American Apparel Settles Disability Bias Lawsuit
The EEOC announced in a press release that American Apparel, Inc., a clothing manufacturer employing thousands of workers at its production facility in Los Angeles and at retail stores around the country, will pay $60,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. American Apparel, Inc., Case No. CV 10-7280-MMM (MAN), the EEOC charged that the company violated federal law when it fired a garment worker while he was on leave because of a disability, and thereby failed to accommodate him based upon that disability, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
After the suit was filed, the EEOC and American Apparel worked collaboratively over an extended period of time to arrive at a settlement of the case. As part of the three-year consent decree settling the suit, American Apparel has adopted a comprehensive ADA policy; agreed to provide training to its managers and supervisors regarding the ADA; will inform employees about their rights under the ADA and how to seek accommodations under it; and will designate an ADA coordinator who will oversee implementation of the decree and the company’s ADA policy going forward. In addition, American Apparel will pay the terminated garment worker $40,000.
Further, the company will spend $20,000 of the $60,000 settlement amount to sponsor, in conjunction with Los Angeles-based non-profit organizations, two seminars on the rights of workers and responsibilities of employers under the ADA.
“We are pleased that American Apparel recognizes the importance of the ADA and is implementing measures to insure its full compliance with the ADA going forward,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Employers should enforce internal policies and procedures flexible enough to fairly and promptly address accommodation requests by those with disabilities.”
Olophius Perry, district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “People with disabilities can make very productive and creative employees. The ability for them to flourish is dependent on an employer’s approach to handling requests for reasonable accommodation. The cost of accommodations is often minimal, yet the benefits to employees as well as their employers are infinite.”
According to company information, aside from American Apparel’s manufacturing venture, the Los Angeles-based company is also a leading clothing distributor and retailer. American Apparel employs approximately 10,000 people globally (about 5,000 in Los Angeles) and operates more than 285 retail stores in 20 countries.