This week, the EEOC announced that an Illinois-based packing company, Pactiv LLC, agreed to pay $1.7 million to resolve a charge alleging that the company discriminated against employees who needed time off from work for medical reasons.
According to the EEOC, the company maintained a nationwide policy that assessed “attendance points” to employees who needed time off for medical reasons. The company also allegedly failed to provide employees with intermittent and extended leave as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When announcing the settlement, EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman said, “Employers need to get this message: Inflexible, strictly enforced leave policies can violate federal law.” She further stated, “[a]s an employer, make sure you have exceptions for people with disabilities and assess each situation individually.”
This is the latest settlement secured by the EEOC in the last few years challenging employers’ inflexible leave and attendance policies, including settlements involving Interstate Distributor ($4.85 million settlement challenging maximum 12-week leave policy), Sears ($6.2 million settlement challenging automatic termination policy and failure to accommodate employees injured at work) and United Road Towing ($380,000 settlement challenging inflexible medical leave policy).
Employers should review their attendance policies to ensure that their policies allow them to grant exceptions for employees seeking a reasonable accommodation.