Posts Tagged ‘disability discrimination’

Employer to Tone Down Severance Agreements

An employer in Colorado has agreed to revise severance agreements so they don’t impede employees’ ability to seek redress for employment discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and The Coleman Company, Inc. have reached a voluntary conciliation agreement to resolve allegations of disability discrimination raised by a former employee, the federal agency said Feb. 6.

Following an investigation, the EEOC found that it was probable that Coleman violated Section 503 of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 704 and 706 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of the 1964, by conditioning employees’ receipt of severance pay on an overly broad severance agreement that interfered with employees’ rights to file charges and communicate with the EEOC, and which precluded employees from accepting any relief obtained by the EEOC, should the agency take further action.

Without admitting liability, Coleman agreed to enter into a conciliation agreement with the EEOC. As part of that agreement, the company agreed to hire an outside equal employment opportunity consultant to review its separation agreements and make sure they comply with law. Coleman also agreed to revise past agreements and notify signatories who signed a prior version between 2013 and 2015 that they could file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the company will not raise the time limits on charge filing as a defense. The EEOC will monitor compliance with this agreement.

“We applaud the Coleman Company for proactively tackling this issue once it was brought to its attention,” said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Increasingly, we are seeing employers, whether intentionally or not, including overbroad language in their separation agreements that interferes with signatories’ rights to participate in EEOC processes or that impedes the EEOC’s ability to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws as it deems necessary.”

Phoenix District Director Elizabeth Cadle added, “We hope other employers learn from Coleman’s model behavior and pay closer attention to their separation agreements. No matter what the intent, whether intentionally misleading or inadvertent, employers cannot insist on agreement provisions that are void against public policy.”

Preserving access to the legal system, including addressing overbroad separation agreements, is one of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan priorities. For more information about the EEOC’s priorities for 2017 – 2021, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep-2017.cfm.

Courts generally deem contract provisions that preclude employees from filing charges with the EEOC or cooperating with the EEOC during an investigation to be void as against public policy. See EEOC v. Astra USA, 94 F.3d 738, 744 (1st Cir. 1996) and EEOC v. Cosmair, Inc., L’Oreal Hair Care Div., 821 F.2d 1085, 1090 (5th Cir. 1987). Recently, the district court of Colorado, in the case EEOC v. Montrose Memorial Hospital, Civ. No. 16-cv-02277 (D. Colo., April 12, 2017), voided settlement agreement provisions that limited

an employee’s right to participate in the EEOC’s lawsuit and accept a share of any financial or other relief obtained by the EEOC.

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

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KFC Restaurant Ousted Employee Because She Took Meds for Bipolar Disorder, Alleges EEOC

It’s against the law for an employer to force an employee to forego medical treatment or stop taking prescription drugs as a condition for keeping their job.

That’s what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is alleging happened to an employee who worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchise in Dublin, Ga.

According to the EEOC, restaurant operator, Hester Foods, Inc., Hester Foods’ owner violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it fired restaurant manager Cynthia Dunson in July 2015 when he found out that she was taking medications prescribed by her doctor for bipolar disorder.

The restaurant owner referred to Dunson’s medications in obscene terms, the EEOC said, and made her destroy her medications by flushing them down a toilet at the restaurant. When Dunson later told the owner that she planned to continue taking the medications per her doctor’s orders, the owner told her not to return to work and fired her.

“Managers and owners cannot force employees to forego medical care or prescribed medications to keep their job,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office, added, “Whether an employee works for a large corporation or a local restaurant, she has a right to be protected from discriminatory actions by employers. We want employers of all sizes to understand their duties under the law and for employees to report such actions when they occur.”‘

The EEOC announced the suit’s filing on Monday, June 12.

For a refresher on disability discrimination, click here.

Ousted Pregnant Registrar Owed $70K in Settlement of EEOC Lawsuit Against Camp

$70,000 could pay for a lot of camping equipment or supplies, but instead a Christian Camp operating in Texas must pay those dollars to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit over its mistreatment of a pregnant registrar.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today announced settlement of this lawsuit against Carolina Creek Christian Camp, Inc., a Huntsville, Texas-area business offering summer camping and retreats,

In its lawsuit filed last December, the EEOC charged that Carolina Creek violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act when it demoted Korrie L. Reed after learning she had a pregnancy-related complication. According to the EEOC, soon after starting her position as camp registrar, Reed learned she was pregnant, and, shortly thereafter, developed gestational diabetes. Reed never requested a job reassign­ment, nor did she indicate she was unable to perform her job duties.

Nevertheless, Carolina Creek’s executive director demoted Reed, claiming that the registrar job was too demanding for Reed because of her pregnancy and related medical condition. After Reed told the executive director that she be­lieved her demotion was illegal, Carolina Creek fired her and then sued her in two different lawsuits, alleged the EEOC

“Demoting a pregnant employee because of a belief that a pregnancy-related condition prevents her from performing her job duties is illegal, as is firing the employee for complaining that the demo­tion is discriminatory,” said Rudy Sustaita, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston.

