Home Depot USA, Inc. has agreed to pay a former part-time cashier $100,000 for firing her while she was on unpaid leave, battling cancer. The settlement by Home Depot was with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC claimed that the home improvement store violated the American with Disabilities Act by failing to provide reasonable accommodations for the victim, who was terminated while on an unpaid medical leave for cancer treatments in 2010.
The victim, who started working for Home Depot in 1997, was fired in 2010 after notifying the company that she would extend her sick leave longer than expected because of a cancerous tumor. Home Depot used the excuse of “seasonal slowdown” for her termination. However, a new cashier was hired to replace her. She was never fired before during “seasonal slowdowns.” Home Depot’s intentional actions deprived the victim of equal employment opportunities “and otherwise adversely affect her rights under the ADA resulting in emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, embarrassment, frustration, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life,” the complaint stated.
Under the settlement reached, Home Depot will be forced to pay the victim $100,000 and also give a one-hour training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to all store managers and assistant store managers, as well as to members of its human resources department.
Of the $100,000 payment to the victim, $84,224 represents compensatory damages and $15,776 is for back pay, under the decree.
The company also agreed to post a notice of the consent decree, which will remain in effect for three years. The notice will be posted where employees and job applicants are likely to see it, informing them of their rights under the ADA, instructing them to report any violations to a supervisor or the EEOC. During the victim’s 13 years at Home Depot, she consistently received favorable employee performance reviews before July 2010, the EEOC stated. That is the time she requested unpaid leave to undergo an operation to have the cancerous tumor removed, according to the complaint filed June 29th.
Atlanta-based Home Depot has continued to dispute the EEOC’s allegations, saying, “We wouldn’t terminate an associate for having a disability. We disagree with the EEOC’s characterization of the events and do not believe we violated the law…as we have accommodated her on numerous occasions in different ways throughout her 13 years of employment – including providing her four and a half years of cumulative leave.” They added, “However, we are pleased we have reached resolution on this issue…We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of disability.”
According to a government study released earlier this year, workplace discrimination cases have risen to record levels in the U.S. In 2011 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received an all-time annual high of 99,947 complaints alleging worker discrimination. Approximately 26 percent of these complaints charged employers with discriminating on the basis of a disability. That is embarrassing.
The U.S. has a poor track record when it comes to accommodating disabled workers when compared to other industrialized nations. A 2009 study found that the U.S. is the only country that does not provide sick leave for a worker undergoing a 50-day cancer treatment. (The U.S. is also one of only three rich nations not providing paid leave for a worker missing five days because of the flu).
No one chooses illness as a way to avoid going to work. This victim provided her employer documentation, showing she needed surgery and time to recover from her cancer operation and subsequent treatment. Still, they chose to fire her and hire a replacement, even after her 13 years of favorable employment. This woman was discriminated against and she deserved to be compensated for her employer’s actions.
Feel free to comment on this blog post. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).