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A federal judge in Chicago late last week gave final approval to the allocation of $6.2 million among 235 former Sears, Roebuck & Co. employees in the largest settlement ever reached by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in an Americans with Disabilities Act class action. The former workers, who said the company fired them after they went on disability leave, will receive between $2,500 and $122,500 each, depending on their individual circumstances, according to the allocation approved by U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen of the Northern District of Illinois on Feb. 4. The workers will receive the money in the next two months. Overall settlement of the case with a consent decree was reached and announced last September. The EEOC sued Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears in 2004 following a complaint from John Bava, an injured appliance service technician who said Sears fired him after he took a leave for knee, wrist and back injuries suffered on the job. Bava is the only plaintiff to get the top $122,500 payout, based on his initiation and the facts of his particular case, said John Hendrickson, who leads the Chicago regional EEOC office that pursued the matter. The agency found in pretrial discovery that many other employees at the retailer had encountered treatment similar to that experienced by Bava. Gregory Gochanour was the supervisory EEOC trial attorney in Chicago on the case, and he had assistance from Deborah Hamilton and Aaron DeCamp. Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal lawyer Amy Bess, an employment and litigation partner in Washington, D.C., who was part of the team representing Sears, referred a request for comment to the Sears legal department, which had no comment on the allocation.

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