Archive for April, 2020

Striking Gold: EEOC, Oil Co. Reach $650K Settlement in Suit Alleging ADA, ADEA Violations

Gas and oil drilling companies should pay particular attention to this lawsuit against one of their Oklahoma brethren.

Horizontal Well Drillers LLC (HWD), a Purcell, Okla.-based oil and gas drilling contractor, will pay $650,000 to a fired worker and hundreds of unsuccessful job applicants to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, HWD hired Wilbert Glover as a rig hand before forcing him to undergo an unlawful medical exam and then fired him based on health information it obtained from the exam. The agency also alleged HWD rejected rig hand applicants who were older than 40 because of their age.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabil­ities Act (ADA), which restricts the use of medical exams in employment and prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals because of disabilities. These alleged actions also violate the Age Dis­crimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects applicants and employees who are 40 and older from dis­crimination because of age. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commis­sion v. Horizontal Well Drillers LLC, No. 17-cv-0879-J) in August 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Bernard M. Jones, requires HWD to pay monetary damages to Wilbert Glover and up to 484 applicants for whom the EEOC sought relief in the lawsuit. HWD liquidated and ceased all business operations in late 2019.

“Oil rig drilling positions are physically and mentally demanding,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis. “But that doesn’t mean people over 40 can’t do them success­fully. The purpose of the ADEA is to ensure that experienced and qualified individuals are not denied employment opportunities as they grow older.”

The EEOC’s St. Louis District director, L. Jack Vasquez, added, “Employers can lawfully require pre-employment physicals, but medical examinations of existing employees are permitted only in very limited circumstances. Even when examinations are permitted, employers may not unlawfully terminate qualified workers based on exam results.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

$150K Payment Ends EEOC Suit Over Hijab

Unless it would cause undue hardship, you’ve got to make some accommodation for employees to wear their religious headware.

Versant Supply Chain, Inc. and AT&T Services, Inc. have agreed to pay $150,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC charged that the Memphis-based logistics company and the Dallas-based communi­cations, media, entertainment and technology company subjected employees to religious discrimin­a­tion, which included failing to grant employees reasonable accommodations to company dress codes.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Versant and AT&T enforced policies that prohibit employees from wearing any head coverings (except knit caps) and failed to consider exceptions for employees who wear head coverings for religious reasons, such as hijabs. Under these policies, Versant and AT&T required Versant employees assigned to work in AT&T’s warehouse to remove their hijabs before work. If an employee refused to remove her hijab, Versant and AT&T would not allow her to work in AT&T’s warehouse.

Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimin­ation on the basis of religion. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division (EEOC v. Versant Supply Chain, Inc. and AT&T Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-02670) after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s Memphis District Office investigated the charge of discrimination.

A two-year consent decree settling the suit was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker on April 27, 2020. In addition to paying $150,000 in monetary relief to the discrimination victims, the decree prohibits Versant and AT&T from refusing to allow employees to wear religious head cover­ings in the future, unless doing so would create an undue hardship. The companies have also agreed to develop or modify their religious accommodation and dress code policies. Versant has agreed to develop and implement an internal policy that outlines how it will address future employee complaints of religious discrimination against client companies. Both companies will provide training to manager­ial and non-managerial employees on religious discrimination and reasonable accommo­dation require­ments under Title VII.

“The fact that an employee’s religious headwear conflicts with an employer’s dress code policy is no defense to a Title VII religious discrimination claim,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has juris­diction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of Mississippi. “Employers must be flexible and allow employees with sincerely held religious beliefs to deviate from the dress code if the requests do not pose an undue hardship. We commend Versant and AT&T for changing their policies to comply with the law.”

Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, added, “The truth is that we live in a society with an ever-increasing religiously diverse workforce. We encourage employers to be willing to address the reasonable religious requests of their employees.”

Mopping Up: $315K Settlement Ends EEOC Suit Over Harassment of Women in Cleaning Crew

Let’s hope harassment of women is a thing of the past at this housekeeping company.

