The EEOC has settled with retailing giant Sears for $6.2 million over its practices on how it deals with disabled employees. Here's the press release of September 29.
The case involved Sears' inflexible practice of terminating employees once they had exhausted workers' compensation leave, instead of seriously considering reasonable accommodations that would enable them to return to work during the leave, or slightly extending the leave to enable them to return to work.
“The era of employers being able to inflexibly and universally apply a leave limits policy without seriously considering the reasonable accommodation requirements of the ADA are over,” [EEOC Regional Attorney] Hendrickson said. “Just as it is a truism that never having to come to work is manifestly not a reasonable accommodation, it is also true that inflexible leave policies which ignore reasonable accommodations making it possible to get employees back on the job cannot survive under federal law. Today's consent decree is a bright line marker of that reality.”
In short, the EEOC is intentionally sending a signal with the Sears settlement that it will not tolerate employer rules that, either by design or application, work to circumvent the remedial purposes of the ADA. The wise employer will adjust accordingly.