Posts Tagged ‘EEOC lawsuit’

Drilling Co. Hit With ADA, ADEA Lawsuit

An employer in Oklahoma apparently had it out for older job applicants, particularly if they had history of filing of filing workers’ compensation claims.

Horizontal Well Drillers (HWD), an oil and gas drilling company with its corporate offices in Purcell, Okla., violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it declined to hire applicants based on their age or reported history of filing workers’ compensation claims, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

According to EEOC’s suit, HWD used information from employment applications to discriminate in hiring based on applicants’ age and history of filing workers’ compensation claims. The suit also seeks relief for Wilbert Glover, an applicant whom HWD forced to undergo an allegedly unlawful post-job-offer medical exam. The agency claims that HWD also violated federal law when it withdrew Glover’s job offer based on information it learned from the exam.

In addition to these claims, EEOC asserts that HWD unlawfully failed to retain records, maintain confidentiality of employee and applicant medical records, and file required reports with the agency. HWD also violated the ADA by conducting background searches for information about applicants’ prior workers’ compensation claims, the EEOC charged.

EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Horizontal Well Drillers LLC, Case No. 5:17-cv-00879-R) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and liquidated, compensatory, and punitive damages for Mr. Glover and those persons who were not hired because of HWD’s unlawful employment practices, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent and address future discrimination based on age or disability and to otherwise bring the company into compliance with federal law.

“Excluding qualified workers because of their age or because they were previously injured on the job is not only illegal, it is bad business,” Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for EEOC’s St. Louis District, said. “It not only robs job-seekers of an opportunity to work to support themselves and their families, it also causes businesses to lose out on valuable talent and experience.”

James R. Neely, Jr., director of EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, added, “Using stereotypes about age and disabilities to screen out applicants for high paying oil field jobs cannot be tolerated. Hiring qualified people with experience and ability makes sense. Refusing to hire such people because of their age or previous work-related injuries does not.”

According to its website, HWD currently operates drilling rigs at locations in Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Mexico.

Nurse Axed After Injury Has Ally in EEOC, Which Files ADA Suit on Her Behalf Against Hospital

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wants a hospital to answer in federal court why it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with physical impairments and then fired her instead.

This Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed on July 25 is against Wesley Health System, LLC, dba Merit Health Wesley, a general medical and surgical hospital located in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The EEOC’s Mobile Local Office investigated the discrimination charge and discovered that Lois Cooper worked as a registered nurse for Merit Health Wesley for approximately two years before injuring her arm and shoulder. When she returned to work after a three-month leave, she presented a release from her doctor releasing her for full duty, with a heavy-lifting restriction. Despite the release, the company refused to allow her to return to work, and did so without first engaging in the legally required interactive process to determine if she was qualified to perform her job. Cooper was called into the human resources office and told that based on the lifting restriction, she could not perform job duties, and was let go.

Later, Cooper applied for an open position as a registered nurse, for which she was qualified, in another of the hospital’s clinics. Even though that position required no heavy lifting, the hospital selected another applicant.

Such alleged misconduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee based on actual or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wesley Health System, LLC d/b/a Merit Health Wesley f/k/a Merit Health, Case No. 2:17-CV-126-KS-MTP) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division after first attempting to resolve the matter through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The agency’s lawsuit seeks, among other things, reinstatement; monetary damages, including back pay; compensation for emotional distress; punitive damages; and an injunction to prevent further discrimination.

“Employers cannot fire an employee because of a medical impairment when it does not affect the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of her job,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha L. Rucker. “This case should serve as a reminder that employers cannot rely on myths and fears about medical impairments or disabilities in denying qualified individuals employment opportunities. To do so is a clear violation of federal law.”

District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas added, “Engaging in the interactive process is not only required by the law, but it makes sense for everyone, because it facilitates an open discussion between the employer and employee about finding a reasonable accommodation that does not impose an undue hardship on anyone.”

According to company information, Merit Health Wesley is part of the Merit Health Network, which consists of 12 hospitals throughout Mississippi.

EEOC: Harassment Pervasive Against African American Employee at Sporting Goods Store

No one should have to put up at work with what an African American employee at a Washington State sports retail store had to put up with.

One of the Western United States’ largest sports retailers, Big 5 Sporting Goods, violated federal law when it allowed ongoing racial harassment, including death threats, and retaliatory discipline against a black manager trainee at its Oak Harbor, Wash., store, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed on July 20.

