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PRESS RELEASE
1-4-10

Merchant State Bank to Pay $50,000 for Disability Bias

Custodian Fired Due to Chemotherapy, EEOC Charged in ADA Lawsuit

CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that Federal District Chief Judge Karen Schreier has signed a consent decree for $50,000 and remedial relief resolving the federal agency’s litigation against Freeman, S.D.-based Merchant State Bank under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the EEOC, Merchant prevented a former custodian from returning to work while he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer. The employee was allegedly told that he should stay home in order to recover and that he need not worry about his job security. Yet when the employee attempted to return to work at the completion of his therapy, he was told that he had been replaced.

Under the terms of the EEOC consent decree, entered on December 23, 2009, in addition to the monetary relief for the former employee, Merchant is required to ensure that its managers and employees are trained on the requirements of the ADA. Additionally, Merchant will report regularly to the EEOC regarding the circumstances of any termination of employees.

“One of the things that we heard from the bank in this case was that the employee had been asked to stay home out of a sincere concern for his well being,” said Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which has jurisdiction for South Dakota. “Even if we accept that to be true, employers need to understand that good intentions are no substitute for an understanding of, and adherence to, the law. The EEOC’s position is that telling an employee who can work to stay home and get better can violate the ADA.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Ethan Cohen noted that the EEOC has been focused in recent years on large class and systemic cases of discrimination. “It’s true that the EEOC has been focusing on larger cases, and that often means litigating against employers located in metropolitan areas,” Cohen said. “This case should remind employers that they should not assume that they will receive a pass from the EEOC simply because they are smaller, are situated in a rural area, or are facing an individual claim of discrimination.”

The EEOC 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.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.