Establishing unambiguous policies paired with training are a vital component for employers to avoid public consent decrees that resolve Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuits.
Recent resolutions have resulted in both non-monetary action (such as mandatory training and notices posted within the workplace) and significant financial payouts…and very public disclosure of the employer’s consequences.
Notable examples involve an epileptic employee who had a seizure on the job. Even after providing clearance to return to work from his doctor, the employee was still on a leave of absence for months. Ultimately, the EEOC and the employer arrived at a consent decree requiring a payment of $33,000 in addition to management training on reasonable accommodations and non-discrimination.
Another case involved the termination of a human resources manager who, despite having an approved leave of absence for surgery, was fired the end of the leave. In this situation the EEOC incorporated mandatory training for human resource staff and plant management on reasonable accommodation and disability discrimination under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) along with a payment of $187,500.
These examples and others provide convincing reminders that training, open channels of communication, reasonable accommodation and updated policies can be the preventative medicine that prevents sickening consequences.