Archive for January, 2018

Volvo Drives $70K Bargain in Settlement With EEOC Over Applicant Who Was Drug Addict

Volvo chose to capitulate rather than fight an EEOC lawsuit alleging it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by withdrawing a job offer to a recovering drug addict.

Volvo Group North America, LLC, will pay $70,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Jan. 19.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Volvo made a conditional job offer to a qualified applicant — who was also a recovering drug addict enrolled in a supervised medication-assisted treatment program — for a laborer position at its Hagerstown, Md., facility. During his post-offer physical examination, the applicant explained that he was taking medically prescribed suboxone. However, Volvo failed to conduct an individualized assessment to determine what effect, if any, the suboxone had on his ability to perform the job. When the applicant reported for his first day of work, Volvo informed him that it could not hire him because of his suboxone use, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Volvo Group North America, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02889) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $70,000 in monetary relief to the applicant, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Volvo from violating the ADA in the future. Volvo will distribute to all employees at its Hagerstown facility an ADA policy explaining the right to a reasonable accommodation for a disability unless it would pose an undue hardship. Volvo will amend its policy on post-offer medical and drug evaluations to explain how it will assess whether an employee’s or applicant’s lawful use of prescription medication poses a direct threat as defined by the ADA, including providing a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA. Volvo will also provide ADA training, including on how the law relates to drug screening and the use of lawfully prescribed medications. Volvo will report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“Employers should make hiring decisions based on the qualifications of an applicant, not his disability or participation in a medically supervised treatment program,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Jamie R. Williamson.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence, added, “We appreciate that Volvo worked with the EEOC to resolve this case fairly, expeditiously and without incurring unnecessary litigation expenses. This settlement is designed to help ensure that all applicants and employees are protected from disability discrimination.”

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

Knife Fight: Manufacturer Fired Employee Due to Anxiety Order, EEOC Alleges in ADA Lawsuit

If a job applicant won’t tell you about an impairment at hire, it’s not legal for you to fire him when you later find out he has one.

A Wauseon, Ohio, knife manufacturer violated federal law by discharging an employee because of his disability, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed Jan. 17

The lawsuit alleges Grant Boss was a CNC machine operator for Busse Combat Knife Company. In June 2016, he suffered an anxiety attack and left work. After learning that Boss suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, the employer asked Boss why he did not disclose this at hire and ordered him to provide a medical note clearing him to work. Even though Boss submitted such a note, the employer fired him because of his disability.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of a disability. The agency seeks to recover monetary compensation for Boss in the form of back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress, as well as punitive damages. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Busse Combat Knife Co., Case No. 3:18-cv-00144) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“You cannot fire an employee simply because you learn of an impairment,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Dale Price. “The EEOC will vigorously pursue violations of the ADA when employers base their decisions upon such grounds.”

The Indianapolis District Office of the EEOC oversees Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

Mopping Up: Janitorial Services Co. Settles EEOC Suit Over Unequal Wages, Retaliation

A janitorial service company could have saved itself a whole lot of trouble by paying a female janitor the same as her male counterpart and then not retaliating against her when she complained.

Vador Ventures Inc., doing business as Total Quality Building Services, a commercial janitorial services company in the Washington D.C. metro area, will pay $36,461 and furnish other relief to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Jan. 17.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Vador Ventures paid day porter Sonia Rivera a lower wage than her male counterpart for equal work. Rivera’s duties included providing various janitorial services at a worksite in Reston, Va. The suit further contended that after Ms. Rivera complained about the wage disparity and asked that her wages be increased, the company retaliated by assigning her additional work, subjecting her to verbal harassment, and firing her. The EEOC suit contended that the company’s actions violated the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suit against Vador Ventures Inc. was filed in September 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria Division), Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-01083-TSE-IDD.

On Jan.17, 2018, the court entered a consent decree resolving the case. Vador Ventures will pay $36,461 to Rivera for full back pay and other damages alleged by the EEOC. In addition, the decree includes an injunction prohibiting sex-based pay discrimination and retaliation; requirements that Vador Ventures distribute discrimination and retaliation prevention policies in English and Spanish; provide anti-discrimination training; retain pay data for relevant jobs; and allow monitoring by the EEOC.

“The EEOC takes seriously the problem of sex discrimination in pay,” said Mindy E. Weinstein, acting director of the EEOC’s Washington Field Office. “The successful resolution of this case is a step forward in the EEOC’s ongoing effort to ensure that women are paid the same as men for equal work.”

Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence added, “We are pleased that Vador Ventures worked with the EEOC to achieve an early resolution of this case and agreed to fully compensate Ms. Rivera for the wage disparity alleged by the EEOC.”

The Legal Unit of the Washington Field Office, which filed this lawsuit, is part of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

Hospital Coughs Up $89K Over Firing of Workers Who Objected on Religious Grounds to Flu Shots

It may be sound medical practice to require your workers to get flu shots, but you can’t force shots on employees who object to them on religious grounds. At least not without first trying to accommodate those objections.