HM Solutions, Inc., a Greenville, S.C.-based company that provides commercial and industrial janitorial services, will pay $315,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commis­sion (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday. The EEOC charged that HM Solutions violated federal law when it subjected four female employees to a sexually hostile work environment, then later fired the women in retaliation for objecting to the harassment.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the four women worked for HM Solutions at some point from July 2015 through March 2017. They were assigned to a client’s battery recycling facility in Florence, where they performed general housekeeping tasks and cleaned up lead and mercury contam­ination. The EEOC alleged that at various times during each woman’s employment, the women were subjected to sexual harassment by an HM Solutions account manager and a shift supervisor, both male. The EEOC contends that some of the sexually harassing behavior was observed by other supervisors, who took no action to stop the sexual harassment.

The EEOC further charged that the four female employees repeatedly complained about the ongoing sexual harassment, but that the abuse continued. According to the EEOC’s suit, the four women were ultimately fired by HM Solutions for not acquies­cing to the sexual harassment or in retaliation for complaining about it.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission v. HM Solutions, Inc.Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-02043-SAL-KDW) in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Florence Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litiga­tion settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief for the four women, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires HM Solutions to develop an auditing process to assist the corporation with identifying and addressing actual or potential incidents of sexual harassment and retaliation. Under the decree, HM Solutions will also provide annual training to all employees on Title VII, sexual harass­ment and retaliation in the workplace; revise its anti-harassment policy; and provide periodic reports to the EEOC on all employee complaints about sex-based conduct or comments.

“We commend the efforts of HM Solutions in reaching a resolution with EEOC that pro­vides both meaningful monetary relief and important equitable relief,” said Kara G. Haden, acting regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The company has taken positive steps which will benefit its employees moving forward and emphasize the importance of the federal equal employment opportunity laws.”

Guidance from U.S. Gov’t on Protecting Workers in Meat, Processing Plants From the Coronavirus

Meat processing plants around the country, including Smithfield and Tyson Foods, have been rocked by the coronavirus.

Hopefully in time to prevent more tragedy, government safety issued guidance to reduce coronavirus risk at the nation’s meatpacking and processing plants.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released joint coronavirus-related interim guidance for meatpacking and meat processing workers and employers – including those involved in beef, pork and poultry operations. The guidance includes recommended actions employers can take to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“As essential workers, those in the meatpacking and processing industries need to be protected from coronavirus for their own safety and health,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA’s newest guidance document outlines steps employers can take to provide a safe and healthy workplace for workers in the meatpacking and processing industries.”

The coronavirus has affected many meat and poultry processing facility workers in plants in several U.S. states. While the meat products these workers handle do not expose them to the coronavirus, close contact with coworkers and supervisors may contribute to their potential exposures.

The interim guidance from OSHA and the CDC includes information regarding:

  • Cleaning of shared meatpacking and processing tools;
  • Screening employees for the coronavirus before they enter work facilities;
  • Managing workers who are showing symptoms of the coronavirus;
  • Implementing appropriate engineering, administrative, and work practice controls;
  • Using appropriate personal protective equipment, and;
  • Practicing social distancing at the workplace.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 help 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

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

$5.4M Later, EEOC Ends Age Case vs. Md. County

Maryland has its hands full with the coronavirus pandemic; now one of its big counties has agreed to pay big bucks to make up for its mistake in pension contributions.

Baltimore County will pay approximately $5.4 million to over 2,000 county employees resolve a federal age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Friday.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Baltimore County maintains a defined benefit pension plan based in part on employee contributions deducted from each paycheck. Under the county code, employee contribution rates were based on age at entry into the retirement system, with older employees paying higher rates than younger members for the same benefits.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination based on age, including with respect to fringe benefits such as pensions. Two county correctional officers filed dis­crimination charges with the EEOC. In 2007, the EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Baltimore County et al., Civil Action No. 1:07-cv-2500-RDB) 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.

The case progressed for 13 years prior to resolution, and was one of the longest-running lawsuits on the EEOC’s docket. In 2012, the district court granted partial summary judgment for the EEOC, ruling that the county’s pension plan was facially discriminatory and not justified by financial considerations, thus violating the ADEA. EEOC v. Balt. Cnty., 2012 WL 5077631 (D. Md. Oct. 17, 2012). In 2014, the Fourth Circuit affirmed and remanded for further proceedings to address the issue of damages. EEOC v. Balt. Cnty., 747 F.2d 267 (4th Cir. 2014). In 2016, the parties resolved EEOC’s claims for injunctive relief through a joint order under which the county eliminated age-based contribution rates. In 2016, the district court determined that no monetary relief was appropriate. EEOC v. Balt. Cnty., 202 F. Supp. 3d 499 (D. Md. 2016). However, in 2018, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that “a retro­active monetary award of back pay under the ADEA is mandatory upon a finding of liabil­ity.” EEOC v. Balt. Cnty., 904 F.3d 330, 333 (4th Cir. 2018). In October 2019, the district court ordered that the EEOC could recover back pay accruing between March 2006 and April 2016, for eligible class members.

