Home Depot U.S.A. Inc. will pay $100,000 to a part-time cashier in Maryland who was a cancer victim. The retailer allegedly fired the woman because she had cancer. The settlement by the company was with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC claimed that the home improvement store violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide reasonable accommodation for Judy Henderson, who was terminated while on an unpaid medical leave for cancer treatments in 2010. Debra M. Lawrence, EEOC’s regional attorney for Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio, stated:
The message is that the ADA applies to employees who currently are working and also need time off to heal so that they can get working again. We’re seeing a lot of cases where, once an employee is out with a disability and intends to return, the employer doesn’t give them an opportunity. The employer may be running afoul of the ADA.
Under the decree, Home Depot agreed to provide one hour of training on the Americans with Disabilities Act to all store managers and assistant store managers, as well as members of its human resources department. The training will include “special emphasis” on reasonable accommodations and the duty to communicate with employees on the accommodations they need.
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 and instructing them to report any violations to a supervisor or the EEOC. Ms. Henderson had worked at Home Depot since 1997 and consistently received favorable performance reviews before July 2010, the EEOC alleged. That’s when she requested unpaid leave to undergo surgery to have a tumor removed, according to the complaint filed June 29.
Home Depot granted her leave but, on Sept. 27, 2010, informed the employee that she would be fired if she did not tell the company of her status by Oct. 12, 2010. On Oct. 5th, Ms. Henderson provided the company with medical documentation stating she could return to work on Oct. 25. But Ms. Henderson later amended the restart date to Oct. 27, because she needed another medical procedure. Home Depot did not respond to Ms. Henderson’s message, and hired a new cashier for the store on Oct. 15, 2010.
The company fired Ms. Henderson on Oct. 26 – the day before she was to return – stating it had no work for her because of a seasonal slowdown. Ms. Henderson, however, had not been fired during previous seasonal slowdowns. Home Depot’s intentional actions deprived Henderson 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. Of the $100,000 payment to Ms. Henderson, $84,224 represents compensatory damages and $15,776 is for back pay, under the decree.
Source: Lawyers USA Online
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