EEOC: Bank Fired Female Manager Rather Than Accommodate Her Pregnancy-Related Disability

Some employers continue to twist themselves into knots as to how to treat a pregnant employee’s request for accommodation.

M&T Bank’s alleged failure to accommodate a female bank manager after she gave birth and received medical clearance to return to work got the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which announced on Friday that is suing the bank for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

According to EEOC’s suit, Candace McCollin had worked as a branch manager for M&T Bank for several years, most recently at M&T’s Edmonson Village location in Baltimore, when she told the bank’s administrative vice president that she was pregnant and suffered from a medical condition that had caused her prior miscarriages.

McCollin said that she would need surgery to prevent another miscarriage. Following the vice president’s instructions, McCollin went on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and filed for short-term disability benefits. While she was on leave, however, M&T advised McCollin that the bank would fill her position unless she was medically cleared to return to work within ten days, EEOC said.

After giving birth months later and receiving medical clearance to return to work, M&T forced McCollin to apply for vacant positions for which she was qualified. However, M&T failed to reassign McCollin to vacant positions for which she was qualified, including to 24 vacant branch manager or assistant branch manager positions in the greater Baltimore region because of her disability or record of a disability, EEOC charged.

“The ADA requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation such as unpaid leave or transfer to a vacant position,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.  EEOC will take robust action if an employer blatantly refuses to meet its legal obligations.”

Last year the EEOC provided updated guidance regarding the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as they apply to pregnant workers.


Deloitte Breaks Mold on Paid Family Leave

The family leave policy instituted by Deloitte is pushing the envelope–and just might inspire other companies to be more generous in this benefit.

Unlike policies that limit family leave to new parents, the Deloitte policy applies to everyone in the workforce. Any employee with family caregiving responsibilities may take up to 16 weeks of paid family leave, including for taking care of an elderly relative, caring for a spouse or family member who is ill, or the birth or adoption of a child.

New mothers also can take six to eight weeks of paid short-term disability in addition to the family-leave.

Employees have access to the benefit each year, meaning they could be absent for a child’s birth one year and take a few weeks to care for an elderly parent the next year.

The policy also allows maximum flexibility in how it is used. Employees can use the benefit as they need it, working three or four days a week for several months, taking the full 16 weeks at one time, or taking a few weeks at different points in the year.

Paid family leave is also a topic of discussion in the presidential campaign. Republican nominee Donald Trump would mandate 6 weeks of paid leave for women following the birth or adoption of a child. There is some dispute as to whether same-sex couples would automatically receive the six weeks of paid leave, and the policy also leaves out fathers and parents who adopt. But the fact that a Republican nominee for president is calling for leave guaranteed under federal law is a breakthrough in itself from Republican Party orthodoxy.

If elected president, Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton is promising a federally-mandated guarantee of 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, and up to 12 weeks of medical leave to recover from a serious illness or injury of their own. Employees taking this leave would be guaranteed receiving at least two-thirds of their current wages, up to a ceiling, while on leave.

We’ve come aways in our presidential campaigns when the candidates would show up at  a day care center, read the children a book, and then depart.

Now we are actually getting some substance on which to make comparisons between the candidates on their leave policies.


Stuck in the Mud: California Orchid Grower Denied Rehire to New Moms, EEOC Charges

Job dreams were dashed for new moms who wanted to return to work at a California orchid grower, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday that Dash Dreams Plant, Inc., a grower and wholesale distributer of orchids in Dos Palos, Calif., violated federal law when it fired employees after failing to reinstate or rehire them at the end of their maternity leave.

Specifically, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2014, female employees were told in staff meetings not to get pregnant, that they have too many children, and the next person to get pregnant should stay home and consider herself fired.

EEOC further asserted that pregnant employees were not reinstated or rehired when they attempted to return to work following the birth of their children but were discharged from the company.

“Employers need to be aware that pregnancy discrimination laws also protect employees after they have given birth,” said Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC’s Fresno office. Failing to reinstate an employee after maternity leave and discharging them can be a violation of the law.”

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the lawsuit.

Hospital in $35K Settlement With EEOC Over Refusing Accommodation to Nurse With Seizures

An Arkansas hospital is $35,000 out of pocket for its alleged refusal to accommodate a nurse’s disability following a seizure.

That’s how much it is costing Physicians’ Specialty Hospital, a physician-owned hospital in Fayetteville, Ark., to settle an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the EEOC, the nurse requested to move to another position that did not involve direct patient care, or, in the alternative, a leave of absence until she could resume her nursing duties. Instead of providing the accommodations, the hospital fired her a few days later.

