EEOC PRESS RELEASE
Company Fired Employee Because of Disability And/or Because He Needed a Reasonable Accommodation
PHOENIX — A Phoenix, Ariz., Outback Steakhouse restaurant violated federal law by firing an employee on the basis of his disability and/or because he needed a reasonable accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit against OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC d/b/a Outback Steakhouse and OS Restaurant Services, Inc., server John Woods, who suffers from traumatic brain injury, worked as a server from November, 2009 until approximately January, 2010, when he was fired. The EEOC charged that Outback terminated Woods’ employment because of his disability and/or because he needed a reasonable accommodation.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which prohibits private employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC d/b/a Outback Steakhouse and OS Restaurant Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-01754-NVW) in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Woods, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent any further discriminatory practices.
“Recent amendments to the ADA make clear that the protections for persons with disabilities should be broadly applied,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “The ADA, as amended, was intended to ensure that workers with disabilities have equal employment opportunities. Terminating an employee because he is disabled or because he needed a reasonable accommodation is unlawful.”
EEOC District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, “We will vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. The EEOC continues to fight for the rights of people discriminated against because they are disabled.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Pepsi terminated Eldridge Davis, a driver at its Hayward, Calif., facility, for “job abandonment and violation of the company attendance policy,” even though Davis had followed proper procedure to inform his supervisor and the company that he could not finish his route due to his disability and needed to take medical leave.
Davis, age 48, had worked for Pepsi since October 1996 and was promoted to driver in December 1999.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. This settlement resolves EEOC v. Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc., CV 09-4594 EMC, filed in 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Under the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, Pepsi agreed to implement training on anti-discrimination laws, post a notice at the work site on the settlement and other injunctive relief, in addition to paying Davis $120,000.
“Medical leave is a widely recognized accommodation, and in Mr. Davis’s case, could easily have been granted, avoiding the loss of a valuable and experienced employee,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “Since recent amendments to the ADA have broadened the definition of disability, forward-thinking employers may want to re-evaluate their policies on workplace accommodations. Studies show that reasonable accommodations are frequently no- or low-cost, with the added benefit of improving productivity and morale, reducing turnover and building a diverse and loyal work force.”
According to the company’s web site, http://www.pbg.com, Somers, N.Y.-based The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer, seller and distributor of Pepsi-Cola beverages, with operations in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Russia, Spain, Turkey and Greece and more than 70,000 employees worldwide. The company produces and sells more than 1.7 billion cases of beverages each year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
Largest ADA Settlement in EEOC History for Hundreds of Employees
Terminated or Disciplined Based on Rigid Attendance Policy
BALTIMORE – Telecommunications giant Verizon Communications will pay $20 million and provide significant equitable relief to resolve a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The suit, filed against 24 named subsidiaries of Verizon Communications, said the company unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees and disciplined and/or fired them pursuant to Verizon’s “no fault” attendance plans.
The consent decree settling the suit, which is pending judicial approval, represents the largest disability discrimination settlement in a single lawsuit in EEOC history. The EEOC charged that Verizon violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to make exceptions to its “no fault” attendance plans to accommodate employees with disabilities. Under the challenged attendance plans, if an employee accumulated a designated number of “chargeable absences,” Verizon placed the employee on a disciplinary step which could ultimately result in more serious disciplinary consequences, including termination.
The EEOC asserted that Verizon failed to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities, such as making an exception to its attendance plans for individuals whose “chargeable absences” were caused by their disabilities. Instead, the EEOC said, the company disciplined or terminated employees who needed such accommodations.
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. The law also requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation, such as paid or unpaid leave, to an employee with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
“Flexibility on leave can enable a worker with a disability to remain employed and productive — a win for the worker, the employer and the economy,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “By contrast, an inflexible leave policy may deny workers with disabilities a reasonable accommodation to which they’re entitled by law – with devastating effects.” Chair Berrien presided over a Commission meeting earlier this month on leave as a reasonable accommodation.
“I am pleased the parties were able to resolve this historic case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “Hopefully this nationwide decree will further public awareness of the importance of engaging in an individualized interactive process to determine whether a disabled employee must be accommodated under the ADA.”
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Civil Action No. 1-11-cv-01832-JKB, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC filed its lawsuit and the proposed consent decree resolving the suit on the same day. The consent decree resolves the EEOC’s lawsuit, an EEOC Commissioner charge, a charge filed by the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO, and over 40 individual charges filed with the EEOC. The investigation involved coordinated systemic efforts by EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office and Newark Area Office.
“This settlement demonstrates the need for employers to have attendance policies which take into account the need for paid or unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., Director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
In addition to the $20 million in monetary relief, the three-year decree includes injunctions against engaging in any discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and requires the company to revise its attendance plans, policies and ADA policy to include reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, including excusing certain absences. Verizon will provide mandatory periodic training on the ADA to employees primarily responsible for administering Verizon’s attendance plans. The company will report to the EEOC about all employee complaints of disability discrimination relating to the attendance policy and about Verizon’s compliance with the consent decree. The company also agreed to post a notice about the settlement. Finally, Verizon will appoint an internal consent decree monitor to ensure its compliance. The settlement applies to certain Verizon wireline operations nationwide which employ union-represented employees.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said, “This consent decree is the result of productive and thoughtful negotiations with Verizon. We appreciate Verizon working with the EEOC to reach a settlement. In addition to providing meaningful monetary relief for hundreds of former Verizon employees, the settlement contains important equitable relief, including company policy changes and training designed to provide people with disabilities equal opportunities in the workplace.”
According to its website, www.verizon.com, Verizon Communications Inc., headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon has more than 196,000 employees and last year generated consolidated revenues of $106.6 billion.
In fiscal year 2010, private sector workplace discrimination charge filings with the EEOC hit an unprecedented level of 99,922, which included a record-high number of disability charges (25,165) – an increase of 17.3 percent in disability charges over the prior fiscal year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.
A federal court jury in Peoria has returned a verdict of $600,000 against AutoZone, Inc. for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled sales manager, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. An additional claim for $115,000 in back pay will be decided by the presiding judge at a later date.