EEOC brings 4th disability discrimination suit vs. AutoZone

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By Judy Greenwald, Crain News Service

CHICAGO (May 15, 2014) — Auto parts retailer AutoZone Inc. was accused May 9 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of violating federal law for allegedly implementing a nationwide attendance policy that failed to accommodate certain disability-related absences.

It is the fourth disability lawsuit the EEOC has filed against the Memphis, Tenn.-based auto parts company in recent years.

In the latest case, the EEOC said that from 2009 until at least 2011, AutoZone assessed employees’ nationwide points for absences — without permitting any general exception for disability-related absences — with 12 points resulting in termination.

As a result, the EEOC said in a statement, qualified employees with disabilities with “even modest” numbers of disability-related absences were fired in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These included an Ottawa, Ill., employee with diabetes who had to leave work early occasionally because of insulin reactions and who was fired because of his attendance points.

The complaint also alleges that another employee was discharged in retaliation for complaining about the policy and filing a charge with the EEOC.

Providing reasonable accommodations for qualified people with disabilities “has been the law of the land for over two decades,” John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago district, said in the statement. “So it is especially disappointing any time a huge national employer with tens of thousands of employees repeatedly engages in unlawful discrimination against individuals with disabilities and declines to share responsibility for maintaining a level playing field for disabled American workers.”

Among already filed litigation, a federal appeals court earlier this year upheld a $415,000 verdict against the company in a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.

An AutoZone spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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This report appeared on businessinsurance.com, the website of Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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