Archive for July, 2019

Employer Inflexibility on Attendance Policy Violated ADA, EEOC Charges in New Lawsuit

Another employer has tripped over its my-way-or-the-highway attendance policy, federal civil rights enforcers charge.

Medtronic, Inc., a Minneapolis-based company that develops and manufactures medical devices, violated federal law when it terminated April Jackson, a temporary employee, from its Greenwood, S.C., facility because of her disability-related absences, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Monday. The EEOC further charged that the company failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to Jackson and refused to directly hire Jackson because of her disability.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Jackson was placed to work at Medtronic’s Greenwood facility as a forklift driver / waste hauler by a temporary staffing agency on Oct. 3, 2016. The EEOC said Medtronic required temporary employees to follow the company attendance policy. Jackson, who was born with one kidney and an under-formed bladder, missed work due to health issues caused by her disability. The EEOC said that on Feb. 10, 2017, Jackson returned to work following a disability-related absence for which Jackson presented a doctor’s note. Medtronic terminated Jackson’s assign­ment that same day, asserting that Jackson was in violation of its attendance policy. The EEOC further alleges that Medtronic did not hire Jackson as a permanent employee because of her disability, despite being in the process of doing so prior to her termination.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina (EEOC v. Medtronic, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:19-cv-02100-HMH-TER) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concili­ation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“Not only does the ADA protect employees, including temporary employees, from disability discrimination in the workplace, it places an affirmative requirement on employers to explore accom­modations to their generally applicable employment policies, such as attendance policies,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “An employer simply cannot ignore an employee’s need for a reasonable accommodation of a disability, choosing instead to fire the employee.”

Bad Tea: Franchise, Owners Left With $102K Bill in EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Settlement

The servings at this California eatery were most distasteful to its young female employees–but that should be changing now.

Asian tea and snack restaurant chain Tapioca Express and two of its franchisees have settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for $102,500 and other relief, the agency announced Monday.

According to the EEOC, the owner of two Tapioca Express franchisees in Chula Vista and National City, Calif., harassed young Filipino female employees between the ages of 17 and 23, intentionally taking advantage of time alone with them to make unwanted sexual advances. The harassment included repeated and unwanted comments of a sexual nature and physical contact. According to the lawsuit, some employees felt forced to quit due to the increased harassment. Additionally, the EEOC charged that all three defendant com­panies failed to prevent and correct the harassing behavior even after a written complaint was submitted.

Such alleged conduct is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Tapioca Express, Inc., Erivera Enterprise, LLC d/b/a Tapioca Express, and Edeleen, Inc. d/b/a Tapioca Express, Case No. 3:18-cv-01217-MMA-BLM).

In addition to the monetary relief for the victims, Tapioca Express has agreed to retain an external monitor to assist the company with internal EEO audits, reviewing and revising its policies and procedures, and establishing a complaint procedure. Tapioca Express will also provide anti-sexual harassment training to all employees. The court will maintain jurisdiction of the case for the term of the 30-month consent decree settling the suit.

“Harassment remains a persistent problem in the workplace, which must be addressed top-down in any company,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes San Diego County in its jurisdiction. “We are encouraged by the steps Tapioca Express has taken to resolve this matter and the measures it has put in place to prevent workplace harassment and discrimination.”

Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “We commend the young women for coming forward to shine a light on the harassment to which they were subjected. Their strength may give courage to other young people or those in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community who may be suffering harassment or discrimination in the workplace to come forward as well.”

According the company’s website, www.tapiocaexpress.com, the South El Monte, Calif.-based franchise Tapioca Express specializes in milk tea and other popular snacks from Asia, with stores in California, Nevada and Washington.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is also one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC’s Youth@Work website (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/) presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination, including curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities.

Closed Piggly Wiggly Store on Hook for $50 in Harassment, Retaliation Case Filed by the EEOC

Score one more for the good guys in trying to eradicate sexual harassment against female employees working in stores.

Rockdale Grocery, Inc., doing business as Piggly Wiggly, will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Friday. The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that the company violated federal law by subjecting two female employees to sexual harassment and retaliation.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a male employee made lewd sexual comments and sexual advances to two female store employees, Cynthia Thompson and Megan Baker, at the now-closed Piggly Wiggly store in Hogansville, Ga. Thompson and Baker reported the harassment to the store manager on multiple occasions, but the store manager laughed at them and dismissed their complaints. The company failed to take any action to stop the harassment. Instead, the company cut Baker’s hours after she complained, and later fired both Thompson and Baker after they requested a meeting with the president of the company and filed a written complaint detailing the harassment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation for opposing such misconduct. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division (Civil Action No. 1:18-CV-03778-AT-JKL) after first attempting to reach a pre-suit settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

In addition to paying $50,000 in monetary relief, the company has agreed to post notices of employee rights required under Title VII, redistribute an anti-harassment policy, and provide training on sexual harassment and retaliation to all employees at its Dillard, Georgia store and corporate office. The EEOC will monitor compliance with a one-year consent decree.

