EEOC Says Construction Site “Rife” With Hostility Toward African American Employees

Mistreatment of African Americans isn’t limited to the streets.

CCC Group, Inc., violated federal law when it fostered a work environment rife with racist comments and discriminatory work conditions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed.

The San Antonio, Texas-based construction company operated a construction site in Ravena, N.Y., in 2016. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, white supervisors and employees regularly made unwelcome racist comments, used racial slurs, threatened black employees with nooses, and subjected African American employees to harsher working conditions than white co-workers.

The EEOC charges that white employees frequently referred to black employees with insulting racial epithets. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, some of this harassment occurred on a company radio channel for all to hear. White employees bragged that their ancestors had owned slaves and told a black employee he walked funny because slaves used to walk with a bag on their shoulder picking cotton.

Further, one white supervisor attempted to snare an employee with a noose, the EEOC said. Another Caucasian supervisor told an African American employee that for Halloween, “You don’t even have to dress up. I will dress in white and put a noose around your neck and we’ll walk down the street together.”

The EEOC further charges that African American employees were given more physically taxing and dangerous work than Caucasian counterparts, including being assigned outdoor work in winter while white colleagues worked inside. Black employees objected to and complained about the racial harassment, but it persisted, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race. Race harassment is a form of race discrimination that is prohibited by the statute.

The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The EEOC seeks compensatory damages and punitive damages for the affected employees, and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future workplace racial harassment.

“Employers need to proactively prevent any behavior that creates a racially hostile workplace,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Here there were numerous examples of abho­rrent racial discrimination and harassment. The use of a noose is especially vicious. Such misconduct violates federal law and common decency.”

Judy Keenan, acting director of the New York District Office, added, “Racial harassment is never acceptable. This harassment was especially vicious, widespread and continuous, and the employer failed to do anything to stop it.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The agency’s Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.

English-Only Rule Settlement Nets EEOC $210K In Settlement With Albertsons LLC Grocery Chain

In 2020, there are still some workplaces that insist that employees speak English only.

Maybe there will be fewer of those after this news of this case the other day.

Albertsons LLC, a national retail grocery chain, has agreed to pay $210,000 to settle a class national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Tueday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Albertsons allowed a manager to harass Hispanic employees, particularly limited English-speaking employees, because they spoke Spanish, at an Albertsons store on Lake Murray Blvd. in La Mesa, California, formerly Store No. 6785.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on national origin.  The EEOC considers blanket English-only rules, forbidding employees to speak any other language during the work day, even during breaks or away from customers, as a form of national origin discrimination.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Albertsons Companies, Inc., et. al., Case No. 3:18-cv-00852-MMA-BGS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to $210,000 in monetary relief that will go to a class of affected employees, the two-year consent decree settling the suit, which remains under the court’s jurisdiction during the decree’s term, includes injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace national origin discrimination in the future. Albertsons has agreed to review, and, if necessary, revise its policies and procedures on discrim­ination and provide training to employees and managers on federal anti-discrimination laws with an emphasis on language dis­crimination. Finally, Albertsons is required to submit reports to the EEOC and keep records necessary to demonstrate its compliance with this decree.

“The EEOC commends Albertsons for agreeing to meaningful and comprehensive measures to correct this situation,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, whose juris­diction includes San Diego County. “It is important for employers to train employees and make clear that their use of language in the workplace should not impact one group over another.”

Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego’s local office, said, “Given the nature of an increasingly diverse workforce, employers should be mindful that the imposition of restrictive language policies may not comply with federal law.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, gender, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Stockroom, Loading Dock Workers Focus of Latest OSHA Safety Tips on the Coronavirus

As the retail industry reopens, safety concerns in loading and stocking merchandise re-emerge.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) yesterday issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to protect stockroom and loading dock workers in the retail industry from exposure to the coronavirus.

Safety measures employers can implement include:

  • Stock displays (e.g., shelves and freezers) during slow periods or shifts during which stores are closed to minimize contact with the public;
  • If stocking occurs while stores are open, use barriers or markers to physically separate shelf stockers from customers;
  • Maintain at least 6 feet between co-workers and customers, where possible;
  • Limit customer capacity in stores;
  • Coordinate with vendors and delivery companies to minimize the need for stockroom and loading dock worker contact with delivery drivers;
  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus; and
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

The new alert is available for download in English and Spanish.

Visit OSHA’s Publications webpage for other useful workplace safety information.

The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America’s workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has also published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit

Mismatched Set: Furniture Maker Settles ADA Suit Over Decision to Force Leave on Worker

This employer tripped up over unpaid leave–and then paid the price.

Black Forest Décor, LLC, a Jenks, Okla.-based internet retailer specializing in cabin décor, will pay $55,000 to a fired worker to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in February 2018, Barbara Berry, a worker in Black Forest’s Enid, Okla., warehouse, notified the company that she had a medical condition that was likely to require surgery in the coming month, but that her doctor had released her to work until her surgery. In response, Black Forest placed Berry on unpaid leave until her surgery because the company was afraid it would be liable if anything happened to her while working. Although Berry kept Black Forest updated with details about her upcoming surgery, the company didn’t contact her again until three weeks later when it sent her a letter stating she was being fired for “excessive absences,” the EEOC charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabil­ities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals because of disabilities, including forcing them to take unnecessary leave. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commis­sion v. Black Forest Décor, LLC, No. 5:19-cv-00894-SLP) in September 2019 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Scott L. Palk, requires Black Forest Décor to pay $55,000 in monetary damages to Barbara Berry and adopt policies and provide annual employee training to ensure compliance with the ADA. The decree further requires Black Forest Décor to post an anti-discrimination notice and track denied accommodation requests and discharges for medical-related absences and report them to the EEOC.

