EEOC, Pactiv settle over “inflexible medical leave policy”

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calendar with a blood vial and needle, with the words, "sick leave? yes, no"

Inflexible Medical Leave Leads to ADA Violations

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has settled with an Illinois-based food packaging and food service products provider, requiring the company, Pactiv, to pay $1.7 million over Americans with Disabilities Act violations arising from its medical leave policy.

“Employers need to get this message: Inflexible, strictly enforced leave policies can violate federal law,” EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman said in a news release, on November 5. “As an employer, make sure you have exceptions for people with disabilities and assess each situation individually. We are pleased that Pactiv has agreed to change its attendance policies at all its facilities to ensure it provides reason­able accommodations where required by the ADA.”

The ADA bars employers from having blanket medical leave policies, instead mandating that they examine leave requests on an individual basis to determine if they constitute a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the law.

Pactiv, contrarily, had a no-fault attendance policy in which it issued attendance points for medical-related absences, which could later be used for disciplining and discharging employees. Moreover, the company refused to grant reasonable accommodation requests for intermittent leave or leave extensions.

In addition to paying the fine, Pactiv must review and revise its ADA and attendance policies, to bring them into compliance. Further, it must conduct ADA training at each of its locations, submit periodic reports to the EEOC and notify employees of the changes in company policies.

Inflexible leave policies have become a primary focus of the EEOC’s disability discrimination efforts. In recent years, the EEOC has reached similar settlements with Verizon, Sears and Princeton Health Care Systems, among others.