Company's Strict Enforcement of 180-Day Maximum Leave and Attendance Policies Disadvantages Workers With Disabilities, Federal Agency Says
LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today the simultaneous filing and settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit against a global metal goods manufacturer, Memphis-based Mueller Industries, Inc., which has agreed to pay $1 million and other injunctive relief.
According to the EEOC, Mueller Industries violated federal law by engaging in systemic discrimination against employees with disabilities. The EEOC charged that the company terminated employees and/or failed to provide reasonable accommodations for those exceeding its maximum 180-day leave policy. The EEOC also said that Mueller Industries violated federal law by implementing an attendance policy that assigned points to employees' absences, regardless of reason. Effectively, once a certain number of points were accumulated, the employee was terminated.
Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (U.S. EEOC v. Mueller Industries, Inc., Case No. 2:18-cv-05729-FW-GJS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agreement through its conciliation process. To resolve the case, the parties have entered into a two-and-one-half-year consent decree, which provides for $1 million in monetary relief and broad injunctive relief.
In addition to monetary relief, Mueller agrees to provide reinstatement to the affected individuals; appoint an ADA coordinator; revise its written policies and procedures regarding its complaint procedure; create and maintain an accommodation log; post a notice for employees on the matter; implement training to all employees on the ADA; develop a centralized tracking system for accommodation requests; and submit annual reports to the EEOC verifying compliance with the decree.
According to its website, www.muellerindustries.com, Mueller is a global manufacturer and distributer of metal goods, such as copper tube and fittings, brass and copper alloy rod, bar and shapes, aluminum and brass forgings. The company's website states that Mueller is a multi-billion-dollar company with operation centers located throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, China and Great Britain.
"We applaud the efforts by Mueller Industries in reaching a resolution with the EEOC that provides both meaningful monetary relief and important companywide equitable relief for its employees with disabilities," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office.
Rosa Viramontes, district director of the EEOC's Los Angeles District, added, "Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, barring undue hardship. Workers may need a period of leave for medical treatment or recovery which, once granted, allows them to return and continue on as productive workers."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the EEOC to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.