Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, has agreed to change its leave policies to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the company had capped the duration of leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities, without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. This can include making exceptions to leave policies to allow an individual with a disability to successfully return to work and perform his or her job. More information about leave as a reasonable accommodation is available in question-and-answer format on the EEOC’s website.
The EEOC filed suit under the ADA on Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (EEOC v. Doumak, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-7492) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Teamsters Local 703 was also joined as a party to the action for relief purposes, since the leave policies in question were codified in collective bargaining agreements between Doumak and the union.
Doumak and the union agreed to resolve the suit without further litigation, and a consent decree was entered on Nov. 4 by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah. Under the decree, Doumak and the Union will not enforce the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements in any manner that would deny a qualified individual with a disability additional leave when it is needed as a reasonable accommodation. Doumak will also negotiate with the union to amend the relevant provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. The company will pay a total of $85,000 to five individuals who the EEOC said were affected by the prior policies, and it will conduct training about the ADA for current employees.
“Federal law requires employers to be reasonable and flexible in applying their workplace policies to people with disabilities,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “We are pleased that Doumak and the union will be taking steps that will enable more individuals with disabilities to continue to earn a living. Ultimately, that benefits everybody.”
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
According to Doumak’s website, the company’s founder, Alex Doumakes, “invented and patented the extrusion process of manufacturing marshmallows,” and the company has been manufacturing a range of marshmallow products in the Chicago area since 1961.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.
If you have questions about your employer’s policies on FMLA or disability accommodations, please call our offices today at 918-582-2500 for a free consultation.
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