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EEOC reaches $6.2M disability settlement with Sears


CHICAGO—The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday settled a class action lawsuit brought against Sears, Roebuck & Co. under the Americans with Disabilities Act for $6.2 million.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in 2004 under the ADA, alleging that Sears maintained an inflexible workers compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees instead of providing them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, according to court documents.

The suit was settled by a consent decree in the largest ADA settlement in a single lawsuit in the history of the EEOC, the agency said in a statement.

“This record settlement sends the strongest possible message that the EEOC will use its enforcement authority boldly to protect those rights and advance equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” said Stuart J. Ishimaru, acting chairman of the EEOC, in a statement.

The case arose from a charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC by former Sears technician John Bava, who was injured on the job and took workers compensation leave. Though Mr. Bava was disabled by the injuries, he attempted to return to work, according to court documents.

Instead of providing Mr. Bava with a way in which he could return to work at Sears, the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based retailer fired Mr. Bava when his leave expired.

“The era of employers being able to inflexibly and universally apply a leave limits policy without seriously considering the reasonable accommodation requirements of the ADA are over,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC Chicago District Office, in a statement.

In addition to providing monetary relief, the three-year consent decree includes an injunction against violation of the ADA and retaliation. It requires, in addition, that Sears will amend its workers compensation leave policy, provide written reports to the EEOC detailing its workers compensation practices and compliance with the ADA, train its employees regarding the ADA, and post a notice of the decree at all Sears locations.