Under the consent order resolving this lawsuit, the county will pay approximately $5.4 million to more than 2,000 retirees. This amount fully compensates all individuals who meet class eligibility cri­teria established by the court and who paid a higher contribution rate than he or she would have paid if age had not been a factor in determining employee contribution rates.

“We are pleased that thousands of retirees who overpaid for their pensions, some for many years, are finally being reimbursed,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Maria Salacuse. “We appreciate the willingness of the county and the trustees of the retirement system to bring this case to resolution.”

EEOC Assistant General Counsel Christopher Lage said, “This case was important for the EEOC to bring. Only the EEOC can sue state and local governments under the ADEA, and thus this violation would have gone without remedy absent the EEOC’s lawsuit. The case also confirmed the important principle that back pay is a mandatory legal remedy under the ADEA.”

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

Employer Out $275K in ADA Settlement Won by EEOC Over an Employee’s Perceived Disability

Firing an employee because of a perceived disability came at a huge cost for this employer.

IDEC Corporation, a worldwide industrial device manufacturer, will pay $275,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, IDEC engaged in unlawful discrimination at its East Dundee, Ill., location when it terminated an employee because it perceived the employee to have disabling impairments, including sleep apnea and a heart condition.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against employees with actual or perceived disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (EEOC v. IDEC Corp., Civil Action No. 18-cv-4168) in June 2018, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through the EEOC’s pre-lawsuit conciliation process.

Under the two-and-a-half-year consent decree settling the suit, agreed to by the parties and entered by the court, IDEC will pay $275,000 to the former employee’s estate and attorney. The decree further mandates that IDEC train its East Dundee employees on the ADA’s protections and report to the EEOC all future complaints of disability discrimination as well as requests by employees for workplace accommodation of disabilities that IDEC denies.

“Firing people because of perceived disabilities is just as serious a violation of the ADA as firing people for their actual impairments,” said Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “Unfortunately, many employers continue to run afoul of the ADA’s broad employee protections. As long as they do, the EEOC will continue to litigate these cases.”

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, added, “This terminated employee was wholly capable of performing his job, but IDEC fired him based on stereotypes about impairments it thought he had. The ADA protects employees perceived as having disabilities from discrimination, and the EEOC will keep enforcing it.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimin­ation, adminis­trative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

EEOC: Line Cook Mistreated at Ga. Restaurant

As Georgia reopens its economy, eventually to include restaurants, let’s hope this bad behavior doesn’t resurface.

A restaurant management company operating Locos Grill & Pub, The Derby, Tavern House, and Central City Tavern brands of restaurants in Georgia violated federal law by subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment and discharging her in retaliation for her complaints about the sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it recently filed.

According to the EEOC’s suit, a male line cook working at the Locos Grill & Pub in Sugar Hill, Ga., made sexual advances toward a female line cook. The male cook made obscene physical displays to her and made indecent propositions, the EEOC said. The female cook reported the sexual harassment to the company. After receiving her complaints, Locos Grill & Pub never again scheduled her for work, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and prohibits employers from firing, demoting, harassing or otherwise retaliating against employees because of complaints of discrimination or harassment. The EEOC filed suit against WRIG Management, LLC (Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-1707-LMM-CCB) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, front pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimina­tion.

“When the company learned of the harassment, it failed to protect its employee or correct the misconduct,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Instead, it penalized her for exercising her federally protected rights by failing to schedule her for work again. This sort of retaliation is unacceptable as well as unlawful, and the EEOC is here to fight for the rights of the victims of this sort of maltreatment.”

Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “Employees should not have to face sexual harassment from co-workers, and we at the EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce the feder­ally protected rights of employees to speak out against this kind of abuse in the workplace without fear of retaliation.”

