Sears inflexible workers’ compensation leave exhaustion policy

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014

EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. (consent decree entered 2009)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought this landmark disability discrimination lawsuit alleging that Sears maintained an inflexible workers’ compensation leave exhaustion policy and terminated employees instead of providing them with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, in violation of the ADA.  The case resulted in the largest monetary recovery in a settlement of a single ADA lawsuit in EEOC history.

Under the terms of the consent decree, the EEOC provided claim forms to certain Sears employees who had been terminated under Sears’ workers’ compensation leave policy.  The claimants were asked to report to the EEOC, among other things, the extent of their impairments, their ability to return to work at Sears, and whether Sears had made any attempt to return them to work.  Based on these criteria, the EEOC found that 235 individuals were eligible to share in the settlement.  The average award was approximately $26,300, for a total award of approximately $6.2 million.

As with all EEOC litigation, none of the settlement fund will be retained by the EEOC;  all of it will be distributed to affected employees.