CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Chase) today announced the $2.2 million settlement of a claim brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) against Bank One Corporation.
The EEOC issued an administrative determination on March 11, 2004, finding that there was reasonable cause to believe that Bank One violated the ADA by failing to properly accommodate a group of employees who were medically released to return to work after leaves of absence exceeding six months. Bank One automatically protected employees’ jobs when employees went on a leave of absence for less than six months. However, for employees who went on longer leaves of absence, the EEOC found that Bank One violated the ADA by terminating some employees without first attempting to determine on an individual basis whether they required additional job protection or other accommodations because of a disability. In 2004, after the EEOC’s finding was issued, Bank One merged with Chase. Chase assumed negotiations with the EEOC following the merger of the two companies.
As a result of the settlement, the merged company will distribute $2.2 million among 222 individuals who went on a long-term disability (LTD) leave of absence from Bank One and whose employment was ultimately terminated. Chase will also reinforce its policies to individually assess whether a disabled employee on a disability leave of absence should receive additional job protection or other accommodations. Chase will provide training on the ADA and its revised policy to all managers, human resources professionals, and employees of its Disability Management Services department.
“Chase is settling this case to resolve this matter expeditiously, and also because this agreement reaffirms its commitment to providing reasonable accommodations to its employees,” according to a statement by JPMorgan Chase. The settlement also provides for Chase to make a monetary contribution to Open Doors, a Chicago-based, non-profit organization, to support the agency’s education and advocacy work on behalf of the employees with disabilities.
During its investigation, the EEOC found that Bank One’s policy permitted employees who returned from short-term disability within six months to return to their jobs. Employees who required more than six months of disability leave, however, were not guaranteed to return to their previous position. If their position had been filled, employees who were released to return to work after more than six months of disability leave had thirty days to find other positions within Bank One or were terminated. The ADA requires that employers individually assess whether or not additional leave will assist employees with disabilities in returning to work without placing an undue hardship on the company.
EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp stated, “We commend Chase for working cooperatively with us to resolve this matter and for its commitment to providing equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.”
John P. Rowe, district director of the Chicago District Office, said, “Through the conciliation process, we were able to ensure that disabled employees will receive the individualized attention they need in the future and provide remedies to those affected by Bank One’s practice. We are particularly pleased that Chase was willing to work with us to achieve this result without having to resort to protracted litigation.”
Konrad Batog, EEOC's lead investigator of the charge filed against Bank One, said, “Everyone knows that employees on leave may be able to return to work at some point. Being open to the possibility that individuals with disabilities may need a little extra time is a win-win for employers. Employees will appreciate the individualized consideration, and employers will be able to retain seasoned, trained employees.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability, and retaliation. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.