Posts Tagged ‘EEOC lawsuit’

Heartless: Employer Unlawfully Fired Employee Following Surgery, EEOC Alleges in ADA Lawsuit

Had this employer shown a little more heart, maybe it wouldn’t find itself in court opposite the federal government fending off a disability discrimination lawsuit.

A company operating in Duluth, Minn., violated civil rights law when it fired an employee because of his perceived disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in Minnesota on Wednesday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee worked for Lake States Lumber from August 2008 to February 2016. Lake States Lumber, based in Duluth, is owned by BlueLinx Corp., which is headquartered in Marietta, Ga. The company is a manufacturer and wholesale distributor of lumber and wood products.

The employee, who has a heart condition, went on leave to have heart surgery. He was released by his doctors to return to work with no restrictions. However, when he returned to work, managers placed restrictions on his ability to work and assigned him to a different job. Nine days later, he was fired, the EEOC said.

This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes it unlawful to discriminate against or terminate an employee because he or she has a disability, a record of a disability or is regarded as disabled. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. BlueLinx Corp., d/b/a Lake States Lumber, Inc., Civil Action No. 0:19-cv-01549) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

“Restricting an employee’s ability to work and then firing him because the company regards him as disabled violates the ADA,” said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District. “This type of discrimination deprives people of employment opportunities because of myths and stereo­types about disability, and that’s neither lawful nor acceptable.”

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District, said, “An employer cannot fire an employee simply because of a physical impairment that does not affect his ability to perform the job. The EEOC will continue to enforce the ADA and prosecute such violations of the law.”

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

Striking Gold: EEOC Hits It Big in Settlement With Alaskan Mining Co. In Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

The EEOC took this Alaska-based mining company to the cleaners, recovering a high six-figure amount to settle allegations that it was unfairly denied a promotion to a female employee.

Alaska-based Northern Star (Pogo) LLC, formerly known as Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo, LLC, will pay $690,000 and make substantial changes to settle a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Thursday.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Hanna Hurst, one of a few women underground miners to work at Pogo under former Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo ownership, was denied promotions while male colleagues with less seniority or training were promoted. When Hurst complained of the unfair treatment, Pogo retaliated against her by imposing additional training requirements, while allowing male miners to advance without meeting the same requirements.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits denying promotions based on sex. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska [Case No. 4:18-cv-00034-JWS] after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Bryne Moore and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.  Hurst was independently represented by the non-profit Equal Rights Advocates.

The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $690,000 to Hurst in lost wages and compensatory damages. The decree also requires Pogo to hire an independent expert to evaluate, develop and implement policies, procedures, and trainings to ensure equal employment and enhance accountability and oversight of managers, supervisors and trainers. With that outside expert’s help, the mining company will provide anti-discrimination training to all leadership and employees; make available its EEO policy to all employees and applicants; report to the EEOC all complaints of sex or gender discrimination or retaliation it receives from its employees for the next three years; and post a notice for employees about the consent decree and employees’ rights under federal law.

“Speaking out against sex discrimination at work is hard, but I am really glad I did,” said Hurst. “It’s been a long time coming, but I am hopeful this settlement will help to make the mine a fair workplace for everyone and more open to women. I am thankful to the EEOC and my attorneys at Equal Rights Advocates for standing by me and seeing this through.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che said, “Hanna Hurst worked hard to prove her abilities in this challenging industry.  She did everything required of her and more.  Yet, she was repeatedly passed over for promotion while she watched her male colleagues with less training and seniority rise through the ranks.”  Che added, “During Hanna’s employment, Pogo had a discretionary promotion policy applied by male supervisors, who repeatedly showed overt hostility and sexist attitudes toward women at the mine, which ensured that no woman made it to the top-level mining positions.”

“Gender bias continues to be a problem in today’s workplace, certainly no less in those industries traditionally dominated by men.” said EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko. “We commend Northern Star as the new successor company for demonstrating its commitment to see such discrimination doesn’t continue under its leadership.”

According to its website, https://www.nsrltd.com/our-assets/pogo/, Pogo is an underground gold mine operation in remote Alaska and currently employs over 320 employees.  Pogo is owned and operated by Northern Star (Alaska) LLC following the acquisition of Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo, LLC on September 28, 2018.

