Lowe’s to pay $8.6 million to settle “maximum leave” policy lawsuit

EEOC SealA federal court signed off on a comprehensive settlement May 13, requiring the nation’s second-largest home appliance store to pay $8.6 million and eliminate its strict policy limiting how long employees can take off for medical purposes.

“This settlement sends a clear message to employers that policies that limit the amount of leave may violate the (Americans with Disabilities Act) when they call for the automatic firing of employees with a disability after they reach a rigid, inflexible leave limit,” EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said in a news release. “We hope that our efforts here will encourage employers to voluntarily comply with the ADA.”

From January 1, 2004 to May 13, 2010, Lowe’s, as a matter of policy, prevented employees from taking off more than 180 days, and later 240 days, under any circumstances. According to the new release, the company failed to provide reasonable accommodations when employees sought exemptions from the policy, as required by the ADA.

Lowe’s must also hire an ADA consultant, implement a training system, and improve its data collection efforts.

On May 9, the EEOC released new guidance on disability related leave policies. The resource document, titled “Employer-provided Leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” can be read here.

“We applaud the efforts by Lowe’s in reaching a resolution with EEOC that provides both meaningful monetary relief and important equitable relief for thousands of former Lowe’s employees,” Anna Park, the regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, said in the news release. “We encourage people impacted by this situation to come forward and make a claim.”