Interstate Distributor Co. to pay nearly $5 million to settle disability suit

Interstate Distributor Co., a nationwide truckload carrier, will pay $4.85 million to settle a class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of more than 200 former employees, the agency announced.

The EEOC’s suit said Interstate unlawfully fired hundreds of employees under the fleet’s leave policy. Under the challenged policy, if an Interstate employee needed more than 12 weeks of leave, the carrier automatically terminated them rather than determining if it would be reasonable to provide additional leave.

The EEOC also charged that Interstate violated federal law by refusing to make exceptions to its "no restrictions" policy. Under this policy, if an employee had restrictions, Interstate refused to allow them to return to work and failed to determine if there were reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to return to work with restrictions.

The EEOC said Interstate’s maximum leave and no restrictions policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 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.

In addition to the $4.85 million in monetary relief, the three-year decree includes injunctions against engaging in any further discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and requires Interstate to revise its policies and ADA policy to include reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.

Under the settlement, Interstate will provide mandatory periodic training on ADA to employees. The company will also report to the EEOC about all employee complaints of disability discrimination. Interstate will also appoint an internal consent decree monitor to ensure its compliance with the decree. The settlement applies to all of Interstate’s facilities and employees throughout the country.

“This consent decree is the result of productive and thoughtful negotiations with Interstate,” Mary O'Neill, EEOC Regional Attorney, said. “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.”

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