Here, the store manager was fully aware of the details of the sexual harassment yet took no action to protect Ms. Thompson and Ms. Baker,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC Atlanta District Office. “Companies must take sexual harassment complaints seriously and encourage victims of sexual harassment to come forward, instead of penalizing them for reporting the abuse.”

EEOC Atlanta District Director Darrell Graham added, “No employee should ever have to endure a sexually degrading and humiliating work environment to make a living. The EEOC is committed to vindicating employee rights under federal law to resist such misconduct and report it.”

Rockdale Grocery, Incorporated operated nine Piggly Wiggly stores in Georgia. Since the EEOC’s involvement, eight of the stores have been closed. Currently, Rockdale has a corporate office that supports its one remaining store in Dillard, Ga.

911, What Is Your Emergency? Oops, I Denied Light-Duty Accommodation to Pregnant EMT

A pregnant EMT can do the job just as well as a nonpregnant one, but she might need a little help under the law.

The largest ambulance service provider in the nation, American Medical Response Ambulance Service, Inc. (AMR), violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a worker’s pregnancy-related medical restrictions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Friday.

According to the EEOC’s suit, a paramedic working for AMR in Spokane, Wash., requested light duty for the last part of her pregnancy, and supplied a doctor’s note in support of her request. Rather than assign her the light duty tasks regularly available to AMR employees injured on the job, the company denied her request and instead directed her to either take unpaid leave or work without any restrictions.

Refusing to provide light duty to a pregnant employee when similarly abled, non-pregnant employees are allowed light duty violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. American Medical Response Ambulance Service, Inc., Case No. 19-cv-258) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of the paramedic; training on anti-discrimination laws; posting of anti-discrimination notices at the worksite; and other injunctive relief.

“Our investigation found that AMR had a robust practice of providing light duty work assignments to workers with similar restrictions because they sustained injuries on the job, or even off the job,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “But AMR refused to offer light duty to this paramedic, who faced similar restrictions due to her pregnancy. Such pregnancy-related distinctions violate federal law.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che said, “The law makes it clear that an employer must accommodate pregnant employees to the same extent that it accommodates other employees with similar abilities or inabilities to work. Accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a key component of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan to address ‘Selected Emerging and Developing Issues.'”

According to company information, AMR is the largest ambulance service provider in the nation, with locations throughout the United States. AMR is a medical transportation company that provides and manages community-based medical transportation services, including emergency (911), non-emergency and managed transportation, fixed-wing air ambulance and disaster response. According to its website, https://www.amr.net/about, In March 2018, AMR became a subsidiary of Global Medical Response, the largest medical transportation company in the world.

Detroit Airport Ground Services Company on Hook for $120K in Pregnancy Bias Settlement

Pregnant women can sling airport luggage with the best of them. It’s their employer that dropped the bag here.

An airline ramp and cargo handling company that operated at Detroit Metropolitan Airport will pay $120,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Simplicity Ground Services, LLC violated federal law by forcing Raylynn Bishop and other pregnant employees onto unpaid leave. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Simplicity also refused to accommodate pregnancy-related lifting restrictions. Non-pregnant employees with similar restrictions, however, were routinely granted light duty.

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Simplicity Ground Services, LLC., Case No. 2:18-cv-10989) against Simplicity in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, in addition to providing for the award of monetary relief to affected pregnant employees, enjoins Simplicity from forcing pregnant employees onto unpaid leave in the future. The decree also prohibits Simplicity from discharging employees because of pregnancy in the future, as well as maintaining any policy which requires a pregnant employee to automatically obtain medical clearance to continue working. Simplicity must also provide live anti-discrimination training to certain employees, develop a written pregnancy discrimination policy to be distributed to all employees, and submit annual reports to the EEOC for the duration of the decree.

“Outdated notions about what pregnant women should and should not be doing persist,” said EEOC trial attorney Miles Uhlar. “Employers cannot automatically force pregnant employees onto unpaid leave, nor automatically refuse to consider possible accommodations for them just because a job is considered physical, like lifting bags at the airport.”

