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EEOC targets leave policies that discriminate against disability

As part of its efforts to crack down on leave policy violations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has settled a case against Mueller Industries Inc. The agency accused the manufacturer of discriminating against disabled employees with its leave policy. The settlement that emerged from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California applies to Mueller Industries' nationwide operations. This case illustrated the commission's ongoing effort to address discriminatory practices derived from strict limits on the length of leaves or requirements that employees must be completely healthy to resume work.

Mueller Industries will pay damages of $1 million and update its leave policies so that workers can use leave as a reasonable accommodation for their disabilities. The EEOC has made clear in past cases that leaves qualify as reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mueller Industries violated this law by firing people who used leaves to deal with disabilities or exceeded the maximum number of days off allowed.

Other lawsuits brought forward by the EEOC produced settlements in similar situations. For example, Lowe's Cos. settled a case in May 2016 for $8.6 million. In the case of a tavern chain accused of forcing disabled workers to show 100 percent fitness before returning to work, the company agreed to pay $3.5 million and alter its leave policy.

When an employee suspects that mistreatment at work might violate the law, an attorney with experience in employee rights could provide valuable assistance. Evidence of mistreatment due to disability, age, race, religion or gender could warrant a legal complaint. To build a case, an attorney might request workplace policies, worker evaluations and payroll records. With legal support, a person might regain a job or collect lost income.

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