Grocery chain held in contempt for violating ADA settlement

Male grocery employee in vegitble aisle
Grocery chain in contempt

A grocery chain that settled with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, in one of largest ever employment discrimination cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act, has violated the terms of the settlement, a federal court found March 21.

“When the EEOC resolves a case involving allegations of systemic discrimination, we expect the employer to meet its commitments under the resulting consent decree and work cooperatively with our agency to resolve any disputes,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, in a news release. “This ruling confirms that the EEOC can and will act to enforce the court’s orders, embodied in a decree, when we find violations and the employer is unwilling to provide appropriate remedies.”

The EEOC sued Supervalu Inc., which owns the Chicago-based Jewel-Osco supermarket chain, in September 2009 over its “inflexible” medical leave policy. During the prior six years, the company allegedly fired more than 1,000 employees at the end of their one-year medical leave absences, without providing them any reasonable accommodations that would allow them to return to work.

In January 2011, Supevalue and the EEOC reached a consent decree, requiring the grocery chain to pay $3.2 million to 110 individuals, as well as send written job offers to the employees capable of returning to work.

In response to a request made by the EEOC in March 2012 to hold the grocery store chain in contempt, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois found that the company failed to send written job offers to three employees.

As a remedy, the court ordered Supervalu to send written job offers to “all employees the company determined could be returned to work between January 2011 and April 2012,” according to the news release.

“(Supervalu’s)”failure to send written return-to-work letters to all of those it identified were capable of returning to work constitutes a violation of the Decree that is more than harmless error,” the court stated, according to the news release.

In addition, the court also granted the EEOC’s requested for a limited discovery period and evidentiary hearing to determine if the company violated other terms in the settlement.