Posts Tagged ‘EEOC’

Cargo Handler Trips Over Unpaid Leave Forced on Pregnant Driver at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

You can’t deny light-duty assignment to a pregnant worker when your policy is to give such assignments to other employees temporary restricted in what work they can do.

Simplicity Ground Services, P.C., an airline-ramp and cargo-handling company in Detroit, violated federal law by forcing an employee onto unpaid leave because of her pregnancy, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Raylynn Bishop was employed as a tow team driver for Simplicity Ground Services, a company responsible for transferring baggage on and off commercial flights at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport. As a tow team driver, her job primarily consisted of driving a vehicle, and her job description contained no lifting requirement. The EEOC alleged that upon learning that Bishop was pregnant and had a 20-pound lifting restriction, Simplicity informed her she must go on unpaid leave and attempted to make her sign an amended job description which added a 70-pound lifting requirement. Simplicity also forced other pregnant employees to take unpaid leave because they were pregnant and refused to accommodate their pregnancy-related lifting restrictions with light-duty work. Non-pregnant employees with similar restrictions, however, were routinely granted light duty.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 2:18-cv-10989 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Bishop and the other pregnant employees, as well as injunctive relief designed to end the discriminatory practice for the future.

“The EEOC’s investigation showed that pregnant employees were repeatedly treated as ineligible for light-duty assignments, a benefit that was otherwise a possible solution for temporary work restrictions,” said Kenneth Bird, regional attorney for the Indianapolis District Office. “This case presents an opportunity to remind employers that they cannot exclude pregnant workers from a benefit available to others with similar work limitations, unless there is a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for doing so.”

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohi

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Veteran Harassed Over His PTSD to Get $75K in Settlement of EEOC ADA Suit Against Employer

Any employer out there who employs a military veteran beware that the federal government won’t tolerate mistreatment of him and her because they have service-related trauma.

Mine Rite Technologies, LLC, a Buffalo, Wyo.-based manufacturing company, will pay $75,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, employee Jason Kaufman, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was harassed by his supervisor because of his condition. The EEOC said the supervisor referred to Kaufman as a “psycho” to his coworkers. The supervisor also made comments about “Psycho Thursday,” because that was the day of the week when the employee attended therapy sessions to treat his PTSD. The EEOC further charged that when the harassment became intolerable, Kaufman was forced to quit to avoid further abuse.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination and harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, Case No. 2:17-cv-00063-SWS, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The consent decree announced today resolves the EEOC’s lawsuit and the underlying discrimination charge filed with the EEOC. In addition to monetary relief, the three-year decree includes an injunction against future discrimination based on disability and a requirement that Mine Rite create and implement equal employment opportunity policies. The decree also requires Mine Rite to train its employees and to provide Kaufman with a letter of apology and a letter of recommendation.

“A veteran should never be ridiculed because of PTSD,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “This man gave his all for this country, came back suffering, and was brave enough to get help from the Veterans Administration for his condition. Our veterans deserve better than this. Furthermore, mental health is a significant problem in this country, and such mistreatment only makes things worse.”

Elizabeth Cadle, the EEOC’s Phoenix District director, added, “Employers must ensure that all kinds of workplaces are free from discrimination and harassment. The resolution of this lawsuit should serve as a reminder to employers that unlawful harassment because of a mental health condition will not be tolerated. We are pleased that the company’s owner worked cooperatively with us to resolve this case. We are also gratified that Mine Rite will be creating and implementing policies that will help its employees understand their rights under the ADA.”

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

EEOC Strategic Plan Set for 2018-2022

What are the EEOC’s priority enforcement areas for the next five years? You can now see them for yourselves.

The EEOC announced Feb. 12 that it has approved its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2018-2022. The Strategic Plan serves as a framework for the Commission in achieving its mission to prevent and remedy unlawful employment discrimination and advance equal opportunity for all in the workplace. Implementation of the new Strategic Plan will begin in February 2018.

“Through the plan announced today, the EEOC is taking a significant step toward realizing our vision of respectful and inclusive workplaces with equal opportunity for all,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “I am pleased with the hard work of staff across the agency who provided assistance throughout the development of the plan, and I look forward to its successful implementation. I especially want to thank our Chief Operating Officer, Cynthia Pierre, for leading the work group in developing our plan. I also want to thank the external organizations who provided helpful comments to the agency during the public comment period. I said one year ago that the agency would be committed to increased transparency in development of our policies and procedures, and the process for the Strategic Plan contributed to that goal.”

