Philadelphia Employment Law News

Verizon Settlement: Pay $20M in Disability Discrimination Case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the $20 million Verizon settlement representing the agency's largest ever settlement in a disability discrimination case.

According to the EEOC's announcement, Verizon Communications, the telecom giant, was accused of discriminating against hundreds of disabled workers nationwide. The EEOC claimed that the discrimination stemmed from Verizon's "no fault" attendance policy that negatively affected workers with disabilities.

The no fault attendance policy basically gave all employees (disabled or not) a set number of allowable absences. If employees exceeded that number, they were disciplined and sometimes terminated.

The problem with the no fault policy is that many employees with qualified disabilities were forced to miss more days than they were allowed. And so they were disciplined and terminated along with non-disabled workers.

This was not okay, argued the EEOC.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are generally required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. These accommodations are things that an employer can do to allow a disabled employee to continue working.

For example, a reasonable accommodation for an employee suffering from carpal tunnel may be an ergonomic keyboard. And a reasonable accommodation for an employee who must miss time due to a disability may be additional leaves of absence and modifications in attendance policies.

However, the EEOC accused Verizon of not making reasonable accommodations for the disabled workers. Instead, the EEOC said Verizon enforced its no fault attendance policy equally for both disabled and non-disabled employees, thereby discriminating against employees who had to miss time due to disabilities.

The $20 million Verizon settlement is a lesson to all employers that under the ADA it is not enough for employers to treat all employees equally. Instead, for disabled employees, employers have the affirmative duty to go above and beyond -- to provide benefits not offered to other employees. If employers fail to do this, they can find themselves on the wrong end of a disability discrimination case.

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