Robert Sanders was the only African-American employee at Big 5’s location on Whidbey Island. According to the EEOC’s investigation, the store manager and various assistant managers called Sanders “spook,” “boy” and “King Kong” and told him that he had the “face of a janitor.” The agency found that even though Sanders repeatedly reported this conduct to upper management, the company failed to act and Sanders instead faced escalated harassment as well as retaliation in the form of increased workloads, denial of breaks, and unwarranted discipline. After he was forced to take several leaves due to stress, one assistant manager told Sanders, “We will hang you, we will seriously lynch you if you call in again this week.” Another assistant manager asked Sanders if he was “ready to commit suicide,” offering “assistance” when he was ready to do so.

“I came prepared to work hard and put in my dues to become a manager,” Sanders said. “But I was met with comments about my race: ‘You’re the perfect definition of ‘spook’ because your skin is so dark, but your teeth are so white.’ And it went downhill from there, to being taunted by another manager trainee about ‘ending up in a river, dead.’ Whidbey Island is a small place, and I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like Big 5 took away my ability to not just succeed at work, but to simply live my life with dignity and without fear.”

Racial harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp., Civil Number 2:17-CV-01098.) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to remedy and prevent harassment and retaliation in the workplace.

EEOC Trial Attorney Carmen Flores said, “Mr. Sanders simply wanted to come to work and earn a living. Instead, his promising career opportunity was poisoned by hate and threats from his managers and coworkers. I hope that our lawsuit in this case will send a message to all employers that they need to take swift action when alerted to workplace harassment.”

Nancy Sienko, field director for the Seattle office of the EEOC’s San Francisco District, added, “The delay by Big 5 to take action to investigate and stop the racial harassment and retaliation is in­excusable. The slurs and threats that Mr. Sanders faced have a terrible history and should never be tolerated. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees can work in a safe environ­ment free from racial hostility so they can succeed to their highest potential.”

Big 5 Sporting Goods is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., and operated 433 stores as of Jan. 1, 2017, with9,000 full-time employees.

EEOC Outs Parking Mgmt. Co. For Rejecting Applicant Because of “Physicality of Job”

Stereotypes about age and gender were factors in the decision by a Georgia parking management company to reject a 60-year-old female applicant for a valet job, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it recently filed.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, on or about Jan. 12, 2016, 60-year-old Valencia Hayden applied for a valet position with Eagle Parking. During her interview, the operations manager looked at Hayden’s application and told her that she would not be successful as a valet because of the “physicality of the job.”  Instead, the operations manager told Hayden that she would be perfect for a customer service position and told Hayden to come back the following week to attend orientation. The day before she was scheduled to begin her new positon, Hayden called to ask what time she should report. However, the operations manager told Hayden that the job had already been filled. Eagle Parking’s records show that, after Hayden was interviewed, it hired several male valets and customer service employees who were substantially younger than Hayden.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Eagle Parking, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-2904-TWT-CMS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensa­tory damages, punitive damages and liquidated damages for Hayden, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“This suit sends a strong message to employers that applicants must be judged strictly on their ability to perform the job, and not on stereotypes associated with their gender and age,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office, added, “What is most disturbing about this case is that the hiring official automatically assumed that Ms. Hayden was not qualified to work as a valet or customer service parking manager because of her age and the fact that she is a woman. Such managerial behavior is not legal or acceptable in the 21st century.”

EEOC: Securities Firm Hit Trifecta of Illegality

After a bit of a lull, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed various employment discrimination lawsuits in rapid succession. There’s a backlog of lawsuits from the end of July. Here is one more.

This one involves three distinct alleged grounds of discrimination–what in horse racing terms is known as the trifecta.

MVM Inc., an Ashburn, Va.-based diversified security services firm, violated federal law when it stopped accommodating a security guard’s religious beliefs and disciplined him in retaliation for his complaint about racial harassment, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it announced on July 20.

According to the suit, Kelvin Davis is a practicing Muslim and observes his faith by wearing a beard. MVM hired Davis to work at a facility in Woodlawn, Md., as a security guard. Although MVM has a grooming policy which restricts guards’ facial hair to no longer than one-quarter of an inch, it granted Davis a waiver as a religious accommodation.

Davis maintained his beard while working for MVM for approximately one year, until he com­plained to MVM management that his supervisor had called him a “nigga.” Instead of taking corrective action, the day after Davis’ complaint, his supervisor and two managers retaliated against him by forcing him to shave his beard, the EEOC said.

