Chicago Marshmallow Maker Doumak Resolves EEOC Disability Suit

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Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, will change its leave policies and pay $85,000 to five people, ending a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In its complaint, the EEOC alleged Doumak capped leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities.

Doumak Inc. began its marshmallow-making journey in 1921.

Doumak Inc. began its marshmallow-making journey in 1921

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. This can include making exceptions to leave policies allowing disabled individuals to successfully return and perform their jobs.

The EEOC sued Doumak in federal court under the ADA on Sept. 26 (EEOC v. Doumak, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-7492) after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Teamsters Local 703 was also a party to the action since the leave policies were part of collective bargaining agreements with Doumak.

Doumak And Union Agree

Doumak and the union will resolve the suit without further litigation and a consent decree was entered on Nov. 4, 2014, by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah.

Doumak and the union will not enforce parts of the collective bargaining agreements denying a qualified disabled individual additional leave when needed as a reasonable accommodation. Doumak and the union will amend the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. Doumak will also conduct ADA training for current employees.

“Federal law requires employers to be reasonable and flexible in applying their workplace policies to people with disabilities,” said John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “We are pleased that Doumak and the union will be taking steps that will enable more individuals with disabilities to continue to earn a living. Ultimately, that benefits everybody.”

Doumak Inc. began marshmallow-making in 1921, in Los Angeles, Calif., and in 1954, Alex Doumakes invented and patented an extrusion process for making marshmallows, according to the company’s website.

Doumakes’ patented process allowed cost-effective mass production and transformed marshmallows from expensive confection to everyday sweet treat.

The company relocated to outside Chicago, Ill., in 1961. In 2003, Doumak acquired the Campfire brand, opening a second Chicago area factory.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

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