U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Human Services Provider Unlawfully Fired Employees Who Needed Medical Leave, Federal Agency Charged
WILMINGTON, Del. -- Connections CSP, Inc., a Delaware corporation that provides services in Delaware's correctional facilities and other state institutions, will pay $550,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that Connections unlawfully enforced an inflexible maximum leave policy. The company fired employees with disabilities who needed additional unpaid leave beyond the required 12 weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Connections also failed to provide other requested reasonable accommodations that would have allowed workers with disabilities to remain employed, such as reassignment to vacant positions. Instead, the EEOC said, Connections placed those employees on FMLA leave and terminated them when their FMLA leave expired.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations, such as modifying leave policies to grant additional unpaid leave or transferring an employee to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified, unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Connections CSP, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-00862) in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $550,000 in monetary relief to five former employees, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Connections from violating the ADA in the future. Connections will implement and disseminate a new reasonable accommodation policy to all employees. Connections will provide training on the ADA, its reasonable accommodation policy and other federal anti-discrimination laws. The company will also post a notice regarding the settlement.
"This settlement should encourage all employers to review their leave policies because rigid maximum leave policies can be a barrier to the employment of workers with disabilities," said Jamie R. Williamson, director of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Federal law makes it clear: Employers must provide reasonable accommodations as needed, including modifying leave policies or reassignment to a vacant position, unless it would be an undue hardship - which was not the case here. In addition to the monetary relief to compensate the class members for their losses, the comprehensive equitable relief serves to protect applicants and employees from disability discrimination."
Addressing emerging and developing areas of law, including inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.