U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on Aug. 31.
Kessinger Hunter Management, Inc. (KHMI), a national commercial property management company with its primary corporate offices in Kansas City, Mo., will pay $50,000 to a former employee, change its policies, and provide training to employees to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced.
The EEOC charged that KHMI violated federal law when it refused to extend employee Richard Shipe's unpaid 30-day leave of absence by one week to allow him to recover from surgery. Shipe requested the short extension of leave as a reasonable accommodation to comply with his doctor's orders, but KHMI denied his request because it would violate its 30-day maximum medical leave policy. When Shipe was unable to return to work after 30 days, the company fired him, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in September 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (EEOC v. Kessinger Hunter Management Co., Inc., Case No. 4:17-cv-809-HFS) seeking relief for Shipe and injunctive remedies to prevent future violations of the ADA, which protects employees from discrimination based on disability and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to known disabilities.
In addition to requiring the payment to Shipe, the consent decree settling the suit, entered by Senior Judge Howard F. Sachs, enjoins KHMI from terminating employees because of disability and from failing to make a reasonable accommodation to known physical or mental limitations of applicants or employees in the future. The decree also requires KHMI to provide additional training to its director of human resources and change its policies to comply with the ADA, ensuring that no accommodation request from an employee is denied without KHMI engaging in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation. It also enables the EEOC to monitor KHMI's compliance with the decree and requires the company to submit periodic reports to the agency.
"Maximum leave policies that do not allow flexibility for reasonable accommodation of employees with disabilities rob workers of the opportunity to earn a living and support themselves and their families," Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for EEOC's St. Louis District, said. "We are happy that KHMI will work to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities going forward, benefiting both workers and the company."
James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office, added, "With this resolution, we trust that KHMI's employees will not have difficulty being accommodated in the future, especially when requesting a short extension to medical leave."
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