Ensuring that people with disabilities have equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace is central to the ADA,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of Mississippi. “EEOC remains committed to fighting disability discrimination.”

The settlement was announced on Tuesday.

N.C. Restaurant in $81K Settlement With EEOC Over Harassment of Female Server/Cashier

Restaurant patrons typically don’t see what goes on in the kitchen; they just want their food served hot and on time. But what supposedly went on at a Goldsboro, North Carolina seafood restaurant would give any observant customers pause.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a female kitchen worker at the restaurant was subjected to offensive sexual touching and comments from the male supervisor and male kitchen workers.

She complained to her immediate supervisor but the mistreatment continued.

After the worker filed criminal charges against the restaurant manager and kitchen workers, her hours were reduced and she was ultimately removed from the work schedule, the EEOC charged, in retaliation for her complaints about the sexual harassment.

The restaurant agreed to pay $81,500 to settle the lawsuit, the EEOC announced yesterday.

“Punishing employees who oppose discriminatory employment practices violates federal law and only makes a bad situation worse,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.

EEOC: Casino Operator Violated ADA By Not Accommodating Veteran With PTSD Diagnosis

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is charging a Las Vegas casino operator with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act for refusing to accommodate an Army veteran working as a security guard following a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The defendant is Wynn Las Vegas LLC. According to the EEOC, in 2010 Wynn began requiring its security guards to work mandatory overtime. One of the unarmed security bike officers requested an accommodation for his disability, and Wynn not only refused, but required the employee to submit burdensome doctor’s notes.

This denial exacerbated the employee’s PTSD, and when the employee filed a complaint with EEOC, Wynn retaliated against him by suspending him pending an investigation, EEOC said.

Read more about the lawsuit filed last Friday here.


Politics and Work: Do’s and Dont’s

With roughly 50 days to go until the November election, our resident columnist Robin Paggi discusses how employers should handle political speech in the workplace. She says that politics and work can mix provided the combination is handled properly.

Politics and Work

by Robin Paggi

If you’re not an American history enthusiast, you might not know that our current political climate, filled with insults and injuries, is nothing new. In his article, “Donald Trump and the Long History of American Politics Turning Violent,” Matt Taylor recounts how prominent politicians such as Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, and Andrew Jackson “were almost as notorious for their pistol duels as their politics” and their followers often engaged in fisticuffs as well. Taylor quoted Noah Feldman, a Harvard legal historian, who said that our country’s early political campaigns were “raucous and unruly” and “all of politics was just much, much wilder.”

That information might mean that we no longer have to shake our heads and wonder what our country is coming to; however, it doesn’t mean that we should allow people to be raucous and unruly at work.

Perhaps your workplace has not been subjected to such behavior yet, but it’s good to be informed and ready in case it does. The primary thing that employers need to know about politics at work is that the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to talk about politicians and political issues when those topics are work-related.

Section 7 of the NLRA prohibits employers from preventing their employees from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment. Therefore, employees may not be prevented from discussing Candidate X when that discussion is really about the candidate’s push for a higher minimum wage or something that could affect employees’ working conditions. But, employees may be prevented from discussing Candidate X when that discussion is really about the candidate’s stance on abortion or something else that has nothing to do with work. The same rules apply to clothing. For example, employees may be prevented from wearing a “Vote for Candidate X” shirt, but may not be prevented from wearing a “Vote for Candidate X because he’ll raise the minimum wage” shirt.

Having said all of that, employers still have the right to put a stop to any communication or behavior that is negatively affecting productivity or causing distractions whether that communication or behavior is considered to be protected or not.

Another thing that employers should know is that California labor code section 1101-1106 restricts them from preventing employees from participating in politics, controlling employees’ political activities, coercing employees toward or away from any political action, discriminating against employees for their political activity or affiliation, and/or retaliating against employees for complaining that employers did any of the aforementioned things.

Even so, employees should know that posting their opinions about political issues that are not work-related might get them into trouble at work, even when the posting is done on their own time using their own electronic device.

For example, Curt Schilling, a former All-Star pitcher, was fired from his job as an ESPN baseball analyst in April because of a Facebook post that shared his opinion about transgender people being allowed to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The post shows a picture of what is obviously a man dressed as a scantily clad woman with this message: “LET HIM IN! to the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving racist bigot who needs to die.”

To that, Schilling added: “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

Soon after, ESPN issued a statement that said, “ESPN is an inclusive company. Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

Although history might just be repeating itself, allowing political behavior at work that is raucous and unruly is not recommended.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

She last wrote for us on Emojis-A Workplace Communications Menace and before that on Alcoholism and the ADA in Employment. To read her previous columns, search Paggi in the search box at the top of this home page.