The Commission voted unanimously to approve the FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. The EEOC is the leading federal law enforcement agency dedicated to preventing and remedying employment anti-discrimination laws and advancing equal opportunity for all in the work­place since 1965. The plan serves as a framework for the Commission in achieving its mission through the strategic application of the EEOC’s law enforcement authorities, preventing employment discrim­ination and promoting inclu­sive workplaces through education and outreach, and organizational excel­lence. These three strategic objectives have associated performance measures detailing outcomes to be achieved during the four-year period the plan is in effect. The outcomes are designed to demonstrate the Commis­sion’s progress in carrying out its mission in a time of shrinking resources and an increased demand for its services.

The process for developing this plan has been highly inclusive and collaborative. The plan was created by working groups comprised of staff from the EEOC’s headquarters and field offices, with a broad range of internal and external expertise and understanding of the programs and activities con­ducted within the agency. The Commission also solicited public and stakeholder comments in the development of the plan. Every four fiscal years, Congress requires executive departments, government corporations and independent agencies to develop and post a strategic plan on their public websites. These plans direct the agency’s work and lay the foundation for the development of more detailed annual plans, budgets and related program performance information in the future.

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).

$80K Settlement Extricates Caregiver From Pregnancy Bias Suit Over Light-Duty Denial

Had this employer given a pregnant worker a light-duty assignment, it would have kept the EEOC at bay and saved itself some money.

Silverado, a network of memory care, at-home care, and hospice care centers, will pay $80,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan. 29.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Silverado discriminated against Shaquena Burton, a caregiver at the Silverado Oak Village facility in Menomonee Falls, Wisc., when it fired her rather than accommodate her pregnancy-related medical restrictions, which it could have done by putting her on light duty assignment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which protects employees from discrimination based on pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Silverado Menomonee Falls, LLC d/b/a Silverado Oak Village and Silverado Senior Living, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-1147) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee on August 22, 2017, after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller on January 29, prohibits future discrimination, prohibits retaliation, and provides that Silverado will pay $80,000 to Burton. Silverado must also post notices of the settlement, revise its anti-discrimination and record-keeping policies, report any requests for light duty or other job modifications periodically to the EEOC, and train its managers regarding those rights, obligations, and procedures.

“We thank Silverado for its commitment to settle this case before the sides incurred significant costs and its willingness to ensure a level playing field for its pregnant employees seeking job modifications, including light duty work, otherwise available to non-pregnant employees,” said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory M. Gochanour. “The EEOC will continue to enforce the federal laws so that all pregnant employees have the same opportunities as non-pregnant employees to contribute to our thriving economy,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s District Director for the Chicago District Office.

ADA Settlement Yields $38K for Ex-Phlebotomist

A health care staffing agency might rue the way it handled the case of a phlebotomist who sought an accommodation due to pregnancy-related accommodations.

Dependable Health Services Inc., a health care staffing agency, will pay $38,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC, the federal agency announced Dec. 22.

According to the suit, Sheena Berry began working as a phlebotomist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in March 2016 and continued employment with Dependable Health Services when the company acquired the medical services contract at Walter Reed. Berry requested a reasonable accommodation of not staffing mobile blood drives due to sickle-cell anemia-related pregnancy complications. Dependable Health Services initially refused to provide the accommodation but later did so by temporarily transferring Berry to the out-patient phlebotomy department, EEOC said.

While on maternity leave, Berry provided several status updates to Dependable Health Services. Berry requested a permanent reasonable accommodation reassignment to a position that did not require mobile blood drive staffing. EEOC charged that on February 24, 2017, Berry informed Dependable Health Services of her planned return to work on February 28, 2017. Dependable Health Services abruptly terminated Berry effective February 27, 2017 stating a decision “to have [Berry’s] position backfilled effective immediately.”

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 unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dependable Health Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-02316) 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.

