EEOC Program Pitches Respect in Workplace

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. We’d all like a little more of it in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is pitching in.

The EEOC announced October 4 that it will launch two new trainings for employers: Leading for Respect (for supervisors) and Respect in the Workplace (for all employees). Instead of traditional compliance training that solely focuses on legal definitions and standards for liability, the new program provides an exciting training alternative for harassment prevention. The trainings will be conducted by EEOC Training Institute staff.

The training program focuses on respect, acceptable workplace conduct, and the types of behaviors that contribute to a respectful and inclusive, and therefore ultimately more profitable, workplace. The program is customizable for different types of workplaces and includes a section for reviewing employers’ own harassment prevention policies and procedures.

The training program is an outgrowth of the Report of the Co-Chairs of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace.

“We always said the report was just a first step,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic, co-author of the report. “Implementation of the report’s recommendations is key. These trainings incorporate the report’s recommendations on compliance, workplace civility, and bystander intervention training. I believe the trainings can have a real impact on workplace culture, and I hope employers make use of them.”

EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, the report’s other author, said, “A strong training program is a critical piece of a holistic harassment prevention effort. We know that workplace incivility often acts as a ‘gateway drug’ to workplace harassment. These trainings, therefore, provide employees with the specific skills they need to act respectfully and to intervene when they observe disrespectful or abusive behavior. In short, the program is designed to stop improper behavior before it ever rises to the level of illegal harassment.”

For more information on the Respectful Workplaces Training Program for private employers or state or local government agencies, go to the EEOC Training Institute website, contact your nearest Outreach and Education Coordinator, or contact Program Analyst Michelle Crew at michelle.crew@eeoc.gov. For more information on the Respectful Workplaces Training Program for federal agencies, contact FederalTrainingandOutreach@eeoc.gov.

The trainings were designed by Fran Sepler, of Sepler and Associates, under a contract with the EEOC.

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Auto Store Fingered by EEOC for ADA Violations

The avalanche of lawsuits by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans With Disabilities Act continues.

Crain Automotive Holdings, Inc., located in Sherwood, Ark., violated federal law when it refused to accommodate an employee and fired her because of her disability, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 28.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee suffers from anxiety, depression, and panic attacks. She attempted to communicate her medical conditions to her supervisors; however, Crain refused to discuss accommodation options with the employee and instead terminated her within days of learning of her disabilities, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-627-JLH, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits, and an injunction against future discrimination.

“The ADA protects people with disabilities so that they have an equal opportunity to achieve success in the workplace,” said Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “People with disabilities face enough obstacles in their everyday lives. The ability to work free of discrimination should not be one of those obstacles. This issue remains a priority for the EEOC.”

Crain Automotive, headquartered in Sherwood, Ark., is comprised of 16 automotive dealerships whose primary business is selling and trading new and used vehicles, selling retail and wholesale parts, and repairing vehicles.

EEOC: Pa. Realtor Fired Pregnant Women

We interrupt this procession of EEOC lawsuits under the Americans With Disabilities Act to make room for a lawsuit accusing a company of discriminating against pregnant workers.

Friedman Realty Group, Inc., a real estate investment firm that owns and manages apartment communities, retail shopping centers, and professional office buildings, violated federal law when it fired at least three employees based on pregnancy, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it announced on October 4.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Brianna Mazzella worked as a leasing agent at Friedman’s Prospect Park, Pa., facility and received performance-based salary increases. In mid-March 2013, Mazzella told the regional property manager that she was pregnant. The EEOC charges that thereafter the regional property manager made disparaging comments about pregnancy, including saying that “when women get pregnant they get stupid,” and “I would never have kids, it’s gross.” After learning about Mazzella’s pregnancy, the regional property manager also subjected her to unwarranted job scrutiny and unrealistic deadlines or goals. The EEOC says that Friedman terminated Mazzella in August 2013 because of her pregnancy.

Freidman also fired two other women because of their pregnancies. In 2013, Friedman terminated an apartment cleaner who had been employed for almost three years just three days after she disclosed her preg­nancy to the company vice president, the EEOC charges. Friedman also terminated a leasing consultant who worked at its Somers Point, N.J., facility in April 2017, three months after she told the vice president and other managers that she was pregnant, according to the suit.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Friedman Realty Group, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-07659) in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Mazzella and other class members, as well as broad injunctive relief.

“These women were doing a good job, but Friedman fired them when they needed their salaries the most – as they were preparing to support a growing family. That’s unjust and against federal law,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.

EEOC District Director Kevin Berry added, “It’s bad for society when an employer deprives hard-working women and their families of their livelihood because of pregnancy. The EEOC is here to defend the rights of pregnant workers.”

EEOC Targets Company With Inflexible Leave Requirement, 100% Healed Rule for Work Return

Another employer has incurred the displeasure of the federal government for an inflexible leave rule.