Mission Hospital, Inc., a North Carolina corporation based in Asheville and the main hospital of Mission Health System, has agreed to pay $89,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan 12. The EEOC had charged that Mission Hospital violated federal law when it refused to accommodate and fired employees who declined flu vaccinations based on their religious beliefs.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Mission Hospital requires employees to receive a flu vaccination annually by a date certain. An employee may request an exemption to the vaccination requirement based on religious beliefs, but the hospital requires that the request be made by Sept. 1, or it is subject to being denied. The EEOC alleged that Christine Bolella, Melody Mitchell and Titus Robinson requested religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement because of their various sincerely held religious beliefs, after the Sept. 1 deadline, and their requests were denied. Mission Hospital subsequently fired all three claimants.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs as long as doing so does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Asheville Division (EEOC v. Mission Hospital, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16-CV-00118) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to claimants Bolella, Mitchell and Robinson, Mission Hospital entered into a two-year consent decree which requires it to, among other things, revise its immunization policy to permit employees to request an exemption during the same period in which flu vaccines are to be received. Mission Hospital must also conduct annual training for supervisors and managers on Title VII and an employer’s obligations with respect to religious accommodations; post an employee notice about the lawsuit; and provide periodic reports to the EEOC concerning requests for religious exemption from the flu vaccination requirement.

“Title VII requires employers to make a real effort to provide reasonable religious accommodations to employees who notify the company that their sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with a company’s employment policy,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “As a result of this lawsuit, Mission now has practices in place to better ensure that this happens.”

$85K Settlement Closes EEOC’s ADA Suit Against Miss. Health Care Services Firm

Failure to grant a health care worker additional leave to recover from surgery came back to haunt this employer.

Pioneer Health Services, Inc., a Mississippi corporation that provides inpatient and outpatient health care services, has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan. 10.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in July 2012, Joyce Dumas, who worked for Pioneer as a social worker/therapist, became ill and was hospitalized due to liver failure. She requested leave while she underwent liver transplant surgery, and Pioneer approved the request. After successful transplant surgery on Aug. 2, 2012, she was slated to return to work in mid-September. However, when Dumas requested several weeks additional leave to recover from the surgery, Pioneer denied the request and subsequently fired her because she had exhausted her company-approved leave. Further, Pioneer refused to re-hire Dumas for an available social worker/therapist position several months later.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00016-GHD-DAS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Aberdeen Division on Feb. 3, 2017 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the five-year consent decree settling the suit requires Pioneer to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA and review its anti-discrimination policies and modify them if necessary, and enjoins the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of disability in the future. The decree also requires Pioneer to assign a senior company official, trained in the requirements of the ADA, the responsibility of providing written recommendations to Pioneer’s management before terminating any employee based on his or her actual, perceived, or record of a physical or mental impairment, or for exhaustion of medical leave.

“The intersection of the ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act will continue to be an area of focus for the EEOC,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, the EEOC’s Birmingham District director who oversaw the agency’s investigation. “We are pleased that Pioneer has agreed to implement training and revise its anti-discrimination policies.”

Marsha L. Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, added, “Employers should understand that they cannot simply fire an employee with a disability once she has exhausted her allotted 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Rather, the ADA requires the employer to determine whether that employee can be accommodated by a brief extension of leave that would enable the employee to return to work.”

The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.

When the Rubber Doesn’t Meet the Worker Safety Road: $69K Fines for Violations at Goodyear Tire

Made in America is a great slogan and aspiration–but at what price worker safety?

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued seven serious citations against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for exposing its employees to burn, hazardous energy, amputation, and caught-in safety hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $69,058.

OSHA investigators inspected Goodyear’s Social Circle facility in August 2017, and found that the company failed to provide effective personal protective equipment to employees exposed to burn hazards; did not provide procedures for controlling hazardous energy during equipment maintenance operations; and exposed employees to burns from heated tire treads, and caught-in hazards from unguarded machines.

“Our inspection found multiple safety deficiencies that put employees at risk of serious injury or death,” said OSHA Area Office Director William Fulcher, in Atlanta. “Potential workplace hazards must be assessed and eliminated to ensure employees are afforded a safe work environment.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and 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.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Island Breezes: Hawaiian Car Dealership Makes EEOC’s Retaliation Suit Disappear for $30,000

It’s elemental federal law that retaliating against an employee because she encourages other to fight employment discrimination is prohibited.

But this Hawaiian car dealership apparently forgot that truism.

Aloha Auto Group, Ltd. will pay $30,000 and provide other relief to settle a lawsuit for retaliatory discrimination filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Jan. 10.

The EEOC’s suit alleged that Aloha Auto Group fired Daniel Young because he encouraged a group of Asian-American and Pacific Islander employees at Aloha Auto Group’s Harley-Davidson dealership on Kauai to complain about a racially discriminatory comment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against Aloha Auto Group, Ltd. (EEOC v. Aloha Auto Group Ltd, Case No: 1:16-cv-00521-KSC) in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in 2016 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit provides $30,000 in damages to Young and requiring Aloha Auto Group, Ltd. to designate an equal employment opportunity (EEO) monitor to ensure the company’s compliance with Title VII and anti-retaliation policies and procedures.

The decree also requires a complaint process and impartial investigations, together with a centralized tracking system for discrimination and retaliation complaints and provisions holding employees accountable for discrimination and retaliation. Annual training on race-based discrimination and retaliation will be provided for those involved in human resources and at the management level to educate them on their rights and responsibilities on race-based discrimination and retaliation, with the goal of preventing and deterring any discriminatory practices in the future.

“The EEOC takes retaliation seriously because it undermines the integrity of the federal process for reporting and preventing discrimination,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction.

Glory Gervacio Saure, director of EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “This settlement reinforces the EEOC’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that race-based discrimination has no place in today’s workplaces.”

According to the company’s website, www.aaghi.com, Aloha Auto Group owns and operates a chain of car and motorcycle dealerships throughout the islands of Hawaii.