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Verizon to pay $20 million to settle U.S. lawsuit over its policies for disabled workers

July 06, 2011|Bloomberg News

Verizon Communications Inc. will pay $20 million to settle a U.S. lawsuit over unlawful policies for disabled workers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in resolving its largest discrimination case.

Employees of New York-based Verizon and 24 subsidiaries were disciplined or fired when they needed more time off than allowed by the company's leave policies, according to a statement Wednesday from the commission, which oversees U.S. employment discrimination laws.

Verizon, the second-largest U.S. telephone company, had a policy that set a maximum number of absences for employees, the commission said in a statement. The company refused to make exceptions for disabled workers who needed "reasonable accommodations" to work, according to the statement.

"Hopefully this nationwide decree will further public awareness of the importance of engaging in an individualized interactive process to determine whether a disabled employee must be accommodated" under U.S. laws, P. David Lopez, the commission's general counsel, said in the statement.

The settlement gives Verizon "clearer guidance from the EEOC regarding when it may be appropriate to provide additional leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act," according to a company statement. "This was previously lacking and was a significant factor in Verizon agreeing to settle."

The agreement applies to union-represented employees in the unit that provides wire-line phone service, according to Verizon's statement. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability.

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