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Trucking firm pays $4.9M to settle EEOC charges over leave policy


A nationwide trucking firm agreed to pay $4.9 million to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability lawsuit in which it was charged with automatically terminating employees who needed more than 12 weeks of leave.

The EEOC said Friday that Tacoma, Wash.-based Interstate Distributor Co. would terminate workers in these cases rather than determine if it would be reasonable to provide additional leave as an accommodation.

The EEOC also charged the company with violating federal law by refusing to make exceptions to its “no restrictions” policy, under which it would not permit employees with restrictions to return to work, nor determine if there were reasonable accommodations that would allow them to return with restrictions.

The EEOC said in its statement, “Interstate's maximum leave and no restrictions policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability.

“The law requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation, such as paid or unpaid leave or some modifications to the job functions or reassignment, to an employee with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.”


Other provisions of the settlement in addition to the $4.9 million include three-year injunctions against engaging in any further discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and a requirement that the company revise its policies and ADA policy to include reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.

EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O'Neill said in a statement, “This consent decree is the result of productive and thoughtful negotiations with Interstate. We appreciate Interstate working with the EEOC to reach a settlement.

“In addition to providing meaningful monetary relief for hundreds of former Interstate employees, the settlement contains important equitable relief, including company policy changes and training designed to provide people with disabilities equal opportunities in the workplace.”

A spokesman for Interstate, which has more than 1,800 employees according to its website, could not immediately be reached for comment.