$6M Settlement Reached Between Dollar General, The EEOC in Criminal Background Check Lawsuit

It’s a new day at Dollar General for job applicants who have criminal records. The company made up for past wrongs and committed to a new procedure in a settlement with the federal government.

Major retail chain Dollar General will pay $6  million and furnish other relief to settle a class race discrimination lawsuit  brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal  agency announced on Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Dollar General, the largest  small-box discount retailer in the United States, violated federal law by  denying employment to African Americans at a significantly higher rate than  white applicants for failing the company’s broad criminal background check.

Employment screens that have a disparate impact on the basis  of race violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, unless an employer  can show the screen is job-related and is a business necessity. The EEOC filed  suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago  (EEOC v. Dolgencorp LLC d/b/a Dollar General,  Civil Action No. 13 C 4307), after first attempting to reach a voluntary  settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by  U.S. District Court Judge Andrea Wood, requires that Dollar General pay $6  million into a settlement fund which will be distributed through a claims  process at the direction of the EEOC to African Americans who lost their chance  at employment at the company between 2004 and 2019. If Dollar General chooses  to use a criminal background check during the term of the decree, the retailer must  hire a criminology consultant to develop a new criminal background check based  on several factors including the time since conviction, the number of offenses,  the nature and gravity of the offense(s), and the risk of recidivism. Once the consultant  provides a recommendation, the decree enjoins Dollar General from using any other  criminal background check for its hiring process.

Dollar General is also enjoined from discouraging people  with criminal backgrounds from applying, from engaging in retaliation, and from  otherwise discriminating on the basis of race in implementing a criminal  history check. In addition, the decree requires the company to update its  reconsideration process – which operates when a rejected applicant asks the  company to reconsider its decision despite the applicant’s criminal convictions.  The new reconsideration process must include clear communications to failed  applicants that they may provide information to Dollar General to support reconsideration  of their exclusion. Finally, the retailer must also provide reports to the EEOC  about the implementation of any new criminal history checks and reconsideration  processes.

“This case is important because Dollar General is not just providing  relief for a past practice but for the future as well,” said Gregory Gochanour,  regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “If the company plans to use  criminal history, it must retain a criminologist to develop a fair process. Unlike  other background checks based on unproven myths and biases about people with criminal  backgrounds, Dollar General’s new approach will be informed by experts with  knowledge of actual risk.”

EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman added, “Because  of the racial disparities in the American criminal justice system, use of  criminal background checks often has a disparate impact on African Americans. This  consent decree reminds employers that criminal background checks must have some  demon­strable business necessity and connection to the job at issue.”

This case was litigated by EEOC Trial Attorneys Jeanne  Szromba, Richard Mrizek, and Ethan Cohen and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane  Smason.

The  EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of  discrimination, admin­istrative enforcement and the conduct of agency  litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota,  with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

OSHA Fines Newspaper Publisher $145K Following Amputation of Employee’s Finger

Who knew the newspaper business could be so hazardous to employees? Not the newsgathering part of the business, but operating machinery that puts the paper together.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited BH Media Group Inc. for exposing employees to amputation hazards after an employee suffered an injury at the Opelika, Alabama, facility. The company faces $145,858 in penalties.

An employee suffered a finger amputation after their hand was caught in a stacking machine that unintentionally started while being serviced. OSHA cited the company for failing to effectively guard machinery, and develop and implement written procedures to prevent unintentional start-up during service or maintenance. The agency conducted the inspection in conjunction with the National Emphasis Program on Amputations.

“Employers’ failure to instruct workers on how to control hazardous energy when they are servicing machines can lead to this type of preventable injury,” said OSHA Mobile Area Director Jose A. Gonzalez. “Using proper lockout/tagout energy control procedures can protect workers from potential amputations.”

OSHA’s Machine Guarding eTool provides information on how to recognize and control common amputation hazards associated with operating certain types of machines.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

EEOC Recovers $49K for Job Applicant Told He Was “Too Slow” for Position as Food Packager

Hopefully, this staffing agency and others like it won’t make any more assumptions about applicants being “too slow” for the job.

