Human Resources News & Insights

Can your attendance policy stand up to new ADA regs?

rules-made-to-be-broken

Verizon’s recent massive settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission carries a crucial message for employers.

In what’s being billed as the “the largest disability discrimination settlement in a single lawsuit in EEOC history,” the telecommunications giant agreed to fork over $20 million for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by refusing to make exceptions to its “no fault” attendance plans to accommodate employees with disabilities.

Under Verizon’s plan, if an employee accumulated a designated number of “chargeable (unexcused) absences,” the company placed the employee on a progressive discipline plan.

The EEOC charged that Verizon failed to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities whose “chargeable absences” were caused by their disabilities.  Instead, the EEOC said, the company disciplined or terminated employees who needed such accommodations.

Besides the $20 million price tag, Verizon agreed to revise its attendance and ADA policies and provide mandatory ADA training to employees responsible for administering the company’s attendance plans.

New atmosphere

Two things to consider following this case:

First, the new ADA has greatly broadened the definition of what qualifies as a disability. Second, the EEOC has stepped up enforcement efforts under the Obama administration.

And as the Verizon situation indicates, there’s no part of your operation the EEOC won’t probe for violations of the ADA.

We’re going to go out on a limb here and assume that Verizon adopted its “no fault” attendance policy to streamline the way the company handled employee absences. And we’re sure the intention was to set up a fair, clear set of rules that everyone could live with.

But the policy wasn’t flexible enough to handle ADA situations — at least in the eyes of the EEOC.

Is it possible that your company could have a similar time bomb ticking in one of its policies?

Subscribe Today

Get the latest and greatest Human Resources news and insights delivered to your inbox.
  • CM

    I would be interested in seeing a copy of Verizon’s policy before this and how they have changed it to conform with the new guidelines. Being able to see the “before and after” would be a great tool for many HR people.

  • WellInever

    I guess I better call our company attorney and make sure we’re square on this stuff. Chalk up another win for the lawyers.

  • Common Sense

    Where does the $20 million go? To disabled employees that were “wronged” (the story does no even mention if disabled employees were in fact charged with offenses), to fund the EEOC so they can probe more companies, pay off the nation debt?

'