Safety and OSHA News

Company to pay injured worker $27K to settle disability lawsuit

Safeway Inc. will pay a food clerk $27,000 and rehire her to resolve a federal disability discrimination lawsuit. 

Patricia Bonds worked as a food clerk at Safeway’s Westminster, MD, store. She suffered a work-related injury which limited her lifting ability.

Safeway initially accommodated Bonds by reassigning her to work at the customer service desk.

However, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the store abruptly placed her on indefinite unpaid leave, claiming that she had exhausted her time limits for modified duty.

The EEOC claimed Safeway refused to provide a reasonable accommodation and then fired Bonds because of her disability. The EEOC attempted to reach a settlement with Safeway, but when that didn’t happen, it filed suit in federal court. The two sides reached a settlement before the case was heard.

In addition to rehiring Bonds and paying her $27,000, as part of the settlement Safeway will also:

  • restore Bonds’ seniority
  • provide her with a hand scanner to perform food clerk duties
  • provide annual Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training to all managers and supervisors at its Westminster store and to all members of its eastern division accommodations committee
  • report to the EEOC how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination, and
  • post a notice regarding the settlement.

“This settlement should encourage employers to use available resources to achieve a reasonable accommodation,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer Lewis.

The ADA prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, including reassignment to a vacant position, unless it would cause a significant expense or difficulty to the employer.

Addressing certain ADA issues such as reasonable accommodation is one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Enforcement Plan.

Something that can help accommodate an injured employee: Have job descriptions ready and actively involve the worker’s treating physician in determining which parts of the job might require accommodation.

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