Posts Tagged ‘EEOC lawsuit’

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.

Plowed Under: Latina Tractor Driver Harassed, Retaliation Against at Organic Farm, Says EEOC

The situation down on the farm was inhospitable to a Latina tractor driver, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The largest grower of organic tree fruit in the United States, Stemilt Growers, and its integrated business, Stemilt Ag Services, violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by subjecting a Latina tractor driver to sexual harassment and then retaliating against her after she reported the abuse, the EEOC alleged.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Heidi Corona had worked for Stemilt as a tractor driver for over three years in Quincy, Wash., when she transferred to the company’s Wenatchee, Wash., orchard, where she was the only female in this job position. The EEOC charged that on her second day at the new location, Corona’s direct supervisor drove her to a remote area and then proceeded to make sexually explicit comments, proposition her for sex, and attempted to kiss her. Trapped in a moving vehicle at an unfamiliar and remote location with no cell service, Corona asked him to stop making such comments and stated that she was only there to work.

The agency also found that after this incident, the supervisor assigned Corona to pick up trash and excluded her from meetings with the other tractor drivers. When Corona reported the harassment to upper management, she was given a choice of continuing to work under that supervisor or accepting a transfer to work as a warehouse sorter for lower pay. She took the latter, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which employers are required to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and are prohibited from retaliation against an employee who reports harassment. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Case No._____________) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks lost wages, monetary damages (including compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages), and injunctive relief, including training on anti-discrimination laws.

“No one should have to choose between continuing to work under a harasser or taking a pay cut to feel safe at work,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores. “Employers are responsible for the conduct of their supervisors and must act promptly to stop harassment of their workers.”

EEOC Seattle Field Office Director Nancy Sienko said, “We have seen how farmworkers, a group that is so often comprised of immigrant women working in isolated areas, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. The EEOC has made a priority of defending the civil rights of vulnerable workers and will seek the full extent of legal relief for Ms. Corona.”

Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers LLC and its wholly owned subsidiary Stemilt Ag Services LLC operate and manage over 150 acres of orchards in Eastern Washington and employed over 6,000 workers in the 2009 growing season.

The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office has jurisdiction over Eastern Washington.

Transgender Employee’s Rights Violated By Applebee’s Restaurant in New York, EEOC Says

The firing of a female employee allegedly because she complained about sexual harassment has resulted in her employer opposite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in an employment discrimination lawsuit.

The EEOC announced on Friday that it has filed this Title VII lawsuit against Apple Metro, Inc., which operates several dozen Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill restaurants in the New York City area. The alleged Title VII violation took place at the company’s Hawthorne, N.Y., restaurant, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Apple Metro staff made numerous crude and derogatory references to the employee’s transgender status, repeatedly and intentionally referred to her with a male name and male pronouns, and made offensive comments about her genitalia. After the employee complained to management about the harassment on several occasions, the company fired her.

“The law requires employers who receive reports of sex harassment to investigate and take action to stop any unlawful treatment of their employees,” said Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director. “That includes harassment of individuals because of their gender identity.”

“The EEOC is committed to protecting the rights of all employees under federal law, through litigation if necessary, so that employees can work with dignity,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office.

 

EEOC Lawsuit Accuses Big Lots Store in W. Va. of Harassment of Employees With Disabilities

The Big Lots store in Elkins, West Virginia is inhospitable to workers with disabilities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In this Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed yesterday, the EEOC charges that a retail employee with hearing and speech disabilities was subjected to harassment by her co-workers at Big Lots’ Elkins, W.V., store.

Co-workers often mocked the employee’s hearing disability and manner of speech, and frequently used derogatory and highly offensive terms in reference to her and her disabilities.

Numerous Big Lots officials were aware of the long-standing pattern of disability harassment taking place at their store but failed to take appropriate action to end the harassment and prevent it from recurring, the EEOC asserts. Additionally, the EEOC charges that Big Lots refused to select the employee with disabilities for several vacant jobs that she sought at the store because of her disabilities and in retaliation for her reporting of the harassment to company officials and to the EEOC.

Further, the EEOC’s lawsuit also charges that Big Lots subjected a department manager without disabilities at the Elkins store to discrimination and retaliation by changing her work schedule and withdrawing its permission for her to hold outside employment with the U.S. Postal Service, thereby forcing her to quit in order to save her Postal Service career. The EEOC says that Big Lots punished the department manager because of her long-term association with the harassment victim and in retaliation for her opposition to discrimination, such as her efforts to protect her co-worker from harassment by reporting the hostile work environment to Big Lots management officials and human resources. Big Lots officials also subjected both the harassed employee and the department manager to intimidation, threats, coercion, and interference with their exercise and enjoyment of rights protected by federal anti-discrimination law, according to EEOC’s lawsuit.

For a refresher on disability and harassment from the EEOC, click here.

$145K Settlement in EEOC’s Equal Pay Suit Against Suburban Washington, D.C. Suburb

Equal pay for equal work is the law of the land but the battle for equal pay frequently plays out case-by-case in the courts.

