Oakland County readers who have cell phone plans through Verizon may be interested to know that the telecommunications giant recently settled a discrimination lawsuit for $20 million. That amount is the largest ever for a single lawsuit claiming an employer had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Verizon was accused to failing to accommodate hundreds of employees who missed work because of disabilities. Not making reasonable accommodations for an employee who has disabilities can amount to workplace discrimination.
The genesis for the suit was two lawsuits initiated by Verizon workers in Maryland. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated and filed a complaint alleging that Verizon had disciplined or dismissed workers who had accumulated absences, but made no allowance for employees who missed work due to their disabilities. An EEOC spokeswoman said Verizon's policy worked like this: any time an employee missed work, no matter the reason, points were added to that employee's record. Once enough points accumulated, punishment was meted out.
A Verizon spokesman pointed out that the settlement does not mean Verizon acknowledges any violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He said Verizon settled to avoid a long, drawn-out court battle.
Of course, not every employment law issue is this large in scale. Workers at firms of any size may feel their rights have been violated in some way. Employment law is a tricky area and many cases require investigation of an employer's policies and practices, as well as a careful examination of the factual record to determine exactly what happened. A conversation with an employment law attorney will often give you a better sense of whether you have, in fact, been mistreated and whether a lawsuit may offer you acceptable remedies.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Verizon to pay $20 million to settle discrimination suit," Lorraine Mirabella, 6 July 2011.