The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has settled a class-action lawsuit against Sears, Roebuck, and Co. under the Americans With Disabilities Act for $6.2 million and significant remedial relief — representing the largest ADA settlement in a single lawsuit in EEOC history.
EEOC’s suit alleged that Sears maintained an inflexible workers’ compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees instead of providing them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, in violation of the ADA.
The case arose from a charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC by a former Sears service technician, John Bava, who was injured on the job, took workers’ compensation leave, and, although remaining disabled by the injuries, repeatedly attempted to return to work. Sears, according to the lawsuit, refused to provide Bava with a reasonable accommodation which would have put him back to work and, instead, fired him when his leave expired.
The complaint also revealed that hundreds of other employees who had taken workers’ compensation leave were also terminated by Sears without seriously considering reasonable accommodations to return them to work while they were on leave, or seriously considering whether a brief extension of their leave would make their return possible.
In addition to providing monetary relief, Sears will amend its workers’ compensation leave policy, provide written reports to EEOC detailing its workers’ compensation practices’ compliance with the ADA, train its employees regarding the ADA, and post a notice of the decree at all Sears locations.
The Federal District Court in Northern Illinois will hold a final hearing, currently slated for February 2010, when the court will make a final determination as to the fairness of the individual distributions from the $6.2 million settlement fund.