Archive for September, 2017

EEOC: Employee With Lupus Fired From Job

A flurry of ADA lawsuits at the end of the EEOC’s fiscal year. Here’s one more:

G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc., a Florida-based security firm which provides security services in Warren, Mich., violated federal law by denying a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability and then firing her, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed on Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a G4S security officer suffered from mixed connective tissue disease and lupus. For years, security officer worked behind a desk. Without any explanation, her supervisor removed her from her desk job and placed her in a foot patrol position. The officer had trouble working in the foot patrol position because of her medical condition and asked to return to her seated security position as a reasonable accommodation. However, G4S refused her request and ultimately discharged her.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Michigan (EEOC v. G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc., Case No. 2:17-CV-13195). The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for the employee and an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.

“Federal law requires employers to make a good-faith effort to agree on an accommodation for workers with disabilities,” explained EEOC Trial Attorney Nedra Campbell. “Why G4S couldn’t allow this employee to return to her seated position is puzzling, but it’s clear that this is a case where the EEOC needs to step in and fight for this woman’s rights.”

G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc., is based in Jupiter, Fla., and employs over 50,000 people in the United States and Canada

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EEOC Sues Whole Foods Under ADA, Says It Fired Worker Because of Her Kidney Disease

Whole Foods didn’t do right by an employee with kidney disease, the Equal Employment Opportunity asserts.

“America’s Healthiest Grocery Store,” Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. dba Whole Foods Market, headquartered in Austin, Texas, denied a reasonable accommodation to a cashier with polycystic kidney disease and then fired her because of her disability, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Whole Foods hired Diane Butler in 2005 as a cashier for a facility in Raleigh, N.C. Butler has polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease causing uncontrolled growth of cysts in the kidney, eventually leading to kidney failure. In 2009, while working for Whole Foods, Butler had a kidney transplant. In December 2015, Butler missed work on two occasions because she had been hospitalized and needed to visit the doctor because of her kidney. Although Butler informed the company she needed time off due to her kidney impairment, Whole Foods terminated Butler because of her absences.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc. d/b/a Whole Foods Market; Civil Action No_5:17-cv-00494-FL) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay for Butler along with compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

“Employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations, including modification of an employer’s absenteeism policy, unless making the accommodation would be an undue hardship on the employer,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “An employer who is on notice that an employee’s absences are related to that employee’s disability must comply with the ADA’s mandate to reasonably accommodate workers with such needs.”

EEOC: Employer Fired Asbestos-Exposed Worker Without Doing Individualized Health Assessment

A plastics manufacturer doing business in Monroe, La., violated federal law by firing an employee because of his actual and/or perceived disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed today in New Orleans federal district court.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Mid-South Extrusion, Inc., discharged maintenance technician Jeffrey Wyant after he informed the company of his 50% lung capacity breathing restriction resulting from undiagnosed childhood tuberculosis, which crystalized and became dormant because of prior exposure to asbestos. Wyant did not require any accommodation and was able to perform the essential functions of his job without any restrictions. The suit further alleged the company did not conduct any intensive individualized assessment of Wyant to determine if his condition affected his ability to perform the essential functions of the position as mandated by the law before discharging him.

Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-01229) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Monroe Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination as well as back pay, compensatory damages, pecuniary losses and punitive damages for Wyant.

“It is unlawful for an employee to discharge an employee with a disability because of his medical condition(s) if he is able to perform the essential functions of his job with or without any accommodation,” said Keith Hill, field director for the EEOC’s New Orleans office.

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New Orleans and Houston offices, said, “Employers have an obligation to engage in discussions with employees to determine if they are able to perform the essential functions of their jobs, with or without accommodation.”

Michelle Butler, senior trial attorney for the New Orleans Field Office, added, “Mr. Wyant was performing his duties without any restrictions, but once he informed the employer of his medical issues, he was discharged based on an unsubstantiated determination that he was not able to perform his duties. This is unlawful as well as unjust, and the EEOC is here to fight such discrimination.”

 

Hearing-Impaired Applicant Shunned for Job Opening, EEOC Alleges Vs. Healthcare Company

Persons with disabilities must be given fair consideration for employment, including those with hearing impairments.

ALLAS – BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas, a Dallas health care company, violated federal law by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a hearing-impaired applicant during the application process, resulting in her denial of hire, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC, Sheryl Meador, who is deaf, applied through an online application process for an open claims examiner position with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas. After submitting her résumé, she received an e-mail from the company with instructions to complete a 35-minute assessment exam that included an audio portion. Meador was unable to complete the audio portion of the exam because of her disability. There were no captions or other visible accommodations that would allow Meador to complete the audio portion of the assessment exam and thus complete the application process.

According to the suit, Meador contacted BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and informed the company’s recruiting coordinator that she is deaf and requested a reasonable accommodation for the audio portion of the assessment exam because of her disability. Meador and representatives from the company exchanged emails relating to her disability and her application. However, the company ultimately failed to respond to her requests. As a result, she was not allowed to complete the application process and was denied the claims examiner position.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ and applicants’ disabilities. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No.3:17-CV-02626-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent disability discrimination in the future, as well as lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.

