Company will pay $4.85 million to settle disability bias case

It’s been a banner year for the labor law cops at the EEOC, and they’ve just notched another $4 million-plus settlement with a company accused of disability discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took Interstate Distributor Co. to court for what it alleged was a form of systemic disability discrimination.

The accusation: An employee filed a complaint with the EEOC when she said Interstate failed to accommodate her following an on-the-job injury.

She said the company demanded she present a “full duty work release” — a document declaring she was 100% healed and 100% capable of assuming her previous duties — before she could return to the job.

After the complaint, eight other workers stepped forward to say they’d been subjected to similar treatment.

That’s when the feds started smelling blood in the water.

Based on interviews with employees and its own investigation, the EEOC estimated Interstate had discriminated against nearly 300 other people in the “must be 100% to return” scenario.

The EEOC filed suit, saying Interstate denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees — and then fired them for taking unlawful leave.

The employer was also accused of refusing to make accommodations for injured employees who’d requested more than the standard 12 weeks of leave and firing them for violating the company’s leave of absence policy. (EEOC v. Interstate Distributor Co.)

One month after the EEOC filed its lawsuit, the two parties met to hash out an agreement.

The consent decree they reached called for Interstate to pay out $4.85 million to people who’d been discriminated against.

The company was also warned against any future acts of discrimination or retaliation based on disability.

For the next three years, Interstate also must provide Americans with Disabilities Act training for its employees and catalog the circumstances of terminations, Family and Medical Leave Act extensions, disability complaints and requests for accommodations.

Interstate Distributor Co. denied the allegations, but says it entered into the settlement agreement to avoid litigation.

Earlier this year, the consent decree settling EEOC v. Yellow Transportation Inc., and YRC Inc., topped $11 million.

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