Va. Company Settles Pregnancy Bias Lawsuit Over Withdrawal of Job Offer to New Mother

Score another victory for the EEOC in its battle against pregnancy bias–and a measure of justice for the victimized applicant.

A Virginia company will pay $20,000 to settle allegations that it committed pregnancy bias when it rescinded a job offer to a female applicant after she disclosed that she had just given birth and had pregnancy-related surgery, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced.

EEOC filed the lawsuit against Savi Technologies last August on behalf of Christine Rowe.  In court documents, the EEOC alleged that the company offered Rowe the HR director’s job after she successfully completed a telephone interview and an in-person interview. The day after Savi Technology extended the job offer, Rowe disclosed to the company vice president and general counsel, who was to be her direct supervisor, that she had recently given birth and had surgery related to her pregnancy. The next day, the vice president and general counsel informed Rowe that Savi Technology was rescinding the job offer, according to the lawsuit.

In addition to the cash settlement, the company has to post an EEO notice and train all of its employees in the U.S. on sex and pregnancy discrimination, and promise not to take adverse employment actions in the future based on  pregnancy.

“Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is still a pervasive problem in the workplace,” said EEOC Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein. “Employers would be wise to review the Commission’s recent enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination to ensure that they do not engage in unlawful actions when making employment decisions.”

Here’s more information on the settlement.

There’s More to Motivating Than Money

As the Beatles used to sing, Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so… Nor can money buy true happiness for employees, according to our resident blogger Robin Paggi, who in this posting discusses what can motivate employees to do their best work.

There’s More to Motivating Than Money

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt. Easy for him to say – he was filthy rich. However, according to lots of research on the subject, he was right. That’s good news for employers who want their employees to be happy and motivated but don’t have a lot of money to give them.

As for the research, Warrington College of Business professor Tim Judge and colleagues reviewed findings from 92 studies on whether money motivates employees. They concluded that the association between pay and job satisfaction is actually very weak (see “The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature” in the Journal of Vocational Behavior).

Ian Larkin, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, mostly agrees. He was quoted in the article “Inside Employee Motivation: Does Money Really Make a Difference” on www.entrepreneur.com, as saying, “Money is highly motivational for people. But saying money is the only thing we should use is also silly. Companies probably think too much about using money as a motivator and too little about other motivators.”

So, what other motivators are there? In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink says that if you want employees to be happy and motivated, focus on their innate needs for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy: people have the need to direct their own lives. Employers can provide autonomy for employees by allowing them a say in what they do (“would you rather do this task or that task?”), when they do it (“would you rather work the day or night shift?”), how they do it (“this is the result I need – you can get there however you want to”), and whom they do it with (“you can choose who you would like to partner with on this”).

Mastery: people have the need to learn and create new things. Employers can help with this by giving employees moderately challenging tasks that allow them to extend themselves and develop more skills.

Purpose: people have a need to contribute to a cause greater than themselves. Employers can help with this by having a mission and vision for their organization (besides just making money) and making sure employees know how they contribute to making the mission and vision a reality.

In addition to those needs, people have a need to be recognized for their contributions. In response to the question “What 2 or 3 things do you most want in a job” in a Harris poll, the most frequent answers were 1) a good salary, 2) job security, and 3) recognition for a job well done.

How can employers inexpensively and meaningfully recognize employees? Check out the article “25 Ways to Reward Employees (Without Spending a Dime)” on www.hrworld.com for some excellent ideas.

As the saying goes, money does not buy happiness. Nor does it buy motivated employees.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

Robin last wrote for us about Love at Work: How Should Employers Respond, and prior to that about lessons for employers in the Brian Williams matter.  Prior to that she wrote about giving employees a second chance. Before that she wrote about making sure the applicant is a good fit for the job and before that about  cure for inappropriate behavior at work. Before that she wrote about cyberloafing, on business lessons from a Christmas story and before that about cell phone policies at work. She has also written for us on rules for holiday parties at work and before that about preventing workplace bullying.

Inflexible Leave Policy Violated Disabled Employees’ Rights, EEOC Charges in ADA Suit

I think it’s more than clear right now that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission takes a dim view of employers’ inflexible leave policies that become justification for denying reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities.

Latest case in point: the commission announced Thursday that it has filed an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit against ValleyLife, a Phoenix-area disability services support company that it says “fired employees with disabilities rather than provide them with reasonable accommodations due to its inflexible leave policy.  The policy compelled the termination of employees who had exhausted their paid time off and/or any unpaid leave to which they were eligible under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).”