“Even one day of lost wages carries a significant impact for many prospective mothers,” added Kenneth Bird, regional attorney for the Indianapolis District Office. “The EEOC understands this and will continue to stand up to policies like the one employed by Simplicity in this case.”

The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

Harassment Settlement Costs Employer $55,000

Perhaps now the management at this company will keep their hands to themselves.

G2 Corporation, doing business as Screen Tight, has agreed to pay $55,000 and furnish significant relief to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC charged that a female worker in the patio screen door fabrication warehouse in Corsicana, Texas was subjected to unwelcome physical and verbal sexual harassment from her production manager and another company official.  Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) which prohibits employers from discriminating based on sex. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (EEOC v. G2 Corporation d/b/a Screen Tight, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-01524), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“We commend top management of the G2 Corporation for addressing the concerns and acknowledging the benefit of the various remedial approaches embodied in the settlement agreement, including the importance of training employees and managers on their employment rights and responsibilities under Title VII,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Joel Clark. “We believe this consent decree demonstrates G2’s commitment to taking proactive steps to educate and empower employees on their Title VII rights.”

A five-year consent decree settling the suit was signed by U.S. District Court Judge A. Joe Fish on July 17, 2019. In response to the EEOC’s investigation and civil suit, the South Carolina-based company has agreed to terminate the Corsicana production manager who engaged in physical aggression and intimidation. In addition to paying $55,000 in monetary relief to the female worker, the decree enjoins G2 Corporation from engaging in sex harassment in the future. The company has also agreed to provide training on sex discrimination to its managers and employees, post a notice of employee rights under Title VII, and report future complaints of sex harassment to the EEOC.

“It can be a challenge to oversee the environment of a particular facility when corporate managers operate at a distance and their plants or facilities are entrusted to persons with whom they do not spend significant face-time,” added EEOC Dallas District Office Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino.  “Making sure to have policies and procedures in place and to communicate them top-down to all employees on a regular basis is a big first step to preventing unlawful conduct and deterring deviation from a company’s positive core values.”

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is also one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Contractor Pays Up for Bias Against Latino Plumbers; Settles EEOC Suit for $82,500

A plumbing contractor will have to pay up for creating and tolerating a hostile work environment against its minority workers.

AMI Mechanical, Inc., a company that provides plumbing and mechanical contracting services in Colorado, has agreed to pay $82,500 and furnish other relief to settle a national origin and color discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, AMI frequently assigned Joseph Muniz and other Latino plumbers to sewer duty, while white plumbers with equal levels of experience were rarely or never required to work in the sewer. According to the EEOC, the Latino workers were also subjected to offensive ethnic comments and slurs, which, combined with the more frequent assignment to work in the sewer, created a hostile work environment for them. The EEOC’s lawsuit also alleged that after Muniz complained about the work conditions, AMI’s supervisor retaliated by instructing Muniz to return to the sewer or the company would find more “Mexicans” to replace him. The supervisor also indicated in Muniz’s personnel file that he caused “problems” and was not eligible for rehire. Finally, the EEOC alleged that AMI failed to preserve records as required by Title VII.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects applicants and employees from discrim­ination based on national origin or color, which includes unfavorable job assignments and other conditions creating a hostile work environment. Title VII also prohibits retaliatory acts against individuals who may complain about such discriminatory job assignments or terms or conditions at work. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. AMI Mechanical, Case No. 1:18-cv-01609-PAB-SKC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The two-year consent decree resolving the case requires AMI to pay $82,500 to two former employees. In addition, the decree requires AMI to review and revise policies and practices of AMI to assure its employees a workplace free of national origin or color discrimination, prohibit retali­ation, and encourage employees to report discriminatory conduct. The company will also provide training to AMI employees in Colorado on preventing discrimination and retaliation. AMI also agreed to post a notice in its AMI facilities and worksites in Colorado notifying employees of the provisions of Title VII and their right to a work environment free of national origin or color dis­crimination and retaliation.

“Under federal law, employers cannot relegate minority workers to the most undesirable and unhealthy job duties based on race, color or national origin,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District. “And when employees have the courage to report discriminatory treatment, the EEOC will continue to vigorously protect their right to complain without retaliation.”

Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, added, “The right to have employment decisions, including job assignments, made based on qualifications and merit, not national origin or skin color, is clear under the law. We appreciate that AMI has committed to helping the EEOC eradicate this form of discrimination in its workplaces.”

The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico.