Supervalu/Jewel Food Held in Contempt for Breaching Consent Decree Settling Earlier EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Federal Court Also Rules That Agency Is Entitled To Discovery and Evidentiary Hearings

CHICAGO - A federal judge has held Supervalu, Inc., which owns the Jewel-Osco chain of stores, in contempt for failing to comply with conditions settling the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) disability discrimination lawsuit against the company, the federal agency announced today. The judge faulted Supervalu for failing to send written job offers to employees on a disability leave of absence who can be returned to work, as required under a consent decree entered by the court in 2011. The court also ruled that the EEOC is entitled to discovery and further proceedings to determine whether the company violated the consent decree by failing to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who wanted to return to work from a disability leave of absence.

The EEOC filed suit against Supervalu under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in September 2009. See EEOC v. Supervalu, Inc., et al., No. 09-cv-5637 (N.D. Ill.). The agency charged that Supervalu terminated employees upon expiration of a disability leave of absence unless the employee could return to work without any physical limitations or restrictions. According to EEOC, Supervalu's inflexible leave policy violated the ADA's requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities.

In January 2011, Judge Ronald A. Guzmán entered a three-year consent decree resolving the EEOC's litigation against Supervalu. The decree provided $3.2 million in monetary relief to 110 employees who were terminated after exhausting a disability leave of absence. The court also enjoined Supervalu from failing to provide reasonable accommodations to persons seeking to return to work from a disability leave of absence. Supervalu was also required to create a medical accommodations administration team to facilitate a cooperative process with employees on a disability leave, including a requirement that Supervalu send written return-to-work offers when an employee on leave can be accommodated. 

In March 2012, the EEOC moved for civil contempt sanctions based on Supervalu's failure to send those written return-to-work offers and to provide reasonable accommodations to three employees seeking to return to work from a disability leave. The agency asked the court to order Supervalu to send a corrective communication to employees who should have received a written return-to-work offer. The EEOC also requested a limited discovery period and evidentiary hearings to determine whether Supervalu's failure to accommodate three employees violated the decree's injunction. 

Judge Guzmán ruled yesterday that Supervalu's "failure to send written return-to-work letters to all of those it identified were capable of returning to work constitutes a violation of the Decree that is more than harmless error." As a remedy, the court ordered Supervalu to send a written return-to-work offer to all employees the company determined could be returned to work between January 2011 and April 2012, including employees who allegedly declined a verbal return-to-work offer.

With regard to the EEOC's allegation that Supervalu failed to accommodate three employees in violation of the decree, the court ruled that the EEOC may enforce the injunction against discrimination without satisfying the statutory prerequisites that apply when the Commission files a new lawsuit: "The language [of the decree] is unambiguous; therefore, the Court finds that the alleged violations complained of are within the scope of the Decree and the [EEOC] properly seeks relief pursuant to the Decree."

"When the EEOC resolves a case involving allegations of systemic discrimination, we expect the employer to meet its commitments under the resulting consent decree and work cooperatively with our agency to resolve any disputes," said John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "This ruling confirms that the EEOC can and will act to enforce the court's orders, embodied in a decree, when we find violations and the employer is unwilling to provide appropriate remedies."

Gregory Gochanour, EEOC supervisory trial attorney, added, "In contrast to other companies which have worked cooperatively with EEOC to meet their commitments under consent decrees, Supervalu has repeatedly decided to resist the EEOC during the decree-monitoring process and now faces possible contempt sanctions for violating the injunction at the heart of this decree. We hope we won't have to invoke the court's contempt power to enforce other decrees, but will act when we find ongoing violations."

Ethan Cohen, Deborah Hamilton, Gordon Waldron, and Grayson Walker, all trial attorneys in the Chicago District Office, also represented the EEOC in this consent decree enforcement action.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.