Prestige Care, Inc., Prestige Senior Living, LLC and their affiliates violated federal law when they refused to provide accommodations for employees with disabilities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 29. The EEOC further alleges that the named companies engaged in the practice of denying light duty and leave as an accommodation to employees with disabilities.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the Vancouver, Wash.-based companies and their affiliated skilled nursing and/or assisted living facilities had a written policy that required employees be 100% healed while at work. Moreover, the companies would not allow employees to return to work after a medical leave unless they did so without medical restrictions. The EEOC further charges that Prestige and its affiliates discharged employees for exceeding the companies’ restrictive leave policy. By doing so, the EEOC alleges that the companies’ long-term practices violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (EEOC v. Prestige Care, Inc, et al., Case No. 1:17-cv-01299-AWI-SAB) under the ADA after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, benefits and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.

“We continue to see too many cases where employers implement inflexible policies and procedures that undermine the ADA,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes the Central Valley in its jurisdiction.

Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, added, “Health care is an industry in which one might expect to see little disability discrimination – but, sadly, the EEOC sees too much of it there. A rigid policy of denying leave or light duty to employees with disabilities without a meaningful interactive process frequently leads to violations of the law.”

According to the company’s website, www.prestigecare.com , Prestige Care provides independent living communities, assisted living, memory care, home health and rehabilitation and post-acute care to senior citizens. Prestige and its affiliates provide services throughout the western United States including Washington, Oregon and California.

Eliminating qualification standards and inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

EEOC: Company Took Back Job Offer After Finding Out Male Applicant Was Transgender

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is sticking to its position that sex discrimination includes against persons who are transgender.

A&E Tire, Inc., a Colorado chain of automotive service shops, violated federal law by retracting a job offer and refusing to hire a male applicant once it was discovered that he was transgender, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 29.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Egan Woodward applied for a services manager position at A&E Tire’s Denver location, and after his interview he was offered the position pending a drug test and background check. The application and background screening paperwork used by A&E Tire asked Woodward for his sex and for any other names he used in the past. In completing the application and paperwork, Woodward identified his assigned sex at birth and indicated he used another name typically associated with the female sex in the past.

Less than an hour after A&E Tire extended Woodward a job offer, he received a call from a manager asking him if there were a mistake in his paperwork, the EEOC said. When Woodward stated there was not, A&E never got back to him about completing the screenings or a start date and ultimately hired someone else for the position, the agency said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including transgender status and sex-based stereotypes. The EEOC filed its lawsuit, EEOC v. A&E Tire, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17cv-02362-STV, in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent similar such discriminatory practices in the future.

The lawsuit announced today is part of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which it renewed in 2016. The SEP includes “[p]rotecting lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination based on sex” as a Commission enforcement priority.

“Despite the significant legal and cultural progress we have made as a country in recent years respecting the rights of transgender workers, a lot of work remains to be done in rooting out stereotypes and prejudice,” said the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, Mary O’Neill.

Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the Phoenix District Office, said, “Transgender individuals want to work and give to the economy, sharing their skills and ideas just like anyone else. They should not be deprived of the right and ability to do so just because of unfounded fears, misconceptions, and biases.”

Home Depot Latest Employer in EEOC’s ADA Bullseye in Failure-to-Accommodate Lawsuit

Tis the season apparently for Americans With Disabilities Act violations. In another just-filed lawsuit,  the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is going to court on behalf another worker with a disability.

Home Depot failed to accommodate and then fired an employee who had a disability-related emergency at its Peru, Ill., store, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed on Sept. 28.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the large national home improvement retailer violated federal law by firing April Stevenson, an employee with irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia, rather than allowing her to take a short break to care for herself.

The EEOC brought the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in employment, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. The Home Depot / Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-06990) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman. The EEOC is seeking full make-whole relief, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Home Depot’s practices going forward.

“Our investigation revealed that Home Depot fired Ms. Stevenson after she had a medical emergency related to her disabilities that required prompt attention,” said EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman. “Home Depot failed to provide her adequate means to attend to her disability, then fired her for minor policy infractions that were caused only by Home Depot’s failure to accommodate her.”

EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney Greg Gochanour said, “The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. Here, Ms. Stevenson simply needed a short break to care for herself and then return to work – an accommodation that Home Depot easily could have provided.”

Home Depot’s corporate headquarters are in Georgia.

Pregnant Employee Was Denied Accommodation for Disability, EEOC Alleges in Latest ADA Suit

This is the season for ADA violations, or alleged ones, if the recent deluge of disability discrimination lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is any indication.

Halo Unlimited, Inc., dba Infant Hearing Screening Specialists, a Corona, Calif.-based company, violated federal law when it denied an accommodation to a pregnant employee with a disability, the EEOC announced in a lawsuit filed last Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an infant screening technician assigned to a hospital in El Centro, Calif., was denied an accommodation for her disability by Halo Unlimited. Instead, the EEOC contends that the company fired the pregnant employee within days of learning of her disability.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Halo Unlimited, Inc. dba Infant Hearing Screening Specialists, Case No. 3:17-cv-02006-H-WVG) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay and compensa­tory damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination in the workplace.

“The EEOC continues to see too many companies failing to accommodate workers with disabilities,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Imperial County in its jurisdiction. “We encourage employers to review their policies and procedures to make sure they are in compliance with the ADA.”

Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office added, “This case should serve as a reminder to employers of their responsibilities to accommodate employees under federal law.”

According to the company’s website, www.ihssca.net, Halo Unlimited, Inc. dba Infant Hearing Screening Specialists, provides newborn hearing screening specialists in accordance with State of California standards to over 95 medical facilities.