According to the EEOC, an example of this was  when forced out one supervisor, Glenn Stephens, due to his need for further surgery when his FMLA leave was exhausted.  ValleyLife did not engage in any interactive process to determine whether any accommodations (including additional leave) were possible,  the suit charges.  Stephens had worked for ValleyLife for over ten years at the time of his termination.

The suit also alleges that ValleyLife commingled medical records in employee personnel files and failed to maintain these medical records confidential in violation of the ADA.

Read more about the lawsuit.

 

NYC Council Might Curb Employee Credit Checks

Employers doing business in New York City may soon have to come up with some other job screening tool to evaluate job applicants’ honesty than a check on their credit.

A bill under consideration in the New York City Council would bans use of credit checks except where required by state or federal law. The bill sponsored by Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander has 41 sponsors all told on the council out of 51 council members.  Similar legislation stalled in the council in 2013.

The bill’s advocates argue that credit checks disproportionately harm minorities while being poor predictors of fraud or poor job performance.

California passed such a ban on using credit reports for employment purposes in 2011.

One problem with relying on credit histories is they may contain inaccuracies. One in five American consumers had errors in their credit report, the Federal Trade Commission found in 2012.

Bad Reception: EEOC Sues Cell Phone Co. for Refusing to Hire Hearing-Impaired Applicants

Employers have to make reasonable accommodation for applicants’ disability during the interview and orientation stages. That may seem obvious, but it has become the focal point of an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed today against a cell phone company repair facility located in Fort Worth, Texas.

According to the EEOC, S&B Industry Inc. denied two hearing-impaired applicants a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process. During the hiring and orientation, the applicants used American Sign Language to communicate with each other, the EEOC said. The company realized the pair were hearing-impaired.

But here’s where things went awry, according to the EEOC:

“In a meeting with one of the supervisors, Baker and Rice requested that she provide written information about the positions for which they were applying.  The supervisor initially complied, but then refused to continue writing information for Baker and Rice, thereby refusing to provide them with a reason­able accommodation.  Baker and Rice were told that S&B Industry would not hire them, and their badges were confiscated.”

Said EEOC senior trial attorney Joel Clark, “Managers refused to discuss these applicants’ reasonable requests for accommodation, but instead just assumed they could not do the job.  The ADA was enacted to prevent that kind of misguided, fear-driven reaction.”

Read more about the suit.

 

Justices Hear Case on Religious Accommodation

Does a job applicant have to directly ask the employer for a reasonable accommodation of his or her religion, or does the employer have to take the lead from the circumstances at hand and inquire of the applicant whether he or she needs an accommodation?

Those were the questions that were debated before the U.S. Supreme Court today in a Title VII lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.

In this case, the EEOC filed suit against the retailer on behalf of Samantha Elauf, then 17, who applied for a job at the retailer in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2008, but was rejected because she wore a headscarf, violating the company’s “look policy,” which outlines how store staff should be groomed and dressed.

A federal judge initially found Abercrombie & Fitch liable for discrimination, but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Colorado reversed, ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act only protects employees who provide “explicit notice of the need for a religious accommodation.”

The appeals court said that the EEOC had failed to establish that there was any dispute over the fact that Ms. Elauf never informed Abercrombie prior to its hiring decision that her practice of wearing her hijab stemmed from her religious beliefs and that she needed an accommodation for this (inflexible) practice.

The EEOC has taken aim at the retailer’s policy over the years, filing several lawsuits.

The tenor of much of today’s questions from the justices put the company on the defensive. The company argues that it doesn’t want to have to be in the position of initiating a conversation with an applicant that raises issues of religious observance. But Justice Samuel Alito, who is usually sympathetic to business, suggested the company could avoid this by handing the applicant a copy of its dress and grooming rules, then asking whether the applicant had a problem with them. That way it would shift to the applicant the issue of introducing religion into the conversation.

A ruling on the issue is expected by the end of the court’s term in June.

Arkansas Law Bars Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Protections by Local Governments

Call it Sam Brownback syndrome. Another state has followed in the Kansas governor’s footsteps by restricting the rights of gays and lesbians. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) yesterday allowed legislation to take effect that bars local governments from expanding anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

You’ll recall that last week Brownback rescinded employment discrimination protections for gays and lesbians working for the Kansas state government.

In 2001, Tennessee passed a law effectively voiding a Nashville ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Texas are considering similar proposals to counteract anti-discrimination protections passed in Houston, Forth Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

I thought American was about expanding rights, not taking them away!

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