Archive for April, 2015

Assisted-Living Facility Pays $20K To Settle Pregnancy Discrimination Case Brought by EEOC

With the recent focus on the question of whether employers have a legal obligation to accommodate pregnant employees, there are still some employers who don’t realize they can’t fire a worker because she is pregnant. That’s a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights, plain and simple. The latest company to find itself in the legal crosshairs is an assisted-living facility in New Albany, Mississippi.

The EEOC charged Magnolia Place Personal Care Home with violating Title VII by firing a newly-hired kitchen assistant after she informed her supervisor she was pregnant–on her first day of work.  Three hours later, Magnolia’s administrator terminated the employee and later replaced her with a non-pregnant employee. Magnolia’s administrator told the employee that she could re-apply only after giving birth, the EEOC said.

The home settled the claim for $20,000, the EEOC said.

Smart move if it turns out the EEOC had the goods on it.

Limited Review Available on Adequacy of EEOC’s Conciliation Efforts, U.S. Supreme Court Declares

Employers can go to court to challenge the adequacy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s conciliation efforts, but they shouldn’t expect a deep review by the court. That’s the gist of a ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court’s unanimous decision involves a lawsuit that the EEOC filed against Mach Mining in September 2011. The commission charged that the company violated Title VII by failing to hire any female miners since beginning operations in 2006, despite having received applications from many highly qualified women.

In a 9-0 ruling, the justices ruled that courts have the authority to review the commission’s conciliation efforts.

However, that review can’t go any further than determining whether the EEOC met its obligation under the statute to give the employer notice of the charge and an opportunity to achieve voluntary compliance.

The notice must describe the employer’s alleged violation of the statute and which employee or employees have suffered from the violation, the court ruled. And the EEOC must engage in a discussion to give the employer the opportunity to remedy the alleged violation.

So the remedy for not conciliation adequately is more conciliation.

Here’s the EEOC’s statement on the ruling, which it termed a win for employment discrimination victims.

EEOC: Car Dealership Violated ADA in Firing Employee Diagnosed With Multiple Sclerosis

An employee allegedly fired by her car dealership because she’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis has the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on her side.

The EEOC said it has sued Liberty Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge LLC for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act by firing the worker because of her disability and failing to reasonably accommodate her without showing that doing so would have been and undue hardship for the company.

The EEOC charged about three months after Shara Rynearson was hired as a commissioned salesperson, she notified her supervisor of symptoms that caused her to go to the emergency room in October 2010: a sudden change in vision, numbness in half of her face, and loss of balance.

Later Rynearson showed her employer her hospital discharge documents, which included a diagnosis predicting multiple sclerosis.  She also informed her supervisor that the doctors had instructed her not to work until after a medical appointment scheduled for early November to confirm the diagnosis.  She later brought in a doctor’s note excusing her absence from work and reiterating her explanation.  The EEOC found that instead of allowing Rynearson to take medical leave for the diagnosis and treatment of her disability, the company fired her on Nov. 5, 2010.

Liberty Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge LLC is a car dealership in Winnemucca, Nev., integrated with Internet Auto Rent and Sales, Inc. in Reno.

Read more about the lawsuit.

6th Circuit Backs EEOC’s “Expansive Definition” Of Protected Activity in Title VII Retaliation Case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission scored a victory at the federal appeals court level last week when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the commission’s “expansive definition” of what constitutes opposing discriminatory conduct was entitled to great deference.

Applying the commission’s standards, an employee’s demand that a supervisor cease his or her harassing conduct is protected activity under Title VII’s retaliation clause, the Cincinnati-based appeals court held.

The court ruled in EEOC’s lawsuit against a High Point, N.C.-based logistics services provider for sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC had charged the company–New Breed Logistics–with subjecting three temporary female employees to sexual harassment and retaliation against them for complaining, as well as against a male employee who supported the women’s claims.

“If an employee demands that his/her supervisor stop engaging in this unlawful practice – i.e., resists or confronts the supervisor’s unlawful harassment–the opposition clause’s broad language confers protection to this conduct” as well, the appeals court held.

The court’s endorsement of the EEOC position was part of a ruling affirming a jury’s award of $1.5 million against the company for the harassment and retaliation.

Read more.

Company Pays $1.4M to Settle Bias Suit

Just days after holding a roundtable discussion on the persistence of national origin discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a settlement in a national origin and racial discrimination lawsuit that it brought against a drilling company.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC charged  that since at least 2006, Patterson-UTI, a Snyder, Texas-based multistate oil drilling company, engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of discrimination based on race and national origin on its drilling rigs, including assigning minorities to the lowest level jobs, failing to train and promote minorities, and disciplining and demoting minority employees disproportionately.