In addition to the $38,000 in monetary relief, Berry will receive a favorable letter of recommendation. The five-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Dependable Health Services from violating the ADA, including refusal to provide reasonable accommodations. The owner of Dependable Health Services will distribute a memorandum to all employees emphasizing a commitment to ADA compliance, along with a copy of the company’s revised reasonable accommodations policy. It will also provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors and human resources employees. Dependable Health Services will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“We are pleased Dependable Health Services worked with us to resolve this matter amicably,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “In addition to the monetary relief to Ms. Berry, this settlement provides substantial equitable measures to protect all employees and applicants from disability discrimination.”

District Director Kevin Berry added, “Firing an employee is never a good response to a reasonable accommodation request. This settlement should encourage all employers to engage in the interactive process to keep qualified individuals with disabilities working, including reassignment to a vacant position if necessary.”

EEOC Touts $484M Recovery for Discrimination Victims in FY 2017; 99,000+ Charges Resolved

Federal agencies like to trumpet their achievements at year’s end. And who can blame them? They’re funded by taxpayers who want to see s good return on their dollar.

By that standard, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had a very good 2017.

The year is not over, you say? It is for the government, whose fiscal year ended on Sept. 30.

The EEOC made significant progress in managing the pending inventory of charges during fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30, the agency reported in its annual Performance and Accountability Report published on Nov. 15.

EEOC offices deployed new strategies to more efficiently prioritize charges with merit and more quickly resolve investigations once the agency had sufficient information. Together with improvements in the agency’s digital systems, these strategies produced an increase in charge resolutions and a significant decrease in charge inventory. As a result, in fiscal year 2017 the EEOC resolved 99,109 charges and reduced the charge workload by 16.2 percent to 61,621, the lowest level of inventory in 10 years. Additionally, during the fiscal year, the EEOC handled over 540,000 calls to the toll-free number and more than 155,000 contacts about possible charge filing in field offices, resulting in 84,254 charges being filed.

“The pending inventory of private sector charges (the backlog) has been a longstanding issue for the EEOC and the public it serves,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “Early in the calendar year, we made addressing the backlog a priority. A primary point of this effort was to share strategies among our offices that have been particularly effective in dealing with the pending inventory, while ensuring we are capturing charges with merit. I thank EEOC’s employees for their work and congratulate them on this progress.”

Other fiscal year 2017 highlights include:

The EEOC secured approximately $484 million for victims of discrimination in the workplace. This includes $355.6 million in monetary relief for those who work in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation and other administrative enforcement, and $42.4 million in monetary relief for charging parties through litigation. The EEOC also secured $86 million in monetary relief for federal employees and applicants. Importantly, in each of these categories, the agency obtained substantial changes to discriminatory practices to remedy violations of equal employment opportunity laws and prevent future discriminatory conduct.

In fiscal year 2017, the EEOC filed 184 merits lawsuits, including 124 suits on behalf of individuals, 30 non-systemic suits with multiple victims, and 30 systemic suits. This is more than double the number of suits filed in fiscal year 2016. Additionally, EEOC’s legal staff resolved 109 merits lawsuits for a total monetary recovery of $42.4 million and achieved a favorable result in 91 percent of all district court resolutions. In addition, a number of very significant suits were successfully resolved.

The agency’s outreach programs reached 317,000 people during the year through participation in more than 4,000 no-cost educational, training and outreach events. The EEOC continued to promote the online Small Business Resource Center to provide a one-stop shop to help small businesses easily access information about employer responsibilities. The Small Business Administration Ombudsman’s Report again gave EEOC an “A” rating for responsiveness to small business concerns.

On the technology front, the agency further enhanced its online capabilities for the public and made internal operational improvements. For the public, the EEOC advanced its online services by way of a pilot program which allowed individuals in five EEOC offices to submit inquiries online, schedule interviews, and submit and receive charge information. This pilot led to the nationwide launch of the EEOC Public Portal in November 2017. Internally, the agency replaced many paper procedures with more efficient online tools.

In our federal sector program, the agency resolved 6,661 hearings complaints and secured more than $72.7 million in relief for federal employees. EEOC also resolved 4,284 appeals of agency decisions on federal sector complaints, a 14 percent increase over the previous year, including 47.3 percent of them within 180 days of receipt, and secured more than $13.3 million in relief. Our federal program also reduced its pending inventory of appeals by 11 percent to 3,658 the lowest level in nine years.

EEOC’s fiscal year 2017 Performance and Accountability Report is posted on the agency’s web site at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/2017par.pdf. Comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal year 2017 will be available on the agency’s website in January 2018.