Archive for May, 2013

Long Island Parish Settles Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Suit Brought by EEOC

A religious institution can choose its clergy without interference from the government, but it still must comply with employment discrimination laws, including preventing sexual harassment in its workplace.

Latest case in point: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday announced settlement of sexual harassment and retaliation charges against Grace Episcopal Church of Whitestone, Inc., a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Grace Church’s interim rector subjected a secretary and a sexton to unwelcome advances, sexual remarks and touching, including grabbing their breasts and kissing them. The secretary was fired after she rebuffed the sexual advances, EEOC charged.

Under the terms of the settlement, the church will pay $192,000 to the two female victims; provide church and diocese employees and all churches within the diocese with copies of revised policies on sexual harassment; report sex harassment complaints received by Grace Church or the diocese to the EEOC; post a notice about the EEOC and the lawsuit at the church; and provide anti-discrimination training for employees.

Read more.

Third Circuit Nixes Title VII Suit by Fired Board Member of Family Business

An individual can’t run the company and at the same time be an “employee” entitled to the protections of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a federal appeals court ruled last month.

In Mariotti v. Mariotti Building Products Inc., the plaintiff was vice president, secretary, and member of the board of directors of the closely held building materials company.

After the shareholders voted not to relect him to the board, the plaintiff sued, claiming that he was subjected to a hostile work environment and fired because of his religious faith.

Tossing the suit, the appeals court said that since the plaintiff had “substantial authority at MBP and the right to control the enterprise,” that put him beyond Title VII’s protections.

He was not “the kind of person that the common law would consider” an employee, the appeals court concluded.

Appeals Court: Post-Stroke Symptoms Disqualify Deputy Sheriff Under ADA

Psychological fitness and the ability to handle stressful situations can be as much essential functions of a job as physical stamina. If your job involves dealing with the public, then you might be deemed unfit if you can’t handle its stressful aspects.

Such as the case earlier this month when the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a deputy sheriff in Wyoming who wasn’t fully recovered after suffering a stroke could not proceed with a claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Following the stroke, as confirmed by a psychologist’s reort, the deputy sheriff experiencedfagirue, lightheadedness, and “emotional disinhibition.” All of which meant he should not return to the job dealing with the public in stressful situations, the appeals court said.

The case is Koessel v. Sublette County Sheriff’s Dept., 10th Cir., No. 11-8099.

Can’t Have it Both Ways: Court Says Employee Who Filed for Disability Benefits Can’t Sue for Age Discrimination

It’s a paradox of employment discrimination law. A person applies for disability benefits, claiming he is incapable of working, yet then turns around and claims protection from adverse action under an employment discrimination law.

A federal district court in Michigan wasn’t buying it. The court last week declined to let a security guard litigate his age discrimination claim after he stated in a disablity benefits application, filed shortly after his termination, that he was not able to work.

The guard can’t both be unable to work due to a disability and qualified under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, the court held.

The fancy legal doctrine is called estoppel. It really means you can’t have it both ways.

Here’s the court’s ruling in Isotalo v. Kelly Services Inc.

Comments Due This Week on EEOC Quality Control Proposal

We hear a lot about quality control–looks like the IRS could have used more of it–and now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is getting into the act.

The EEOC has circulated draft principles for a quality control plan and it now would like the public’s input. This is important because it potentially impacts each stage of charge-handling procedures, like the investigation, reasonable cause findings, and settlement attempts.

But don’t wait too long to give your input. The deadline for comments is May 24-this Friday.

Yuou can read more on the draft principles here.

And here’s some input to the EEOC from Seyfarth & Shaw, a heavyweight employment law firm.

EEOC Alerts Public to Specific Medical Conditions Under ADA

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week issued new documents explaining how the Americans With Disabilities Act applies to specific medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities.

In its announcement, EEOC pointed out that some 34 million Ameicans have been diagnosed with one of the first three conditions, and more than 2 million have an intellectual disability.

The subject of intellectual disability got new publicity recently with a large jury verdict in an ADA suit the commission brought against a turkey processing plant in Iowa.

These documents are available on the agency’s website at “Disability Discrimination, The Question and Answer Series.”

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement.

EEOC: Rehab Center Violated GINA, Other Laws

A nursing and rehabilitation center in Corning, N.Y. may have hit the trifecta of legal exposure by allegedly asking job applicants about their family medical history, and then repeating the process once the applicants became employees.

In a suit filed today against Founders Pavilion Inc., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges that the company conducted post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants, which were repeated annually if the person was hired, the EEOC said. “As part of this exam, Founders requested family medical history, a form of prohibited genetic information,” EEOC contends.

Asking about or acting on genetic information to affect employment decisions is a violation of the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act, and the EEOC also alleges that the company violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by firing two women because of perceived disabilities and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by either refusing to hire or firing three women because they were pregnant.

Read more about the lawsuit.