April 17th, 2013

Minnesota readers may know that Minnesota-headquartered Supervalu Inc. recently sold some of its grocery properties — to the tune of $3.3 billion dollars. Several of the company’s grocery chains were sold to AB Acquisition LLC, which is an affiliate of an investor consortium led by Cerberus Capital Management. The chains are Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s and Star Market.

However, one asset the new grocery chain owners may not like to inherit is a lingering employment dispute from 2011 brought by former Supervalu employees who worked at a Jewel-Osco chain store in Chicago. According to a recent ruling by a federal judge, Supervalu’s treatment of the employees may have breached the terms of a disability lawsuit settlement. As a remedy, the judge ordered Supervalu to extend job offers to the former employees who were victims of the alleged disability discrimination.

The settlement agreement was the result of an inquiry brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Supervalu. EEOC officials alleged that the company unlawfully terminated 100 disabled Jewel-Osco employees shortly before they were scheduled to return to work after taking medical leaves. EEOC officials accused Supervalu of violating the provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act that requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees in the workplace to the extent needed for fulfilling job duties.

In the instant ruling, a U.S. District Judge determined that Supervalu had failed to send written offers of employment to three employees who were ready and able to return to work from their disability leave. Now that Supervalu no longer owns the Jewel-Osco chain, it is unclear whether the new owners must re-extend job offers to the wrongful termination victims. The terms of the sale contract may specify which company should be liable for such lingering responsibilities. One way or another, however, the federal court’s ruling will have to be heeded.

Source: startribune.com, “U.S. court says Supervalu violated terms of disability settlement,” Steve Alexander, March 22, 2013.

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