One would think large companies have a good grasp on laws relating to employment, however, that is not always the case. Lowe’s, the second largest home improvement chain, recently agreed to pay $8.6 million in damages for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The company had fired workers with disabilities who had absences from work exceeding the company’s internal leave policy.
“Employers can set attendance and leave policies and the rules are supposed to apply to all employees across the board,” said Jeffrey Freedman, managing attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys, PLLC. Freedman has advised individuals and companies regarding ADA regulations, with the goal of helping bring businesses, government agencies and public venues into compliance.
“Under the ADA, workers who have disabilities can ask for a modification of that leave policy as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ for their condition, and they are entitled to the modification as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship on the employer,” he said.
Lowe’s, which owns about 1,840 stores nationwide, fired workers for exceeding the maximum leave policy after first denying them extended medical leave. The workers and any additional workers with disabilities fired from Lowe’s for the same reason between May 3, 2010 and January 1, 2014, will receive compensation from the settlement. Additionally, the company was required to hire consultants who will keep track of employee’s requests for extended medical leave, and the company’s responses to these requests.
“Employees living with a disability who need special accommodations such as extended medical leave, must be able to continue to perform the functions of the job in order to be protected by the ADA. For these four workers, that was the case,” Freedman said. “The law is intended to prevent employers from allowing biases about disability influence their hiring and employment policies and in this situation, it was effective.
This case was settled after a lawsuit brought by the EEOC. The EEOC is a federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the work place.