In the largest U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability discrimination lawsuit in history, the nation’s second-largest telephone company will pay $20 million to settle claims that its attendance policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Under Verizon Communication’s “no fault” attendance policy, people with a certain number of “chargeable absences” are put on a disciplinary step that could lead to termination of their employment. According to the lawsuit and settlement, both filed Wednesday by the EEOC, Verizon repeatedly charged people with disabilities with “chargeable absences” for absences relating to their disability.
“Flexibility on leave can enable a worker with a disability to remain employed and productive — a win for the worker, the employer and the economy,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien in a news release. “By contrast, an inflexible leave policy may deny workers with disabilities a reasonable accommodation to which they’re entitled by law – with devastating effects.”
The $20 million will be dispersed to hundreds of former Verizon employees.
Along with the monetary relief, the settlement also requires Verizon to revise its attendance policy, provide mandatory ADA training to employees and appoint an individual to monitor the settlement.
The lawsuit, which must still be approved by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, stems from charges filed by the Communications Workers of America, the Americans Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and more than 40 individual charges filed since 2006.
Verizon has more than 196,000 employees worldwide and last year generated $106.6 billion in revenues.
In fiscal year 2010, 25,165 disability discrimination charges were filed with the EEOC, a more than 17.3 percent increase from 2009.