Bank Failed to Accommodate Manager With Pregnancy-Related Disability, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE, MD (STL.News) Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company, doing business as M&T Bank, will pay $100,000 and provide significant equitable relief to resolve a federal disability lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, a M&T branch manager in Baltimore advised a vice president that she needed surgery for a pregnancy-related disability. While she was on approved leave, M&T informed the manager that it would fill her position unless she was medically cleared to return to work within 10 days. Months later, after giving birth and receiving medical clearance to return to work, M&T required the manager to apply for vacant positions for which she was qualified instead of simply reassigning her to one of them as a reasonable accommodation.
Further, the EEOC charged, there were at least 24 vacant branch manager or assistant branch manager positions available in the greater Baltimore region at the time the manager attempted to return to work. Ultimately, M&T discharged the manager because of her disability and record of disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability or a record of a disability. The ADA also requires employers to reasonably accommodate an individual’s disability unless the employer can prove that doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Manufacturers and Traders Trust Co., d/b/a M&T Bank., Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-03180-ELH) 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.
On Sept. 10, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen L. Hollander granted summary judgment on the EEOC’s reasonable accommodation claim, finding that the manager had a disability within the meaning of the ADA and that she was entitled to non-competitive reassignment to a vacant position for which she was qualified as a reasonable accommodation.
In addition to the $100,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages to the manager, the three-year consent decree resolving the case enjoins M&T Bank from engaging in disability discrimination in the future. The bank must create a non-competitive procedure so that a qualified employee returning from work after an extended leave of absence due to a disability and whose job has been replaced may be reassigned to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. M&T Bank will also provide training on Title VII, post an anti-discrimination notice, and report to the EEOC on how it handles any reassignment of employees whose jobs were replaced while on a medical leave of absence.
“We are pleased that in addition to the monetary relief to the employee, this settlement ensures that other qualified employees may get transfers to vacant positions as a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.
EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “Everyone wins when employers provide a reasonable accommodation, such as a transfer to a vacant position, that allows a qualified worker to remain employed – the employee can continue earning a living and the employer retains the services of a trained and competent worker.”