Indiana RV manufacturer settles disability-related attendance lawsuit for more than $95K

Dive Brief:

  • Keystone RV Co. will pay $95,460 to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the company terminated an employee for missing too much work because of a medical condition in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a news release issued May 29. 
  • In a court-approved consent decree dated May 24, Keystone agreed to a two-year injunction against certain discriminatory activities, such as denying reasonable accommodations in disability cases or discharging a person with a disability for violating the attendance policy without considering accommodation options. The company will also make certain changes, such as providing manager training and revising its accommodation policy. The company also will report to the EEOC for two years to ensure it’s adhering to the decree, per the release. Keystone could not immediately be reached for comment. 
  • “If an employer can accommodate an employee’s need for leave without undue hardship, it cannot refuse that accommodation just because it has a strict attendance policy,” Kenneth L. Bird, EEOC’s regional attorney in Indianapolis, said in a statement. “Providing a reasonable amount of leave for medical treatment allows individuals with disabilities to stay in the workforce.”

Dive Insight:

Previously, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted summary judgment to the EEOC March 27, concluding the manufacturer of towable RVs wrongfully terminated an employee with a disability. In the opinion and order, the federal judge wrote, “This case illustrates one reason why the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exists.”

At the time, an employment lawyer told HR Dive that managers need to be trained to recognize how disability-related absences differ from other absences. 

Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers with disabilities on any aspect of employment, including firing, and are required to offer reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Keystone said it has revised its attendance policy to allow for exceptions for workers in need of reasonable accommodations under the ADA and to explain the process by which employees can request a reasonable accommodation to the attendance policy and how those requests will be handled, according to the consent decree.