Telecommunications giant Verizon has agreed to settle a nationwide class-action lawsuit brought by its disabled employees. In all, the company will pay out about $20 million to employees who missed work for reasons related to their disabilities.
The lawsuit, filed by the EEOC on behalf of disabled Verizon workers across the country, claims Verizon’s “no-fault” attendance policy violates the ADA because it denies disabled workers reasonable accommodations.
No-fault policies typically count absences against workers regardless of the reason they missed work.
Under the ADA, employees who need time off to deal with the effects of their disabilities may be entitled to leave as a reasonable accommodation. Employers may not count that time off against the employee when evaluating him or her for raises.
Verizon used the same attendance policy in all of its 24 subsidiaries. When employees accumulated a given number of “chargeable absences,” they received the first step in the company’sprocess. Further infractions could lead to greater disciplinary measures, including termination.
The settlement represents the largest disability settlement in EEOC history.
A federal judge must approve the settlement before it goes into effect. The parties agreed to a three-year consent decree calling on the company to modify its attendance policies, refrain from retaliating against disabled employees and incorporate reasonable accommodations into its attendance policies.
Note: No-fault attendance policies contain many potential land mines for employers. In addition to ADA considerations, employers must ensure they do not penalize employees for taking legitimate leave under the.