“Where an employee with a disability is willing and able to work safely, an employer must treat her the same as it would any other employee who is likewise willing and able to work,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis. “Forcing an employee with a disability to take unpaid leave based on fear and speculation – and then firing her for using that leave – violates the ADA as well as common sense, logic and basic fairness.”

The EEOC’s St. Louis District director, L. Jack Vasquez, Jr., added, “Disability discrimination in the workplace hurts everyone – employers and employees. We encourage workers who believe they’ve experienced discrimination because of disability to report that information to the EEOC.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois.

Hair Today, Still There Tomorrow: Laws Banning Hairstyle Discrimination Gain Momentum in U.S.

As the economy reopens it’s been tough for many people to get a decent haircut.

But don’t take that as open season that you can fire employees because of how they wear their hair.

Laws banning hairstyle discrimination could be the next big wave sweeping the U.S.

At least five states have enacted laws to ban discrimination on the basis of hair texture, Afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locs. The states are California, Colorado, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.

And the wave may be cresting, as similar laws have also been introduced in another 25 states, including Massachusetts, Illinois, and Connecticut. The laws are being pushed by the Crown Coalition, including the civil rights groups Color of Change, the National Urban League and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and the beauty brand Dove.

Many of the laws expand the definition of “race” in the state or locality’s current law to bring in hairstyle issues. In California, for example, the CROWN Act expands the definition of “race” under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to include traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture, and natural or protective hair styles such as braids, dreadlocks, and twists.

And in Montgomery County, Md., which enacted its own CROWN Act in November 2019, “race” includes traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles, and “protective hairstyles” includes hairstyles such as “braids, locks, afros, curls, and twists.”

And what is the EEOC’s position? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that “race” is not limited to the color of one’s skin and includes other physical and cultural characteristics associated race.  Therefore, according to the EEOC, a particular hairstyle, or the texture of an employee’s hair, has no correlation to any bona fide occupational qualification.

For employers, whether or not your state or locality bans hairstyle discrimination, you should make sure that if you do have rules regarding hair, that you enforce them uniformly and not single out any racial or ethnic group.

OSHA Touts Its Pandemic Response

You be the judge. Most of this is guidance, not mandatory

As the nation faces the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is dedicated to keeping the American workforce safe and healthy. Today, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt testified before the House Education and Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee about the agency’s role during the crisis.

“Throughout the ongoing pandemic, OSHA’s work is continuing uninterrupted,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt. “From conducting thousands of investigations to issuing critical guidance aimed at protecting workers in high-risk industries, OSHA is on the job protecting America’s workers against the coronavirus.”

Sweatt’s written testimony is posted at

The Department is highlighting OSHA’s continued work to keep American workers safe during these unprecedented times. OSHA has released many public statements related to the coronavirus pandemic including:

Respirator Guidance:

Protecting Workers in High-Risk Industries

Enforcing Safety in the Workplace

Offering Clear Direction for Employers:

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit

$98K Later, Hospital Settles ADA Lawsuit Over Firing of Deaf Worker Denied Accommodation

This hospital was smart to settle this ADA lawsuit.

St. Vincent Hospital (SVH), doing business as Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, will pay $98,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced May 20.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a St. Vincent Hospital supervisor subjected Asheley Coriz to a hostile work environment because she is deaf. The lawsuit also charged that St. Vincent Hospital failed to provide reasonable accommodations for Coriz’s deafness and fired her because of that disability, her request for reasonable accommodation, and her complaints about her supervisor’s conduct.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed its suit (EEOC v. St. Vincent Hospital, d/b/a Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00764-KWR-GBW) in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit was signed and entered by Judge Kea W. Riggs yesterday. Under its terms, Coriz will receive $98,000 in back pay and compensatory damages. In addition, Coriz’s personnel records will be expunged, and she will receive a letter of acknowledgment from a Christus St. Vincent Medical Center manager expressing his regret that she did not feel supported concerning issues with her supervisor and her disability.

The decree also enjoins SVH from engaging in disability discrimination and retaliation and requires the hospital to revise its equal employment opportunity and reasonable accommodation policies. SVH will provide annual training to all employees at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and report to the EEOC on any complaints of disability discrimination during the decree’s term. The decree also makes the supervisor who allegedly discriminated against Coriz ineligible for rehire.

“Employers are responsible for preventing and remedying harassment of emp­loyees, including harassment because of an employee’s disability,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. “Employers will be held responsible when they retaliate against employees because they complain of discrimination or make accommodation requests.”

EEOC’s District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, “We appreciate this employer’s work toward reaching an agreement that will improve its training, policies and procedures. We also appreciate the second-level manager’s decision to formally acknowledge his regret that Ms. Coriz felt unsupported when she raised concerns with the employer.”