Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to pay $20 million to resolve a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit involving the company’s “no fault” attendance plans, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said July 7.
The case is the largest disability discrimination settlement in a single lawsuit in EEOC history, according to the federal agency.
The EEOC charged that New York City-based Verizon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when 24 Verizon subsidiaries unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of unionized employees and disciplined and/or fired them under its “no fault” attendance plans.
If an employee accumulated a designated number of “chargeable absences” under Verizon’s attendance plans, the worker was put on a disciplinary step that could result in more serious consequences, the EEOC said.
The EEOC charged that instead of providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, it disciplined or terminated them.
“An inflexible leave policy may deny workers with disabilities a reasonable accommodation to which they’re entitled by law—with devastating effects,” EEOC chair Jacqueline Berrien said in a written statement.
Also in a statement, Verizon said it agreed to settle the complaint “solely because it is in the best interest of our company, our employees and our customers to avoid the disruption, delay and expense of protracted litigation.
“In addition, this settlement, which applies only to union-represented wireline employees, provides Verizon with clearer guidance from the EEOC regarding when it may be appropriate to provide additional leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was previously lacking and was a significant factor in Verizon agreeing to settle the matter.” According to a Verizon spokesperson, wireline employees install, maintain and repair landline phone services.
Verizon said it complies with all employment laws, “and in fact has not in this case conceded any violation of those laws. In addition, no court has ever found that Verizon violated the ADA or any other law in the manner alleged by the EEOC. Verizon believes it has accommodated employees with fairness to all, consistent with a company that has a long-standing public record recognized by many third parties—for commitment to and support of people with disabilities. In fact, Verizon’s leave-of-absence and accommodation policies continue to far exceed what is required by law.”
Settlement of the litigation, which was filed in federal court in Baltimore the same day as the lawsuit, is subject to judicial approval.
In March, the EEOC released regulations on what qualifies as a disability and what constitutes adequate protection of individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.