EEOC Alleges Retaliation by Coal Companies

Firing an employee because he opposes discrimination or testifies against an employer is just as much a violation of federal civil rights law as the alleged underlying offense.

Affiliated companies Southern Coal Corporation, Kentucky Coal Transport, LLC, and Tams Management, Inc., together with contracted hauling company Legacy Land Management, Inc., violated federal law against retaliation in discrimination cases, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed June 5.  The EEOC said the companies retaliated against a truck driver who opposed his former employer’s unlawful discrim­ination and participated in an EEOC lawsuit against another coal company.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Michael Atkins worked as a coal truck driver at a mine in Tams, W.V. When Atkins’s supervisor learned that he was testifying against another coal company, the supervisor took a series of retaliatory actions against him, including telling Atkins he should never testify against a coal company, giving him the ultimatum of transferring to a remote worksite or to leave his job altogether. The retaliation resulted in the termination of Atkins’s employment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on national origin, race, color, sex or religion and retaliation for opposing such unlawful practices or for participating in a Title VII investigation, lawsuit or other proceeding. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Legacy Land Management, Inc., Tams Management, Inc., Kentucky Coal Transport, LLC, and Southern Coal Corporation, Case No. 5:19-cv-00429) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its administrative conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Legacy Land and the affiliated Southern Coal companies from retaliating against emp­loyees for opposing unlawful employment practices under Title VII or participating in a Title VII investigation or proceeding, lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief.

“Whether an employee opposes discrimination or participates in a Title VII proceeding against his current employer or against an employer from his past, he is protected from reprisal,” said EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson of the agency’s Philadelphia District. “A company’s industry affiliation with another company is no excuse for unlawful retaliation.”

Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said, “Employers must remember that it is unlawful to punish an employee for supporting another employee’s allegations of discrimination.”

The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC also prosecutes discrim­ination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

Preserving access to the legal system by targeting retaliatory practices that effectively dissuade others in the workplace from exercising their rights under anti-discrimination laws is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Furniture Co. Forks Over $425K in Settlement of Racial Harassment Lawsuit Filed by the EEOC

Beware of what goes on at your warehouses.

Aaron’s, Inc., a nationwide chain of rent-to-own furniture stores, will pay $425,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit for racial harassment filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced June 4.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Aaron’s subjected black employees to a race-based hostile work environment at its Jamaica warehouse.  The mistreatment included the regular and open use of derogatory slurs including the “n-word” by managers at the warehouse, who also directed other vulgar language toward black employees, including referring to them as “monkeys.”  Black workers were also assigned more difficult tasks and longer delivery routes than others at the warehouse.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, which includes subjecting employees to a racially hostile work environment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Aaron’s, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-07273), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

“No one should have to put up with racial harassment at work to earn a living,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “It does not matter whether the workplace is a warehouse or an office. Employers have an obligation to stop unlawful harassment.”

Under the consent decree, Aaron’s will pay $425,000 to victims of the harassment.  It also requires Aaron’s to maintain an antidiscrimination policy, provide EEO training to all its employees in the New York City area, and report future complaints of race discrimination by Aaron’s employees to the EEOC.

“Racist behavior and the use of racial slurs by supervisors profoundly alter the work environment for employees.  Employers should know if this illegal conduct is tolerated or left unaddressed, the EEOC will hold employers accountable,” said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry.

The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Dressed Down: EEOC Sues Greyhound Over Refusal to Allow Muslim Driver to Wear Abaya

A Muslim bus driver should be able to practice modest dress on-the-job, according to federal civil rights enforcers.

Dallas-based Greyhound Lines, Inc., the largest provider of intercity bus transportation in the United States, violated federal law when it refused to accommodate the religious beliefs of a bus driver, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced Tuesday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a driver who is a practicing Muslim applied for a driver position at Greyhound’s Baltimore facility. During the interview the driver told the supervisor for driver operations and safety that her religious beliefs require her to dress modestly by wearing a headscarf and an abaya, a loose-fitting ankle-length overgarment that conceals the outline of the wearer’s body. The supervisor told her during the interview, and later during her training after she was hired, that Greyhound would accommodate her religious beliefs.

However, Greyhound later refused to allow her to wear the abaya, claiming it would be a safety hazard, and proposed she wear a knee-length skirt over pants. The EEOC said that the driver was compelled to quit because the skirt-and-pants uniform proposal conflicted with her religious practice of modest dress by revealing the outline of her body.

