Posts Tagged ‘Title VII of 1964 Civil Rights Act’

$39,000 Settlement Closes EEOC Pregnancy Bias Suit Against New Jersey Party Supply Retailer

What employer would be so obtuse as to turn down a pregnant employee’s request for pregnancy-related care? Apparently this one.

Party City Corporation has agreed to pay $39,000 in lost wages and damages and to provide other significant relief in order to settle a pregnancy and disability lawsuit filed earlier this year by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Friday. Party City a party supply retailer based in Rockaway, N.J., and operates in the greater Houston area.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Party City fired Jahneiss Groce because of her pregnancy and pregnancy-related medical condition. The suit alleged that in December 2015, Groce sought medical care due to a pregnancy-related condition and sought a reasonable accommodation. The local store management conveyed the request to Party City’s human resources department. After obtaining additional medical information, Party City denied Groce’s request and terminated her employment on Feb. 1, 2016. The EEOC determined that Groce was discharged on the basis of pregnancy and disability, less than one year after being hired.

The EEOC charged that Party City’s conduct violated both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-00824) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Party City denied liability. The parties agreed to resolve the dispute by entering into a three-year consent decree.

On July 12, 2019, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein, Jr. signed and entered the decree. In addition to the monetary award for Groce, the decree provides for significant non-monetary relief, including an injunction prohibiting any future discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or disability. Party City is also bound under the decree to develop training about its policies and the PDA’s and ADA’s requirements.

“The law requires companies to gather all relevant facts necessary to conduct an individualized assessment of a disabled employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of her job,” said Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita of the EEOC Houston District Office. “The EEOC will vindicate the rights of pregnant employees who are discriminated against.”

Lloyd Van Oostenrijk, trial attorney for the Houston District Office, added, “This settlement is the best avenue to address the concerns raised by the EEOC and Ms. Groce’s complaint.”

EEOC: After Employee Revealed Pregnancy, She Was Fired Despite Good Performance Reviews

This employee was on the pathway to success when her pregnancy derailed it, federal investigators allege.

Cassone Leasing, Inc. violated federal law when it summarily dismissed an employee upon learning that she was pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed June 26. Long Island-based Cassone leases, rents and sells new and used office trailers and storage containers.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Cassone hired the employee in early April 2018, when she was approximately 12 weeks pregnant. At that time, her pregnancy was not visible and she did not disclose it to Cassone. On May 10, 2018, Cassone gave the employee her 30-day review, rating her performance as an “89,” which denoted “Above Satisfactory” and which was just one point shy of “Excellent.” The very next day, however, Cassone’s operations manager became aware of her pregnancy and made the decision to fire her for pretextual reasons.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination because of pregnancy.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Cassone Leasing, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-03721) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages on behalf of the affected employee. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Renay Oliver and Supervisory Trial Attorney Nora Curtin.

“An employee who is ready, willing, and able to work should not be fired merely because she is pregnant,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District.

Kevin Berry, director of the EEOC’s New York District, added, “It is regrettable that this company saw fit to deprive a pregnant woman of her employment just when she needed her salary the most. The EEOC takes pregnancy discrimination seriously.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for addressing discrimination charges and conducting agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.

[And Happy 55th birthday Title VII on your signing on this date in 1964!]

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).

On the Menu at this Greek NYC Eatery? Harassment of Female Employees, Says EEOC

Fresh Greek is no place for women to work, if these allegations by the government pan out.

Fresh Greek, a restaurant chain with four stores in New York City, violated federal law by subjecting female employees to groping, grinding and lascivious comments, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Monday

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the district manager of GRK’s four New York City restaurants touched female employees’ breasts and backsides; ground into their backsides with his crotch; placed his head on their breasts; hugged and picked them up; and massaged their shoulders.

The EEOC said the district manager told one employee that she would make a good stripper and that he’d like to sleep with her mother; described the tattoo near his genitals while patting his thigh; called female employees “bitches,” “baby,” and “beautiful”; talked about wanting them to lose weight or wear tighter clothing; and discussed his and their sex lives.

The lawsuit also charges that female employees complained to the district manager and told him to stop, but that he laughed and continued harassing them. They complained to other managers as well, but nothing was done. With no end in sight to this continuing harassment, some felt compelled to resign, the EEOC said.

All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination-including harassment-because of sex.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. GRK Fresh Holdings LLC et al., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-04614) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Daniel Seltzer and Supervisory Trial Attorney Nora Curtin.

“As this case demonstrates, sexual harassment of employees in the restaurant industry is an ongoing problem,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC stands ready to protect workers in this and other industries from harassment if their employers fail to do so.”

