A nationwide class action lawsuit alleging disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) was settled on June 20, 2011 for $1.3 million. The case had been filed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on behalf of disabled employees at Denny’s 500 corporate-owned restaurants in 30 states. The Consent Decree, filed by a federal court judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, provides for Denny’s to pay the workers $1.3 million for back pay and compensatory damages.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Denny’s refused to provide one of its restaurant managers in Baltimore, Maryland with the legally-required reasonable accommodations for her disability, a leg amputation which prohibited her from working in its restaurants, despite her desire to return to work. Subsequently, Denny’s fired the employee because of her disability. The EEOC further alleged in its Complaint that Denny’s violated the rights of a nationwide class of workers with disabilities by maintaining a maximum medical leave policy that automatically denied additional medical leave beyond a pre-determined limit – – even when additional leave was required by the ADA as a reasonable accommodation for those workers – – resulting in their unlawful terminations.
The Consent Decree provides for a number of remedies. Denny’s must offer to reinstate all employees who were fired because of the leave policy to the positions that they held at the time of their discharges. Denny’s must also amend its medical leave policy to make exceptions to any maximum leave duration provisions by providing additional unpaid medical leave beyond the maximum allowed by its policies when necessary to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities. Furthermore, Denny’s is enjoined from any present or future violations of the ADA.