The latest example: an expensive settlement of an equal pay suit reached yesterday between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Prince George’s County, Md., a suburb of the nation’s capital.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Joanna Smith had a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering and more than five years of engineering experience when she was hired for an Engineer III position with Prince George’s County’s Department of Environment (DOE). The EEOC said the county rebuffed Smith’s efforts to negotiate a higher starting salary matching her experience and education, but just two weeks later, hired a male for a comparable Engineer III position and paid him the higher salary he requested, even though they were performing substantially equal work.

Prince George’s County also promoted and paid a male Engineer III a higher salary than Smith, and paid another male Engineer II higher wages than Smith, even though he had less experience and performed less complex duties, the EEOC charged. Smith continues to work as an Engineer IV within the county’s DOE.

On March 21, after an earlier hearing on the EEOC’s and Prince George’s County’s summary judgment motions, U.S. District Court Judge Roger W. Titus ruled in favor of the EEOC, finding that the county paid Smith lower wages than it paid to male colleagues performing equal work, in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA).

In addition to the $139,633 in lost wages and liquidated damages to Smith, and $5,769 in costs to the EEOC, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Prince George’s County from engaging in sex-based wage discrimination in the future. The county will increase Smith’s salary by $24,723 to ensure parity with her male comparators. The county will also hire a consultant, who will ensure that the DOE’s compensation policies and procedures, and individual salary determinations, comply with the EPA. The consultant will provide training on federal anti-discrimination laws to the county’s position review board members and all managers and supervisors within the DOE. Prince George’s County will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of sex-based wage discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“We filed this lawsuit because Prince George’s County not only refused Ms. Smith’s efforts to negotiate a higher salary commensurate with her experience and education, it then continually paid her less than it paid her male colleagues even though she did equal, and in some cases, more complex and superior work,” said EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Maria Salacuse. “The court’s ruling confirmed that the county’s rationale for the disparity was unsupported by the record.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Unfortunately, the wage gap between male and female workers continues to exist in all industries. The EEOC will take vigorous action against any employers, whether public or private, who engage in such blatant pay discrimination.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. noted, “Fairness and federal law mandate equal pay for equal work.”

$118K Judgment Entered Against N.J. Employer That Rescinded Job Offer to Pregnant Employee

A debt collection firm in Hackensack, N.J., is out $180,000 in a pregnancy discrimination case brought against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, which I reported on in 2015, Receivable Management, doing business as Kramer and Associates, rescinded its offer to promote a female employee after she announced that she was pregnant. The employee was told that she was not going to be promoted because the owners of the company did not think that a pregnant woman could handle the stress or the long hours of a management position.

Basing employment decisions on an employee’s pregnancy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

“Making employment decisions based on the assumption that pregnancy somehow diminishes a woman’s ability to perform her job is unacceptable,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Rosemary DiSavino.

Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, added, “This case illustrates the stereotypes and biases that pregnant women face in the workplace all too often.”

For do’s and dont’s on dealing with pregnant employees, click here.

Transgender Employee’s Complaint on Glassdoor.com Led to Firing, EEOC Alleges

Federal law prohibits retaliating against employees because they complained online about their companies’ policies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asserts in a lawsuit filed last week.

In a lawsuit filed on May 24, the EEOC alleged that Educational technology company IXL Learning Inc. violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act by retaliating against an employee for accusing the company of discriminatory practices on Glassdoor.com,

According to the EEOC’s complaint, IXL fired product analyst Adrian Scott Duane within minutes of confronting him about a negative review he had posted on Glassdoor.com, a job recruiting and ratings website.

Fueled by a belief that IXL was discriminating against him, the 32-year-old transgender man,, had written, “If you’re not a family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball – then you’re likely to find yourself on the outside … Most management do not know what the word ‘discrimination’ means, nor do they seem to think it matters.”

In addition to facing inappropriate questions about his gender identity and orientation from co-workers, Duane felt IXL treated his request to telecommute (due to post-operative recovery after gender confirmation surgery) differently from similar requests by two coworkers (due to situations related to their opposite-sex spouses). Given these experiences, Duane posted on Glassdoor.com in opposition to what he regarded as discrimination, and was fired for doing so.

The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Retaliation is the No. 1 basis for charges filed with the EEOC, comprising over 45% filings nation­wide,” said William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director. “Under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, it is a priority to defend employees’ rights to speak out and challenge practices that they believe to be illegal discrimination.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi added, “While the platforms for employees to speak out against discrimination are evolving with technology, the laws against retaliation remain constant. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal discrimination occurred, the EEOC will vigorously defend that worker’s right to raise the issue, whether they do so by filing a charge with our agency, notifying company management or posting in a public arena such as Glassdoor.com.”

According to www.ixl.com, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company’s K-12 learning program is used by 1 out of every 9 U.S. students and in more than 190 countries.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.