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The Jewel-Osco supermarket chain has been ordered to pay $400,000 in attorney’s fees and costs for allegedly violating a consent decree obtained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in connection with its leave policy, the agency said Friday.
The EEOC said the decree had been entered to resolve prior agency litigation filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, in which the EEOC charged that the chain, which is now operated by Boise, Idaho-based New Albertsons Inc., routinely failed to provide reasonable accommodations to employees seeking to return to work from a disability leave.
The EEOC said the payment comes as a result of a Dec. 2, 2014 order by Judge Ronald Guzman of U.S. District Court in Chicago, as part of the relief granted to the agency’s Chicago district office when it prevailed in a contempt hearing brought against the company for alleged violations of the consent decree.
The EEOC said Magistrate Michael Mason, also of the U.S. District in Chicago, had previously found that the company had failed to comply with the decree’s requirement that Jewel-Osco reasonably accommodate certain employees, which was subsequently affirmed by Judge Guzman’s ruling.
“These circumstances were unique,” explained EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson, in a statement. “The contempt proceeding occurred only after Jewel-Osco accepted certain obligations to resolve serious discrimination claims brought by our office; memorialized the company’s agreement in a consent decree, which was entered by the court; and then failed to comply with its obligations under that decree. Obviously, it is a situation that we hope will not be repeated — either by this employer or by any other.
“By reaching an agreement on the amount of fees and costs, we are hopeful that the EEOC and Jewel have now entered a new era of cooperation whereby Jewel will indeed fulfill its consent decree obligations. We appreciate that Jewel has communicated a renewed commitment to ADA compliance and we look forward to a productive partnership going forward.”
A New Albertsons spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.
A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. unit has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit in which it was charged with harassing, then firing, a Texas store manager because of his age.