Conditions were ugly  on the drilling rigs. These minority employees endured frequent and pervasive barrages of racial and ethnic slurs, jokes, and comments, as well as verbal and physical harassment and intimidation of minority employees, according to EEOC. And those employees who opposed or complained about discriminatory practices suffered retaliation, including discriminatory discipline and discharge.

The price of settlement? $1.4 million, the EEOC said.

Read more.


Women Need Not Apply: Oil Drilling Company to Pay $40K to Settle Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Some old sexist views about women never die, as apparently was true at a nationwide drilling company that just came to terms in a Title VII lawsuit filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the EEOC, Unit Drilling Company, which operates approximately 90 onshore drilling rigs in the Anadarko and Arkoma Basins, the Rocky Mountains, and the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast, was guilty of systemic sex discrimination.

When women applied for jobs at Unit Drilling, they were told that the company did not hire women. Rejected female applicants testified that they were told by Unit employees that the company did not hire women because it only had “man camps,” that women were “too pretty” and that their presence would “distract the men,” the EEOC said.

On the eve of trial, the company agreed to settle the lawsuit for $40,000. That money will go to the five women who were denied jobs under the “no-women” policy. The company also will provide training on sex discrimination.

Hopefully, there aren’t many other companies out their who operated on this retrograde basis. If there are, this lawsuit and settlement ought to compel them to clean up their acts.

Read more.


Company Settles ADA Suit Alleging Violation of Law’s Medical Inquiries, Confidentiality Clauses

A drilling company will pay a former employee $59,000 to settle allegations that it asked him illegal questions about his medical condition and violated his right to confidentially under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on Tuesday.

According to the EEOC, Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (H&P), a Tulsa-based drilling contractor, forced a derrick hand at H&P’s Alice, Texas location off the job because he was taking prescribed medications to treat chronic pain associated with a degenerative disk condition. The company ultimately fired the derrick hand, even though he had been deemed fit to return to work by his doctor, the EEOC charged.

More broadly, the EEOC singled out two practices of the company that it said violated the ADA.  First, it had engaged in unlawful disability-related inquiries and medical exams of employees and had required all employees to disclose prescribed medications and over-the-counter drugs to management.  Second, the company’s “essentially barred from employment workers who took prescribed medications that H&P deemed capable of impairing job performance, regardless of whether the employee was actually affected by the medication, and even when the employee was cleared to work on the medication by his or her doctor.”

“The EEOC expects this settlement will encourage employers to review their policies to ensure that they do not violate the ADA’s restrictions concerning post-offer medical inquiries and examinations,” said David Rivela, senior trial attorney at the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “The ADA restricts covered employers from requiring medical examinations or conducting disability-related inquiries of employees — unless such examinations or inquiries are shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Read more of the EEOC’s announcement.


EEOC Sues Md. Agency for Equal Pay Violations

A Maryland state agency violated the Equal Pay Act by paying women less than men even though they performed the same work as the men, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed last week.

The commission filed the suit on behalf of three female investigators and law enforcement agencies employed by the Maryland Insurance Administration, who it said were paid less than men in jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.

The Maryland Insurance Administration is an independent state agency that regulates the insurance agency, enforces insurance laws and investigates complaints that state residents have about their insurance coverage.

To read more about the case, click here.

Foodservices Supply Company Sued by EEOC for Rejecting Applicant Because of Disability

Another company is in the EEOC’s legal crosshairs for allegedly rejecting a job applicant because of a perceived disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

This time it is McLane Foodservice Inc., a large-scale supplier to fastfood restaurants.  The EEOC is charging the company with an ADA violation for refusing to hire an applicant because it regarded him as disabled and because he had a disability.

The EEOC’s announcement of the filing of the lawsuit doesn’t say what the job was or get into any of the particulars of how this situation came about.

But it’s more proof–if any is needed at this point–that the EEOC takes any suspected violations of the ADA very seriously and will vigorously pursue remedies against any company that it has reason to believe has violated the law.

Read more about the lawsuit.

Diabetic Job Applicant Awarded $35K in Settlement of EEOC’s Lawsuit Against University

Don’t turn someone down for employment because they have a disability.

That simple truism is the lesson from today’s settlement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of its Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit against Howard University, a college located in Washington, D.C.

According to the EEOC, Howard denied a veteran police officer  a security job at the university because he had diabetes–despite his qualifications.

The EEOC charged that Clarence Muse, who has diabetes that resulted in kidney failure, applied for and was interviewed for a protective services officer and protective services supervisor position with Howard University Hospital, a division of the university. During the interview, when asked about his shift preferences, Muse disclosed that he preferred the evening shift because of his dialysis schedule. Muse had over 40 years of experience as a police officer and security guard, including experience as a homicide detective and supervisor.

The EEOC charged that Howard University hired more than 40 security officers and supervisors but refused to hire Muse, despite his excellent qualifications, because of his disability.

Howard settled the lawsuit for $35,000.

Read more about the case.