Seltzer added, “Simply having an anti-harassment policy doesn’t cut it. An employer must have an effective procedure for employees to report harassment, and must promptly rectify it. Where, as here, an employer fails to do so, the EEOC will step in.”

According to Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, “No employee should have to endure pervasive verbal and physical harassment simply to earn a living.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.

Arby’s Franchisee Pays Big in Harassment Case

Parents of teenage daughters in these southern states should rest easier now with the conclusion of a sexual harassment case against a major fast food franchise.

Beavers’ Inc., owner and operator of 51 Arby’s locations in south Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle, has agreed to pay $84,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced April 10.

The EEOC’s Mobile office investigated charges of discrimination filed by three teenage female crew members. The lawsuit charges that Beavers’ permitted a sexually hostile work environment based on ongoing sexually explicit comments and other harassment by an older male team leader at its Atmore, Alabama location. The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged the harasser described sexual acts he wanted to perform with the teen workers, made inappropriate remarks about his anatomy, and deliberately pressed his pelvis against two of the female employees. According to the lawsuit, the three teen workers, as well as other employees, complained multiple times to on-site management about the harassment but the company allowed the harassment to continue.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Beavers’ Inc., d/b/a Arby’s, Case No. 1:18-cv-00150) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the 48-month consent decree resolving the suit, Beavers’ will pay $84,000 to the three harassment victims, will develop and disseminate anti-harassment policies, and will train its employees and managers on the requirements of Title VII’s prohibitions against sexual harassment. In addition, the company will instruct employees on how to report sexual harassment, and how managers should investigate complaints of sexual harassment.

“The EEOC remains committed to protecting vulnerable employees, such as teen workers in their first jobs, from a sexually hostile work environment,” said EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson. “The EEOC is pleased that Beavers’ Inc. agreed early in the litigation process to take steps to prevent such harassment, and train its management how to promptly investigate and correct sexual harassment in the future.”

Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District, said, “An anti-harassment policy is insufficient without proper training on how to recognize, report, and investigate sexual harassment. Employers must realize that young employees who lack workplace experience may be too intimidated to complain and need workable avenues to report harassment without further humiliation or embarrassment.”

The EEOC’s Youth@Work campaign (at http://www.eeoc.gov/youth/) is designed to teach teens and other young workers about employment discrimination. It includes curriculum guides for students and teachers and videos to help young workers learn about their rights and responsibilities.

The EEOC’s Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.

EEOC Recovers $60K for Man Denied Job After Checking “Female” During Background Review

A transgender job applicant got some justice after the company he applied to work for rejected him because of how he answered a background investigation inquiry.

Colorado tire company A&E Tire, Inc. will pay $60,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, A&E Tire offered a job to Egan Woodward, but did not hire him after it learned that he was transgender. The EEOC alleged that A&E Tire offered Mr. Woodward the job subject to a background check but then called Mr. Woodward when it saw that he had checked female on his background screening paperwork. According to the EEOC, A&E Tire then decided not to hire Mr. Woodward and ultimately hired someone else for the position.

The EEOC settled the lawsuit after months of discovery and a court order denying A&E Tire’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In denying the motion to dismiss, the district court held that the lawsuit could proceed because the EEOC plausibly alleged that A&E Tire had not hired Mr. Woodward because he did not conform to sex stereotypes. In doing so, the district court recognized that discrimination against transgender individuals is discrimination based on sex stereotyping because transgender individuals identify as a sex different from their birth-assigned sex.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. The EEOC filed this suit in the District of Colorado (EEOC v. A&E Tire, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-02362-RBJ), seeking monetary and injunctive relief. Mr. Woodward intervened, also alleging that A&E Tire violated Title VII. The consent decree resolving this lawsuit provides that A&E Tire will pay Mr. Woodward $60,000 and send him a letter of apology. The consent decree also requires A&E Tire to make clear in its employment policies that it will not tolerate sex discrimination, including discrimination based on sex stereotyping and transgender status, and to train its managers and employees on the laws prohibiting those forms of discrimination.

“We appreciate A&E Tire’s agreement to settle this lawsuit, and we are proud to have obtained an effective resolution that compensates Egan for what he experienced and helps ensure that other transgender applicants and employees will be treated fairly,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “The settlement underscores the EEOC’s commitment to eradicating all forms of sex discrimination, including discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.”

EEOC Denver Field Office Director Amy Burkholder added, “The EEOC has been successful for many years protecting transgender applicants and employees from discrimination based on sex. I am pleased we were able to work out an agreement in this matter.”