Adecco USA, Inc., a staffing agency based in Jacksonville, Fla., will pay $49,500 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced last Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in April 2016, an applicant with learning and other mental disabilities visited Adecco’s office in Corry, Pa., to apply for a food packaging and distri­bution position. The EEOC charged that an Adecco official refused to place the applicant with disabilities in the position he requested. The official told him he was “too slow” for the job after he had difficulty reading and comprehending a pre-employment test. The Adecco official placed other appli­cants in the food packag­ing and distribution position and subsequently offered the applicant a job cleaning cars, according to the lawsuit.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Adecco USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00250-SPB) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Erie Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to paying $49,500 to the worker, the agreed-upon consent decree approved by the federal court enjoins future violations of the ADA and requires that Adecco implement various measures to prevent workplace disability discrimination. Those measures include modifications to its existing policy prohibiting disability discrimination and extensive ADA training for certain person­nel. The company must post a notice to employees relating to the settlement and furnish reports to the EEOC semi-annually concerning allegations of disability discrimination regarding the Corry location.

“Just like the rest of the labor force, workers with learning and other mental disabilities provide highly valuable contributions to their employers and to our national economy, and those workers have a legal right to do so free from discrimination,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence.

EEOC District Director Jamie Williamson added, “Employers cannot deny a job to a qualified applicant because of his disability. We are pleased that this settlement compensates the worker for his monetary losses and will protect other workers from disability discrimination.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Walmart ADA Settlement With EEOC Includes Nationwide Change to Reassignment Policies

Some lawsuits redound well beyond the immediate parties, to have even national implications. This is one such.

Walmart  Inc. will pay $80,000 and implement nationwide changes to its disability reassignment policy to settle a disability discrimination  lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the  federal agency announced Friday.

According to the EEOC’s  lawsuit, Walmart  violated federal law by  failing to reassign a long- term employee at its Augusta, Maine location  to vacant positions in its  Waterville or Thomaston, Maine  locations after she became disabled.  The lawsuit alleged that Veronica Resendez, who had worked for Walmart  since 1999, developed a disability that, according  to Walmart,  prevented her from continuing to work in a sales associate position in Augusta. Walmart determined that the only positions that  could accommodate her disability  were fitting room associate and people greeter. While there were  no such positions vacant  in Augusta, there were two fitting room associate positions open in Waterville and one  in Thomaston. Walmart’s policy, however, was to search for open positions only in the store where  the employee had been working.  Because of this, Walmart did not transfer Ms. Resendez to the positions in  Waterville or Thomaston, which  she would have happily accepted. As a result, Ms. Resendez never worked for Walmart  again.

The  Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits employers from discriminating based  on disability and imposes a  requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable    accommodation, absent  undue hardship on the employer. The ADA states  that one of these accommodations is reassignment to a vacant position.

The  EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00170-JDL) in U.S. District  Court for the District  of Maine in Bangor after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through  its conciliation process.

As  part of the settlement, which was approved  by the Court yesterday, Walmart will change its policy so associates with a disability that are eligible  for job reassignment under the ADA as a reasonable accommodation can request that Walmart search at up to five stores beyond  an associate’s then-current store location  (“home store”) or in the home store’s entire market.  The revised procedures will be applied to all hourly field associates working in Walmart  retail stores in the United States.

Walmart is also enjoined from failing  to offer to reassign  a qualified individual with a disability to a vacant position. Finally, Ms. Resendez will receive  payment of $80,000.

“Federal law requires employers to reassign employees with a disability to vacant positions as the reasonable accommodation of last resort,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office.  “We are very pleased  that this lawsuit, which  arose from a single employee’s complaint, resulted  in the nationwide change we sought, and we applaud  Walmart for making that change.”

EEOC New York District  Director Kevin Berry added,  “Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable  accommodation required by law absent undue hardship. This case demonstrates that looking beyond the home store  for a vacant position  is not an undue hardship.”

The  EEOC’s New York District  Office oversees New York,  Northern New Jersey,  Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode  Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

EEOC Sues Arkansas Restaurant for Permitting Sexual Harassment of Female Teenage Workers

Sexual harassment reared its ugly head at this Asian food takeout, according to federal investigators.

Pei Wei Asian Diner, LLC, doing business as Pei Wei Fresh Kitchen in Little Rock Ark., violated federal law when it subjected a class of female teens and young adults to sexual harassment and a sexually hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commis­sion (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced Oct. 18. The sexual harassment, committed by the male general manager and the male kitchen manager, forced two of the discrimination victims to resign, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the company had notice of the general manager’s conduct by at least early 2016; however, he continued to harass the young female employees through early December 2017. In spite of receiving sexual harassment complaints against both managers, the company allowed the managers’ harassment to go unchecked, the EEOC charged.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas Western Division, Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-00718,­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits, and an injunction against future discrimination.