The EEOC charged that MVM also retaliated against Davis by subjecting him to heightened scrutiny and unwarranted discipline, including a one-day suspension for arriving to work two minutes late. It also threatened him with termination. The EEOC charged that MVM’s failure to address the racial harassment, unjustified retaliatory actions, and threat of termination created conditions of employment so intolerable that Davis was forced to resign.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits dis­crim­ination based on race or religion. Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an emp­loyee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because he complained about harassment or discrimination.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-02025) 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. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Davis, as well as injunctive relief.

“No one should be subjected to racial slurs to earn a living,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. “Mr. Davis exercised his civil right to complain about racial harassment, but MVM unfortunately chose to engage in reprisal instead of addressing the harass­ment.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Retaliation always makes a bad situation worse. Employers must take action to investigate and stop racial harassment, not punish the victim, and that’s why we filed this suit.”


Houston Company Gave no Consideration to NonHispanic Applicants, EEOC Alleges in Suit

A Houston-area company might as well have put up a sign saying “NonHispanics need not apply.”

Champion Fiberglass, Inc., a Houston-area manufacturing company, violated federal anti-discrimination laws by engaging in systemic discrimination against non-Hispanic applicants, according to a lawsuit filed on July 20 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today. The lawsuit charges that a class of non-Hispanic applicants for employment were not hired or even con­sidered for employment by Champion because of their race and/or national origin.

According to the lawsuit, Champion engaged in a pattern or practice of intentionally failing to hire non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers for laborer positions. The EEOC also maintains that Champion maintained a preference that its laborers speak Spanish, which violated Title VII because it had a disparate impact on non-Hispanic applicants.

The EEOC also alleges that Champion’s word-of-mouth recruiting had an adverse impact on non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers. The EEOC maintains that Champion’s illegal policies and practices resulted in an almost exclusively Hispanic laborer workforce within the company.

Such alleged conduct violates violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-02226) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks an injunction prohibiting such actions in the future, as well as back pay with pre-judgment interest, and compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial.

“Refusing to hire or even consider an applicant or job seeker for a laborer position because of his or her race or national origin unlawfully and unconscionably deprives people of equal opportunities within the workplace,” said Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office.

Rudy L. Sustaita, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, explained, “Title VII prohibits an employer from relying on non-job related criteria that it knows will exclude persons because of their race or national origin. The EEOC will defend victims of this sort of discrimination.”

The EEOC’s senior trial attorney in charge of the case, Connie Gatlin, added, “By refusing to permit job seekers who do not speak Spanish to even apply for a position, without a valid, justifiable reason for doing so, an employer engages in discriminatory practices that violate Title VII.”

Champion Fiberglas manufactures fiberglass conduit, struts and hangers for the industrial, electrical and mechanical markets.

“Rigid” Maximum Leave Policy Lands Delaware Employer in Court Opposite EEOC in ADA Suit

Inflexibility in HR policies is rarely a good idea, and is especially a bad idea when it comes to employees who need accommodations for their disabilities.

A Delaware nonprofit company will have to defend its maximum leave policy in U.S. court opposite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Connections CSP, Inc., one of Delaware’s largest non-profit organizations that provides health care, housing and employment opportunities, unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to a class of employees and fired them pursuant to an inflexible maximum-leave policy, the EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced on July 17.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Connections unlawfully enforced a fixed leave policy that did not provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities when, as a matter of course, it refused to provide leave beyond the 12 weeks allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and fired those employees when their leave expired. The EEOC charged also that Connections denied other forms of reasonable accommodations that would have allowed qualified individuals with disabilities to remained employed, such as reassignment to vacant positions. Instead, the EEOC said, Connections also placed those employees on FMLA leave and terminated them as well when their leave expired.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations, such as modifying leave policies to grant additional unpaid leave or transferring an employee to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified, unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Connections CSP, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-00862) in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Rigid maximum-leave policies, even if they comply with other laws, violate the ADA when the policy mandates the termination of employees,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. “This case should remind all employers of the need to engage in the legally required interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations, such as modifications of leave policies or transfers to vacant positions, on a case-by-case basis unless the employer can show it is a significant cost or disruption of business.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “While employers may have leave policies that establish the maximum amount of leave an employer will provide or permit, the ADA requires that the employer modify those policies and grant additional leave as a reasonable accommodation to employees who need it because of a disability, unless the employer can prove that doing so will cause an undue hardship,” Connections CSP repeatedly refused to modify its inflexible, maximum leave policy, or provide other reasonable accommodations as required by law, and that’s why we filed this suit.”