Lowe's Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit for $8.6 Million
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has settled its lawsuit against home improvement, appliance, and hardware chain Lowe’s. U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. approved the settlement, which calls for Lowe’s to pay $8.6 million.
The EEOC alleged that Lowe’s violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by routinely discriminating against people with disabilities by firing them and failing to provide reasonable accommodations when their medical leaves of absence exceeded their maximum leave policy. The suit further alleged that Lowe’s terminated employees who were “regarded as” disabled, had a record of disability, and/or were associated with someone with a disability.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and government activities.
To be protected by the ADA, “one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”
Details of the Settlement
In addition to the $8.6 million settlement, Lowe’s is required to 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 compliance reports to the EEOC.
“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,” EEOC General Counsel David Lopez stated in a press release. “We hope that our efforts here will encourage employers to voluntarily comply with the ADA.”
A spokesperson for Lowe’s, Karen Cobb, stated that the company has taken steps to address the ADA’s concerns. “We modified our leave of absence policies in 2010 to further inform employees of their rights under the ADA and have since centralized our leave-of-absence management to ensure consistency in applying our policies and help employees manage their leaves of absence and accommodations.”
Lowe’s is based in North Carolina and operates over 1,800 stores. The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.
Any person who was terminated by Lowe’s between January 1, 2004 and May 13, 2010, after taking the maximum amount of leave available can pursue a claim. Those who think they may have a claim can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-855-725-4456 from information on how to submit their claim.
The case is U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v Lowe's Cos et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 16-03041.