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M&T Bank settles disability discrimination lawsuit for $100K

M&T Bank will pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over allegations that a branch manager was terminated because of a pregnancy-related disability.

The EEOC filed a federal lawsuit in 2016 alleging that the bank violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, by firing Candace McCollin after she took short-term disability leave during her pregnancy.

M&T informed McCollin that it would fill her position if she was not medically cleared to return to work within 10 days; however, she was not ready to go back to work until months later, after she gave birth, according to a news release from the EEOC. McCollin attempted to take advantage of the bank’s redeployment services, but she was not assigned to a similar role at another branch, though she applied for eight vacant jobs, the lawsuit stated.

The $100,000 settlement includes lost wages and compensatory damages. The bank also entered a three-year consent decree prohibiting it from engaging in disability discrimination in the future.

“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,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in the news release.

A federal judge ruled last year that M&T had violated the ADA by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation — reassignment — for McCollin. But U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander also said there was no reason to doubt the bank’s claims that McCollin was terminated due to job performance and not because of her disability.

Hollander ultimately rejected the bank’s argument that it had no legal obligation to reassign McCollin when there were other more qualified candidates, saying the ADA lists reassignment among the reasonable accommodations available for “qualified” employees with a disability.

The federal law makes no exception for employers who would prefer a more qualified person in the position, Hollander concluded in a decision to partially grant summary judgment in the EEOC’s favor.

A spokesman for M&T said Wednesday that the bank was “pleased to reach a settlement and avoid prolonged litigation and additional expense.”

“We feel we went beyond the legal requirements to accommodate our employee in this case,” spokesman David Lanzillo said in an emailed statement. “We remain fully committed to providing all of our employees, including those with a disability, with a workplace where they feel valued, supported and able to reach their full potential.”

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company d/b/a M&T Bank, 1:16-cv-03180.

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