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The Cato Corporation Pays $3.5 Million to Settle EEOC Systemic Investigation

Pregnant  Employees and Those With Disabilities Were Denied Reasonable Accommodations And  Discharged, Federal Agency Found

CHICAGO / PHILADELPHIA - The Cato  Corporation, a leading retailer of women's fashion and accessories, has agreed  to pay $3.5 million to resolve a nationwide, systemic investigation conducted  jointly out of the Chicago and Philadelphia Offices of the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced. The  Cato Corporation, based in Charlotte, N.C., has also agreed to update its reasonable  accommodation policies to ensure there is no discrimination against pregnant employees  or those with disabilities.

The EEOC's investigation found that  The Cato Corporation denied reasonable accommodations to certain pregnant employees  or those with disabilities, made certain employees take unpaid leaves of  absence, and/or terminated them because of their disabilities. 

Failing to accommodate pregnant women  with restrictions and limitations violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of  1964. Denying employees with disabilities job modifications, leaves of absence  or returns to work as reasonable accommodations violates the Americans with  Disabilities Act (ADA).

The agreement between EEOC and The  Cato Corporation provides for a claims process to distribute the $3.5 million  to Cato employees who were terminated due to their pregnancy or disabilities. The  Cato Corporation has also agreed to revise its employment policies to more  fully consider whether medical restrictions of its pregnant employees or those  with disabilities can be reasonably accommodated. The Cato Corporation will  also conduct companywide training for over 10,000 of its employees and report  to the EEOC periodically for three years on its responses to requests for  reasonable accommodation by pregnant employees or those with disabilities.

"Giving employees a job  modification that allows them to continue working can be a critical reasonable  accommodation for pregnant women or people with disabilities when they really  need that paycheck," said EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman.

EEOC Philadelphia District Director  Jamie R. Williamson added, "We commend The Cato Corporation for entering into a  voluntary settlement and for making meaningful policy changes so that employees  with disabilities and women with pregnancy-related impairments will get the reasonable  accommodations they need to remain employed."  

The charges were investigated by  staff in the EEOC's Philadelphia and Chicago District Offices. The EEOC's  Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics also assisted in the investigation.

One of the six national priorities identified  by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the EEOC to address  emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues  involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations.

The EEOC  advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting  employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.   Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.