A nationwide disability discrimination case against Lowe’s has been settled, resulting in the retailer agreeing to pay $8.6 million to affected claimants.
According to the lawsuit brought against home improvement, appliance, and hardware retailer Lowe’s by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC states in a media release that the retailer 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 the monetary distribution, the 4-year consent decree settling the suit requires that Lowe’s—a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Mooresville, NC—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, the release continues.
To file a claim for settlement funds, any person terminated by Lowe’s between January 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, email [email protected], or call 1-855-725-4456 for more information on how to complete a claim form, the release notes.
“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,” says EEOC General Counsel David Lopez, in the release. “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, adds in the release that, “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 states in the release that, “I’m very pleased with all the efforts of those with EEOC. It feels great to have closure in this matter. My sincere thanks!”
[Source: US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission]