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Lowe's settles ADA discrimination case for $8.6 million

Lowe's Companies, Inc. has settled a lawsuit in which the hardware store was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against the retail chain last year, alleging that the company had discriminated against a disabled employee.

A department manager who had a spinal injury that limited his range of arm motion says that he was demoted with lower pay rather than provided a reasonable accommodation. The company will pay the EEOC and the employee a total settlement of $8.6 million.

The ADA in the workplace

Enacted in 1990, the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who have disabilities. Disabilities are defined under this act as physical or mental impairments that limit one's ability to work or accomplish major life activities. Employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have disabilities--for example, making facilities wheelchair-accessible, modifying a work schedule or providing interpreters.

It is illegal for employers to refuse to hire someone because of a disability and demote or fire someone because of a disability. It is also against the law to retaliate against an employee who complains about workplace ADA violations.

The repercussions for disabled workers

This is hardly the first time that an employer has violated the ADA. In the past year or two, several other companies including Bass Pro, Texas Roadhouse, Performance Food Group and Mavis Discount Tires have been censured for allegedly discriminating against their EEOC-protected employees. And as the Lowe's case, it is sometimes necessary for employees to file civil action to hold their employers accountable and receive compensation. The Lowe's settlement is a major coup for workers who have disabilities. It shows that employers, no matter how large or how popular, must still comply with the ADA and will be held responsible when they do not.

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