Verizon has learned the hard way about the problems associated with no-fault attendance polices. The bottom line: If you have such a policy, you might face unnecessary exposures in enforcing it. On July 6th 2011, the EEOC announced that Verizon settled a multi-million dollar case based on the company’s no-fault attendance policy. Here’s a summary of the settlement:
“Telecommunications giant Verizon Communications will pay $20 million and provide significant equitable relief to resolve a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The suit, filed against 24 named subsidiaries of Verizon Communications, said the company unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees and disciplined and/or fired them pursuant to Verizon’s ‘no fault’ attendance plans.”
Then on December 8, 2011, Los Angeles Superior Court approved the $6,011,190 California Family Rights Act (CFRA) class action settlement in Dept. Fair Empl. & Hous. v. Verizon (Seales).
The class action lawsuit began with a more than two-year-long investigation by the EEOC Special Investigations Unit into Verizon’s practices under the California Family Rights Act (similar to FMLA). The lawsuit alleges that from 2007 to 2010, Verizon denied or failed to provide timely approval of class members’ requests for leave for their own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. The company also allegedly fired some class members for violating Verizon’s attendance policy when they missed work for a qualifying reason.
The final settlement will result in payment of $4,490,041 from the maximum settlement amount to 687 qualified claimants:
- Tier 1: Claimants who experienced improper denial of their application for leave under the California Family Rights Act will receive a check for $3,000 apiece.
- Tier 2: Claimants who were subject to discipline for poor attendance due to absences under the California Family Rights Act will receive a check for $6,000 apiece.
- Tier 3: Claimants who were terminated or constructively terminated in violation of the California Family Rights Act will receive a check for $25,000 or more.
Bottom line: All of your attendance policies are subject to limitations imposed by disability accommodation law and the FMLA. This is how justice works today. Because there isn’t enough “juice” in these cases to bring them individually, plaintiffs file them collectively, thus upping the ante. The lawyers get the biggest chunk of the pie (usually in the millions), the regulators get fees and the claimants get $3,000 to $25,000 apiece.