Hundreds of former Verizon Communications employees are pretty certain the company can hear them now. Verizon has agreed to pay $20 million in addition to a number of conditions to settle a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed. The suit is reportedly the largest settlement of its kind for a single lawsuit in EEOC history.
Verizon allegedly denied reasonable accommodations to disabled employees and disciplined or fired them for absences directly related to their disabilities, the EEOC said Wednesday in a release. The communications giant adheres to a “no fault” attendance policy for all employees, and refused to make any exception to the rule. According to the EEOC, this treatment is in direct violation of ADA rules prohibiting disability discrimination, which requires employers to provide such accommodations unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
"I am pleased the parties were able to resolve this historic case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation," EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez said in the release. "Hopefully this nationwide decree will further public awareness of the importance of engaging in an individualized interactive process to determine whether a disabled employee must be accommodated under the ADA."
In addition to the $20 million in compensation, the settlement contains a three-year decree that includes injunctions against engaging in any discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and requires Verizon to revise its attendance plans, policies and ADA policy to meet the needs of disabled employees. Verizon also will be required to provide mandatory occasional ADA training for employees responsible for administering its attendance policies, and must report to EEOC about all employee complaints of disability discrimination related to the attendance policy and its compliance with this decree. Additionally, Verizon must appoint an internal consent decree monitor to ensure compliance.
“This consent decree is the result of productive and thoughtful negotiations with Verizon,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said in the release. “We appreciate Verizon working with the EEOC to reach a settlement. In addition to providing meaningful monetary relief for hundreds of former Verizon employees, the settlement contains important equitable relief, including company policy changes and training designed to provide people with disabilities equal opportunities in the workplace.”