According to the suit, prior to applying at Greyhound, the driver had successfully completed her commercial driving license training and had satisfactorily completed all Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration examinations while wearing the abaya. She also was employed for one year as a tractor-trailer driver while wearing the abaya.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (EEOC v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-01651), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“The driver was able to perform her duties safely while wearing her religious garb, but Greyhound unjustly refused to accommodate her religious beliefs,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “No employee should be forced to choose between practicing her sincerely held religious beliefs and earning a living.”

EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “As our workplaces become more diverse, employers should review their policies and practices, including making reasonable adjustments to dress codes, in order to accommodate the religious beliefs of applicants or employees, unless it would be an undue hardship.”

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.

EEOC: Female Manager Got Low End of Pay Compared to Men at Maryland Asset Dealer

This dealer in rare currencies didn’t value its female manager sufficiently, according to federal civil rights enforcers.

Asset Strategies International, Inc., a Rockville, Md.-based full-service, tangible asset dealer specializing in precious metals, foreign currency and rare tangible assets, violated federal law when it paid a female manager lower wages than males performing equal or less demanding work, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, after 11 months of good job performance, Asset Strategies promoted a female preferred client representative to the position of assistant preferred client relations manager. In addition to continuing her sales duties, she also trained and supervised six to eight preferred client relations representatives and performed additional administrative duties. The company increased her salary and promised her another increase in six months, but her salary was lower than other male managers and $5,000 lower than a newly hired preferred client representative whom she trained and supervised.

After one year as a manger, Asset Strategies increased the woman’s salary, but she still earned less than male employees, including $2,000 to $12,000 less than male preferred client representatives whom she trained and supervised, the EEOC said. These male employees had no prior experience selling precious metals, foreign currency exchange or rare coins. Moreover, the position that the woman held required a higher degree of skill, effort and responsibility than that of her male subordinates who earned more money, according to the suit.

Such alleged conduct violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Asset Strategies International, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:19-cv-01626-PX) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, liquidated damages and injunctive relief to prevent future wage discrimination against females or retaliation against employees who oppose prac­tices made unlawful by the EPA.

“It is blatantly unfair and unjust to pay a female manager lower wages than male employees she trained and supervised, especially when she had greater job responsibilities and they had less asset sales experience,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “The EEOC will take vigorous action to protect workers from unlawful pay discrimination.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “Addressing gender-based pay discrimination is a priority for the Commission. This lawsuit should encourage all employers to review their compensation plans to prevent such inequities.”

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.

Ensuring equal pay protections for all workers is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

EEOC Recovers $99K Under ADA for Time Warner Employee Fired During Cancer Recovery

Firing an employee following cancer surgery not only lacks a certain humanity; it also is potentially illegal.

Time Warner Cable, Inc. and Charter Communications, Inc. agreed to pay $99,500 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced May 31.  The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has approved the consent decree filed by the EEOC.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an employee requiring a leave of absence for surgery to remove a cancerous nodule from her thyroid was fired while she was recovering from surgery, 10 days after the surgery and three weeks before she was set to return to work. The EEOC charged that Time Warner failed to provide the employee a reasonable accommodation of leave for her disability and instead unlawfully terminated her despite knowing she had undergone potentially life-saving surgery to remove the cancerous nodule and was recovering.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended, which makes it unlawful for an employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against an employee due to a disability.

The EEOC filed suit at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., et al., Case No.: 5:17-cv-01355-JGB-KK), after first attempting to reach a voluntary, pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the three-year consent decree, which remains under the court’s jurisdiction during the term of the decree, includes injunctive relief intended to prevent further workplace discrimination. Charter Communications will review and revise its written policies to achieve compliance with the ADA, provide regular training to all employees regarding the ADA, maintain a log detailing accommodation requests and complaints and conduct regular audits, and oversee recordkeeping and reporting requirements through a designated equal employment opportunity monitor. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the terms of this agreement.

“Employers should recognize that leaves of absence may qualify as reasonable accommodations under the ADA,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “When assessing accommodation requests, employers need to ensure they are engaging in an effective interactive process.”

Rosa Viramontes, district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office said, “Employers should be cognizant of their responsibilities under federal law regarding reasonable accommodations and put in place measures to prevent disability discrimination in the workplace.”

Addressing emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).