Four Times Is a Charm, or Is It?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit (for the fourth time!) against the nationwide auto parts retailer, AutoZone, for disability discrimination. This time its attendance policy which uses a “points” system for absences, did not permit any general exception for disability-related absences. Its policy required termination for employees reaching twelve points.
The complaint included an example of an employee with Type 2 diabetes who had to leave work early on occasion because of insulin reactions. The employee was fired because of an accumulation of attendance points. Another employee was fired in retaliation for objecting to the attendance policy and filing a charge with the EEOC.
The three other disability claims were described as follows:
1) Failure to promote a visually impaired employee and denying permission to use a guide dog; Employee awarded $140,000.
2) Refusal to accommodate a sales manager’s disability by insisting he mop floors, leading to greater injury; Employee awarded $424,000.
3) Refusal to accommodate a lifting restriction, fired the employee; Proceeding to jury trial.
The EEOC takes all discrimination and retaliation claims very seriously, which common sense would dictate that an employer should do the same. Conducting a self-audit of policies to ensure they are in compliance with the law and are not discriminating toward any individual or protected class of individuals should be a high priority in most organizations. As you can see from AutoZone’s examples, one charge is too much – four, well . . . .
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