The EEOC expects to be joined in this effort by Disability Rights Texas, a federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas. Disability Rights Texas represented Meador throughout the EEOC investigation.

“One of the Commission’s priorities is to remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities,” said Suzanne Anderson, EEOC supervisory trial attorney. “Applicants with disabilities must be provided access to online application processes so they have a chance to present their qualifications to employers for open positions.”

Joel Clark, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, said, “Sheryl Meador was very interested in the opportunity to apply for the claims examiner position. She made repeated efforts to communicate with BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas and ask for an accommodation so she could apply. For her to be ignored is both unconscionable and unlawful.”

EEOC Sues Health Care Provider for Firing Rather than Accommodating Pregnant Worker

How a health care provider doesn’t know that it’s illegal to fire a pregnant employee who is able to work is beyond me, but it happens.

Trinity Health, an integrated healthcare provider with 2,500 employees headquartered in Minot, N.D., violated federal law when it fired an employee rather than accommodate her pregnancy and disability-related medical restrictions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago who managed the federal agency’s pre-suit administrative investigation, said that the agency’s investigation indicated that Trinity Health fired its employee once it learned of her pregnancy and her pregnancy-related disabilities. When she requested light-duty work because of her restricted ability to lift, they refused to give her light-duty tasks available to its employees injured on the job. They also did not provide her with leave as required by the statutes.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, including disabilities related to pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Trinity Health, d/b/a, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00200-CSM) in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota on September 25, 2017, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The case is assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, Jr. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Trinity Health’s practices going forward.

“The PDA makes it clear that an employer must accommodate pregnant employees to the same extent that it accommodates other employees similar in their ability or inability to work,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “In turn, the ADA requires an employer accommodate disabling conditions. Trinity abided by neither obligation.”

Jean Kamp, associate regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said, “The nurse was willing and able to perform light-duty work. Instead, Trinity fired her. When employees are treated this way, the EEOC is ready to step in.”

According to company information, Trinity Health operates in Western North Dakota and in Montana and operates facilities in Minot, among others.

Employee Wanted Out From Bible Study; When Employer Said No, EEOC Stepped in and Sued

It’s OK for an employer to hold Bible study sessions, but not to insist that employees who object to attending them do so anyway.

Shepherd Healthcare, a medical practice in Lewisville, Texas, violated federal law when it fired an employee because of her repeated requests to be excused from a daily morning Bible study, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 20. The EEOC also charged that the company unlawfully fired three other employees in retaliation for their opposition to the compulsory Bible study and other employer-imposed, religious-based observances or expectations.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Shepherd Healthcare has conducted mandatory staff meetings that begin each workday with a reading or study of Biblical verses, to include a discussion of how those principles could be applied to the employees’ personal lives. Almeda Gibson had worked in the office call center of the medical practice for approximately one year. The EEOC alleges that Gibson, a follower of principles of Buddhism, asked to be excused from attending the religious portion of the compulsory meetings. Gibson’s repeated requests for accommodation were denied, and she was then fired in July 2016 just one day after renewing her request to be excused from attending Bible Study sessions.

The EEOC also alleges in its lawsuit that Shepherd Healthcare retaliated against three other employees who were fired after expressing their objections or opposition to the office’s mandatory meeting requirements for compliance with the religious expectations of the owners.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace as well as retaliation for opposing an employer’s discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tim Shepherd MD, PA d/b/a Shepherd Healthcare, Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-02569-G), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concilia­tion process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the victims, as well as injunctive relief.

“Of course, employers and employees are not required to leave their own religious beliefs at home when they walk through the workplace door. However, the law requires that employers reasonably accom­modate requests to be excused from company-sponsored religious activities rather than firing employees who seek such accommodation,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard.

Ill. IHOP Fingered in Harassment Suit

Women would be well advised not to work at the IHOP in Alton, Illinois.

Two related International House of Pancakes (IHOP) franchises violated federal law when the male general manager and at least two cooks at the Glen Carbon, Ill., restaurant sexually harassed numerous female employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a discrimination lawsuit filed Sept. 19 in federal court. The EEOC’s lawsuit also alleges that two of these female employees, including a 17-year-old high school student, were forced to resign due to the egregious sexual harassment. Additionally, the suit alleges that the male general manager at a related Alton, Illinois IHOP restaurant sexually harassed a male employee.

According to the EEOC’s suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Case No. 3:17-cv-01002, more than 11 female employees at the Glen Carbon IHOP were subjected to unlawful sexual harassment including regular and repeated sexual touching and grabbing, lewd sexual comments and requests for sex, and offensive and threatening gestures. The general manager at the Alton restaurant made lewd and offensive comments to a male cook about his genitals and propositioned him for sex. Although the owner and managers were aware of the pervasive and egregious sexual harassment at both restaurants, they failed to investigate or take any action to prevent or stop the unlawful harassment, according to the suit.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from sexual harassment and termination or forced resignation because of such misconduct.  The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-suit resolution through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

“The sexual harassment in this case is particularly disturbing because it involved the general managers of both restaurants, both of whom were close relatives of the owner, and the owner declined to take any action,” said James R. Neely, Jr., the district director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is always shocking,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District. “But harassment of teenagers and young adults is particularly egregious.”