On July 6, 2017, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against M&T Bank Corporation (Civil Action No. 7:17-cv-05077), charging that Hudson City Savings Bank (HCSB), a bank that M&T acquired in 2015, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it: (1) denied reasonable accommodations to disabled employees; (2) involuntarily placed or kept disabled employees on leave because of their disabilities and/or because of the need to provide reasonable accommodation to their disabilities, and (3) subsequently discharged employees who were on leave because of their disabilities and/or because of the need to provide reasonable accommodation to their disabilities. In addition, the EEOC contends that M&T assumed liability for the alleged violations through its purchase of HCSB.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities and prohibits employers from discriminating against such people. In this lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that HCSB had a policy requiring employees “with potential disabilities to take leave until a physician provided a full release with no restrictions.” Upon requesting a reasonable accommodation or more than 5 days off in connection with a medical condition, employees would receive a letter that said, “You may only return to work if your doctor has provided a written notice of a full release with no restrictions.” HCSB thus required employees to remain on leave (rather than provide a reasonable accommodation) and then terminated them after they could not return to work without restrictions after 26 weeks.

For example, after one disabled employee was on leave (involuntarily) for 26 weeks, HCSB discharged her rather than allow her to return and wear a cam walker boot in the workplace. Moreover, HCSB discharged another disabled employee after she had also been on leave (involuntarily) for 26 weeks.

According to the EEOC, M&T “knew or should have known” about the discrimination allegations because they were pending before the EEOC at the time M&T bought HCSB and it failed to correct these unlawful practices. “In addition, an HCSB executive who knew of the [discrimination] charge and the allegations under EEOC investigation prior to the acquisition was retained as an executive by M&T.”

If your employer maintains a policy only allowing employees to return to work “without restrictions,” it is best to contact a New York City employment discrimination attorney, as the ADA dictates that employees must be given the option of returning to work “with or without a reasonable accommodation.”

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