Trucking company pays $4.85 M to settle case

Employers advised to review disability leave policies

National trucking company Interstate Distributor Co. recently paid $4.85 M to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over Interstate's allegedly unlawful disability leave policies.

The EEOC and nine former employees alleged Interstate's policies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because employees were automatically discharged after exhausting their 12 weeks of leave afforded under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), unless they could return to work without any medical restrictions, according to Honigman employment attorneys.

The EEOC alleged that Interstate's policies denied reasonable accommodations under the ADA to hundreds of disabled employees since 2007. Interstate also purportedly failed to engage in an "interactive process" with the disabled employees to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodations could be implemented to allow the employees to continue employment.

In addition to paying $4.85 million to settle the case, the settlement places a myriad of other requirements on Interstate through 2015. Among other requirements, Interstate must implement new anti-discrimination policies; notify employees that Interstate's no medical restrictions and 12-week maximum leave policies are discontinued; and notify the EEOC within 14 days of modifying any equal opportunity policies.

The settlement between the EEOC and Interstate coincides with the EEOC's recent report for fiscal year 2012 in which it reported that "the EEOC secured a historic monetary recovery through [its] private sector administrative enforcement--$365.4 million--the highest level of monetary relief ever." Of this figure, $36.2 million "came from investigations and conciliations of systemic charges of discrimination," such as the Interstate settlement, which is "four times the amount received in the previous fiscal year."

In light of the Interstate settlement and the EEOC's increasing enforcement efforts, Honigman attorneys advise employers to review their disability leave policies, and to remember that exhaustion of all 12 weeks of FMLA leave does not necessarily mean a disabled employee is not entitled to additional leave under the ADA.

Published: Mon, Jan 7, 2013