Utah Employer Learns A $832,500 Lesson About Disability Discrimination

Associated Fresh Market, Inc. has agreed to pay $832,500 to settle a group of disability discrimination charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The charges filed against the company by several employees alleged that Associated Fresh Market had a pattern and practice of denying reasonable accommodations to disabled employees.

The EEOC investigated these charges and found that the company had a practice of denying reasonable accommodations under the ADA.  Specifically, the company required employees to have no restrictions or be 100% ready to return to work before an employee was reinstated following a medical leave of absence.  The company also routinely denied leave as a reasonable accommodation.  Finally, the company frequently refused to reassign employees to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation.

While the company denies any wrongdoing, the company agreed to resolve the charges prior to any litigation and to make changes to its ADA policies and procedures, which includes training its human resources team and managers/supervisors regarding the ADA.

This settlement serves as a reminder to all employers that compliance with the ADA is not optional.  It is recommended that all employers review their ADA policies and procedures to verify that the company is meeting its ADA obligations.  Employers should also provide training to its management team regarding ADA compliance.

Remember, employers are required to engage in the interactive process with a disabled employee who is seeking an accommodation in order to determine what type of reasonable accommodations can enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the position. These accommodations include additional leave, working with job restrictions and reassignment.