OSHA: Follow These Steps to Keep Employees in Manufacturing Industries Safe From Coronavirus

Certain common sense safety measures can protect workers on the factory floor from contracting the coronavirus.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect manufacturing workers from exposure to coronavirus.

Safety measures employers can implement to protect employees working in manufacturing include:

  • Practicing sensible social distancing and maintaining 6 feet between co-workers, where possible;
  • Establishing flexible work hours, (e.g., staggered shifts), if feasible;
  • Training workers on how to properly put on, use/wear, take-off and maintain protective clothing and equipment;
  • Allowing workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus;
  • Monitoring public health communications about coronavirus recommendations for the workplace and ensuring that workers have access to and understand that information;
  • Promoting personal hygiene. If workers do not have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces; and
  • Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.

The new alert is available for download in English and Spanish.

Visit OSHA’s Publications webpage for other useful workplace safety information.

The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America’s workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has also published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.

Visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage frequently for updates. For further information about coronavirus, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Spanish-Speaking Preference Out the Window in EEOC’s Settlement With Fiberglass Manufacturer

Often it’s Spanish-speaking workers who bear the brunt of national origin bias, but in this case it was just the opposite.

Champion Fiberglass, Inc. (“Champion”), a Houston-area manufacturing company, has settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks entered a consent decree on April 17, 2020, requiring Champion to pay $225,000 to compensate a class of non-Hispanic applicants and job-seekers who were prohibited from applying for a laborer position. The consent decree also requires Champion to correct alleged discriminatory practices, like maintaining a Spanish-speaking preference and the exclusive use of word-of-mouth recruiting for unskilled laborer jobs.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws by engaging in systemic discrimination against a class of non-Hispanic applicants for employment who were not hired or even con­sidered for employment by Champion because of their race and/or national origin. The EEOC alleged that Champion engaged in a pattern or practice of intentionally failing to hire or consider non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers for laborer positions. The EEOC also alleged that Champion impermissibly maintained a preference that its laborers speak Spanish and engaged almost exclusively in word-of-mouth recruiting in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). EEOC alleged that, when a non-Hispanic, non-Spanish speaking job-seeker responded to a posted sign advertising for laborer positions, Champion refused to even give him an application. According to the EEOC, these unlawful practices had an adverse impact on non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers and resulted in an almost exclusively Hispanic, Spanish-speaking laborer workforce for a job that did not need Spanish proficiency for the effective performance of the job.

Rudy Sustaita, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, said, “We will continue to take action to ensure that employers do not violate Title VII by excluding individuals of certain races and national origins from employment because of an inability to speak a certain language when there is no business necessity for that language skill.”

Connie Gatlin, the EEOC’s senior trial attorney in charge of the case, added, “Maintaining a Spanish-speaking preference for a job which does not require a particular language skill and hiring only individuals referred by an employer’s existing workforce, even if for convenience, may have a discriminatory impact on non-Hispanic applicants.”

In addition to the monetary compensation to the class, the decree also contains injunctive relief.  It prohibits Champion from maintaining a Spanish-speaking preference and from engaging in word-of-mouth recruiting as its sole means of recruiting for the laborer position. Champion is also required to assist the EEOC in locating potential victims of the alleged discrimination; change its recruiting, outreach, and hiring to comply with the law; implement policies and procedures about hiring criteria, the application process, and records maintenance; and develop and maintain policies and procedures addressing illegal discrimination in the workplace, includ­ing com­plaint procedures and guidelines for investigating complaints of discrimination.

The EEOC is attempting to locate victims of the alleged discrimination. If you applied or attempted to apply for a laborer position with Champion at any time from Jan. 1, 2013 to the present and were denied an employment opportunity, please contact Connie Gatlin at or 346-327-7710.

The EEOC’s Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith St. in Houston, Texas.

EEOC Adds Other EEO Laws to Covid-19 Guide

Don’t let it be said that the EEOC isn’t on top of the situation amid the coronavirus.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Friday posted an updated and expanded technical assistance publication addressing questions arising under the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The publication, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws” expands on a previous publication that focused on the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, and adds questions-and-answers to anticipating return to work situations, making reasonable accommodations, and harassment.

In response to inquiries from the public, the EEOC has provided resources on its website related to the pandemic in an employment context.  The agency will continue to monitor developments and provide assistance to the public as needed.