“The day is over when an employer could force a pregnant woman out of her job because of stereo­typical, unsupported beliefs about her abilities,” added EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Connie Gatlin, the attorney in charge of litigating the case, A company cannot take it upon itself to remove an employee from her job because it suspects her pregnancy or a pregnancy-related medical condition may interfere with the performance of her duties.”

For a refresher on pregnancy discrimination, click here.

Nursing Home Settles Pregnancy, ADA Case

Remember that if you fail to accommodate a pregnant employee, you could be sued for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

That fate befell a Philadelphia nursing home, which the EEOC announced today had agreed to pay $132,500 to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit. It seems that the home wouldn’t accommodate a pregnant nurse who wanted not to have to lift more than 25 pounds following surgery related to her pregnancy.

This even though the home had in the past accommodated nonpregnant employees with similar lifting conditions.

Read more about the settlement of the lawsuit against Nursing home Landis Homes Retirement Community, and its managing entity, Landis Communities.

Fifth Circuit: Rehab Act Allows Employment Discrimination Suits by Independent Contractors

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act authorizes employment discrimination suits by independent contractors, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled earlier this month.

The plaintiff in this case is a pediatrician who provided services at Lakeland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, under contract through a staffing agency.

The doctor is suing the staffing agency, and its predecessor that originally had her contract, for discrimination on the basis of disability, a hostile work environment based on her disability, and denial of a reasonable accommodation.

As an independent contractor–and not an employee–the doctor can’t sue the staffing agencies under Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the appeals court said. But Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which applies to recipients of federal financial assistance, doesn’t incorporate that prohibition.

As a result, the doctor can pursue her lawsuit against the agency even though she isn’t its employee.

The case is Flynn v. Distinctive Home Care, decided February 1, 2016.

 

EEOC Recovers $50K for Nurse Fired After Becoming Disabled During Her Pregnancy

Female employees who develop disabilities during their pregnancy must be reasonably accommodated.

That’s the message from an announcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a nursing center that fired a female employee who became disabled while pregnant will pay $50,000 to settle the agency’s pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit.

According to the EEOC, the female employee, a licensed practical nurse at a Clinton, South Carolina facility run by  NHC Healthcare/Clinton, LLC, suffers from paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), which, without medication, can cause rapid heart rate, numbness in the extremities, tunnel vision and occasional blackouts.  The condition, which NHC was aware of, was controlled by medication.

When she learned she was pregnant and stopped taking her PSVT medicine due to possible side effects to her unborn child, her symptoms became uncon­trolled.  The condition also exacerbated her normal pregnancy symptoms, such as fatigue and nausea, were exacer­bated by her PSVT.

Due to her medical condition and pregnancy, the employee was placed on bed rest and was out for three work days in early January 2013.  That same month she was fired by the director of nursing because of absences related to her pregnancy and PSVT.

EEOC said NHC Healthcare refused to accommodate the female employee by allowing her medical leave and subsequently firing her because of her disability and pregnancy.

“This settlement should remind employers that federal law protects pregnant workers who develop a disability during pregnancy,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.  “All employers should implement effective anti-discrimination policies, procedures and training to ensure proper protections for pregnant employees.”

Here’s the EEOC’s January 25 announcement of the settlement.

EEOC: Pregnant Nurse in S.C. With Preexisting Illness Was Victim of Title VII, ADA Violations

Beware the intersection or overlap of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act when it comes to pregnant employees.

In a suit filed last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused a nursing center in South Carolina of violating both laws by refusing to accommodate a pregnant employee with a pre-existing medical condition by allowing her medical leave and instead firing her because she was disabled and pregnant.

According to the EEOC,  NHC Healthcare/Clinton, LLC knew that Tonya Aria, a full-time licensed practical nurse, suffered from paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), which, without medication, can cause rapid heart rate, numbness in the extremities, tunnel vision, and occasional blackouts. The nurse’s PSVT is controlled by medication.

Due to her medical condition and pregnancy, the nurse was placed on bed rest and written out of three days’ work in early January 2013. On Jan. 15, 2013, the EEOC charged, the nurse was fired by the director of nursing because of absences related to her pregnancy and PSVT.

“Federal laws protect employees who are pregnant as well as those who have a disability,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “In this case, Ms. Aria had a pre-existing disability and was pregnant when the events alleged in EEOC’s complaint occurred. However, employees who do not have a pre-existing disability, but who develop medical conditions that meet the ADA’s definition of ‘disability’ as a result of becoming pregnant, are also protected from disability discrimination. Employers must be aware of this intersection between Title VII’s pregnancy discrimination prohibition and the ADA.”

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement about the lawsuit.