U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on Sept. 19.
Cloverland Farms Dairy, the major milk producer in the Baltimore/Washington market, will pay $75,000 in monetary relief and furnish important equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced.
The EEOC said Cloverland Farms Dairy had allowed three maintenance mechanics with disabilities working at its Baltimore facility to park in parking spots reserved for individuals for disabilities throughout their lengthy employment, which ranged from eight years to 22 years. In July 2017, Cloverland forbade the employees from using the parking spots designated for individuals with disabilities. Instead, Cloverland required them to park at the employee parking lot farther away from the entrance, and then allowed others without disabilities to use the parking spaces reserved for individuals with disabilities that the three employees previously used, according to the suit.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities, unless it is an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Cloverland Dairy Limited Partnership, t/a Cloverland Farms Dairy, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02759) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $75,000 in compensatory damages to the employees, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit provides significant equitable relief, including prohibiting Cloverland from violating the ADA in the future. The two complainants still working for the dairy will be allowed to park in the designated parking spaces for individuals with disabilities so long as they have a valid disability parking permit issued by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Cloverland will provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel. The company will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any future complaints of disability discrimination and will also post a notice regarding the settlement.
"We are pleased that Cloverland Farms Dairy worked closely with us to resolve this case promptly and without incurring litigation costs," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "This settlement protects all employees from disability discrimination going forward."
Jamie R. Williamson, district director of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, added, "Research shows that most reasonable accommodations are free, as in this case, or inexpensive. We are pleased that Cloverland Farms Dairy cooperated with the EEOC to provide the reasonable accommodations needed by these long-term employees."
Addressing emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
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