Lowe's retain a consultant with ADA experience to review and revise company policies as appropriate; implement effective training for both supervisors and staff on the ADA; develop a centralized tracking system for employee requests for accommodation; maintain an accommodation log; and post documentation related to this settlement. Lowe's is also required to submit regular reports to EEOC verifying compliance with the decree.
Any person terminated by Lowe's between Jan. 1, 2004, and May 13, 2010, after having taken the maximum amount of leave then available under Lowe's leave-of-absence policies, can go to www.loweseeocsettlement.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-855-725-4456 for more information on how to complete a claim form.
"This settlement sends a clear message to employers that policies that limit the amount of leave may violate the ADA when they call for the automatic firing of employees with a disability after they reach a rigid, inflexible leave limit," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "We hope that our efforts here will encourage employers to voluntarily comply with the ADA."
Anna Park, the regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, added, "We applaud the efforts by Lowe's in reaching a resolution with EEOC that provides both meaningful monetary relief and important equitable relief for thousands of former Lowe's employees. We encourage people impacted by this situation to come forward and make a claim."
In response to the news of the settlement, charging party Gary White said, "I'm very pleased with all the efforts of those with EEOC. It feels great to have closure in this matter. My sincere thanks!"
According to company information, Lowe's, a Fortune 50 company headquartered in Mooresville, N.C., operates more than 1,840 home improvement and hardware stores across North America. In 2014, company revenues totaled $56.2 billion.
Addressing emerging and developing issues under the ADA is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov.