While having well written policies and procedures for employees is very important, these policies and procedures cannot cover every situation. Employers need to retain some flexibility. Non-negotiable rules can violate employment laws and result in very expensive claims.
Here are a few prices employers paid for their non-negotiable policies:
- Non-negotiable return to work policies: Cost – $200,000
A Plus Care Solutions recently settled a lawsuit and has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle pregnancy discrimination claims. A Plus Care Solutions had a non-negotiable policy that required female employees to resign by the fifth month of pregnancy. In addition to paying $200,000, the company will hire an Equal Employment Opportunity consultant to review and revise their company policies, and the company will mail apology letters to all women affected by the policy.
- Non-negotiable pay policies: Cost – $77,500
Cummins settled a 2019 lawsuit by agreeing to pay $77,500 and implement equal pay training after an employee was found to be paid less than her male counterpart for the same work. Even after realizing the female employee’s salary was less, the company refused to change her salary.
- Non-negotiable work schedules: Cost – $92,586.50
Century Park Associates settled a 2019 lawsuit with a price tag of $92,586.50. Century Park was non-negotiable when it required employees to work Saturdays even if an employee’s religious beliefs prohibited such work. When two employees refused, they were forced to resign.
- Non-negotiable leave policies: Cost – $375,000
A Florida hospital recently settled a lawsuit for $375,000. The hospital had a non-negotiable 12-week maximum leave policy and refused to consider requests for additional leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition to the monetary settlement, the hospital is required to hire a trained ADA coordinator to make decisions regarding reasonable accommodations for disabled employees.
While it is a good practice to evenly enforce employment policies, sometimes employers must make exceptions to their policies to comply with the law, particularly when dealing with equal pay, religious accommodation, and disability accommodation. As the above examples show, being non-negotiable can be costly.
*Special thanks to Nicholas Marler, who assisted in the drafting of this post. Nicholas is a second-year Juris Doctor Candidate at Stetson University College of Law.