“Sexual harassment of young females in the restaurant industry remains a serious problem,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.  “The EEOC’s suit seeks to rectify that problem.”

The EEOC’s Youth@Work website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/ ) presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination, including curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities.

Dollar Store Owes $70K in ADA Settlement Over Rejection of Sales Applicant With Injured Arm

This discount store is paying big bucks to get out from under a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the feds.

The owner-operator of a Georgia Dollar General store will pay $70,000 and provide other significant relief to settle 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, on or about Sept. 7, 2015, Terri Mosley applied for a sales associate position at a Portal, Ga., Dollar General store, where she was a frequent shopper. When Mosley appeared for an interview, the store manager refused to interview her, stating, “I didn’t know it was you,” and told Mosley that she could not work at Dollar General “with that arm.” Mosley’s left arm had been injured in an automobile accident two years earlier.

Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimin­ation based on actual or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Dolgencorp, LLC d/b/a Dollar General, Civil Action No. 6:17-cv-00100) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process.

In addition to paying $70,000 in monetary relief, the two-year decree mandates that Dollar General provide ADA training to management and employees in 19 stores, post its anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies in those stores, and report any allegations of disability discrimination made by employment applicants to the EEOC.

“Companies cannot make presumptions about a prospective employee’s ability to work,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Employers, especially large, national employers like Dolgencorp, must understand their obligations under the law to eliminate stereotypes from the hiring process.”

Darrell E. Graham, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “Job applicants have the right to be considered for open positions based on applicants’ ability to do the job and not their disabilities.”

Dolgencorp, LLC, is a Kentucky corporation operating more than 12,000 Dollar General retail stores across the country.

EEOC Recovers $1.2M for Oilfield Workers Who Were Subject to Racial Slurs, Bad Assignments

Digging for oil is tough enough without having to put up with racial slurs and menial assignments. Yet if allegations against these companies are to be believed, that’s exactly what happened.

Nabors Corporate Services, Inc. and C&J Well Services, Inc., two Houston-based oil field services companies, have agreed to pay nine Black employees and one of their White co-workers a total of $1,225,000 to settle a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that Nabors Corporate Services, Inc., and its operational successor, C&J Well Services, Inc., violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting black oilfield workers at their Pleasanton, Texas yard to a hostile environment that included the pervasive use of racial slurs in the workplace. The lawsuit further alleged that the company’s managers intentionally assigned Black employees to lower paying jobs and fired workers in retaliation for reporting racial harassment. The EEOC alleged that one Nabors worker who was told by the human resources department not to speak negatively about a harasser was later terminated when he reported a racist social media post shared between employees. According to the EEOC, another Black employee was called a racial slur at a meeting in front of supervisors and was then fired for reporting his objection.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, including harassment and retaliation, forbids such alleged conduct. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division (EEOC v. Nabors Corporate Services, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 5:16-cv-00758) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

“Workplace harassment, including the pervasive use of racial slurs and circulating racist social media posts, have absolutely no place at the worksite. The EEOC is committed to eliminating this unlawful conduct and to protecting the rights of employees,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Philip Moss of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office.

The two-year consent decree resolving this case, approved by U.S. District Judge Frederick Biery, requires the companies to provide training to their employees informing them of their rights and protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Under the consent decree, the companies will revise their policies regarding race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Going forward, the companies committed not to employ four individuals who the EEOC identified as having participated in the race harassment.

Eduardo Juarez, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Offices, stated, “When managers give high paying assignments based on race and permit the use of degrading racial slurs, they are engaging in practices which violate the law. This substantial settlement should signal to employers that the EEOC is serious about stopping race-based harassment in the oil and gas industry.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino added, “We must all remain watchful that industries which have jobsites in rural areas are not overlooked when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace that is free from hostile behavior based on race.”

Two of the class members were represented by the Law Office of Jeffrey A. Goldberg of San Antonio, Texas.

In October 2019, the EEOC’s Dallas District Office also announced a settlement by Consent Decree resolving a suit against another Houston-based oil business, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., in which the agency alleged harassment against two Muslim workers, one of Syrian and one of Indian national origin.

The San Antonio Field Office is part of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, which is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and agency litiga­tion in Texas and parts of New Mexico.