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EEOC sends message on inflexible medical leave policies

Companies that are determined to have violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act sometimes hope they can negotiate a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, write a check and make their problems evaporate.

The EEOC has proven itself to be difficult for companies to be rid of. A couple of months ago, the hardware retailing giant Lowe's agreed to a $8.6 million settlement with the commission to resolve ADA violation claims. Lowe's was accused of firing employees whose medical leaves of absence exceeded the company's limit.

Back in May, the commission said in a statement that it hoped the Lowe's "settlement sends a clear message" to companies who try to enforce rigid and inflexible medical leave limits that result in automatic firings and ADA violations.

While the dollar amount of the settlement undoubtedly got some attention from employers, a less-publicized aspect of the agreement might have even more of an impact on companies. The EEOC has a four-year consent decree requiring Lowe's to have a consultant revise corporate policies, implement ADA compliance training and put in place a system for tracing worker requests for accommodations.

The consent decree essentially gives the EEOC the ability to check in on Lowe's to ensure that the retailer is doing what it said it would do in the settlement.

"We're not just settling it for money to make things go away," said an EEOC attorney. "We're also looking at what can we do that we think will solve the company's problems such as compliance going forward."

For those workers forced to deal with an employer in violation of ADA requirements, a discussion with a Milwaukee employment law attorney can help clarify your legal options.

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