Posts Tagged ‘Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’

Transgenders Beneficiary of EEOC Settlement of Title VII Lawsuit Against Finance Loan Company

Count another victory for transgender employees in the battle against employment discrimination.

First Tower Loan, LLC, a financial loan company based in Flowood, Miss., agreed to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and implement gender identity protections, the EEOC announced October 6.

In September 2015, the EEOC intervened in a suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana filed by Tristan Broussard, a former employee of First Tower Loan (Broussard v. First Tower Loan, LLC, Case No. 2:15-cv-01161). The EEOC’s suit charged that First Tower Loan violated federal law by firing Broussard because he is transgender and did not conform to the company’s gender-based expectations. However, the EEOC’s suit was stayed pending an arbitration between Broussard, as a private plaintiff, and First Tower Loan. After an arbitration hearing, Broussard was awarded $53,000 in damages by the arbitrator, but no injunctive relief was awarded.

The 18-month consent decree resolving the EEOC’s suit strengthens the company’s discrimin­ation policy by prohibiting and preventing discrimination or harassment against an employee because the employee is transgender, or because the employee does not conform to the company’s sex- or gender-based preferences, expectations, or stereotypes. The agreement also prohibits the company from engaging in any employment practice which discriminates based on gender identity, transgender status, or sex stereotyping. First Tower Loan further agreed to provide training to its managers and employees explaining the prohibition against discrimination based on gender non-conformity under Title VII, and to provide its management with guidance on handling such complaints.

“We are pleased that First Tower Loan agreed to resolve this case by entering into this consent decree,” said Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “This agreement will help protect other employees from discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status, or sex stereotyping.”

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EEOC: Gay Salesperson With Crohn’s Disease Victim of Hostile Work Environment at Dealership

The combination of a salesperson’s sexual orientation and disability evidently set off the owner of the car dealership where he worked, contributing to a hostile work environment.

Chicago car dealership Evergreen Kia violated civil rights law by subjecting an employee to harassment because of his sexual orientation and disability, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on October 2.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that the owner of Evergreen Kia harassed a car salesperson for suffering from Crohn’s disease and for being gay. The agency said the owner often used homophobic slurs when talking to and about the salesperson, made offensive jokes about gays, and made offensive comments about his disability.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disability Act of 1991 (ADA). Title VII prohibits discrimination because of sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), and the ADA prohibits disability discrimination. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v Evergreen Motors, dba Evergreen Kia, Civil Action No. 17-cv-07084, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Blakey. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief. The government’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Miles Shultz and Laurie Elkin and EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that Evergreen Kia subjected the employee to sex and disability harassment. She said among other examples of verbal and physical conduct, the owner often said the salesperson’s sexual orientation caused his Crohn’s disease.

“This employer’s conduct violated two major federal disability laws,” said Bowman. “No employee should be forced to work in conditions experienced by this salesperson.”

Gregory Gochanour, EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, added, “Employers must be mindful that sex harassment includes harassment because of an employee’s sexual orientation. The harassment he faced – and by the company’s owner, no less – is unacceptable and unlawful. The EEOC will vigorously enforce federal anti-discrimination law to ensure that employees are not faced with harassment because of their orientation or their disability, and that their employers are held accountable.”

EEOC: Pa. Realtor Fired Pregnant Women

We interrupt this procession of EEOC lawsuits under the Americans With Disabilities Act to make room for a lawsuit accusing a company of discriminating against pregnant workers.

Friedman Realty Group, Inc., a real estate investment firm that owns and manages apartment communities, retail shopping centers, and professional office buildings, violated federal law when it fired at least three employees based on pregnancy, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it announced on October 4.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Brianna Mazzella worked as a leasing agent at Friedman’s Prospect Park, Pa., facility and received performance-based salary increases. In mid-March 2013, Mazzella told the regional property manager that she was pregnant. The EEOC charges that thereafter the regional property manager made disparaging comments about pregnancy, including saying that “when women get pregnant they get stupid,” and “I would never have kids, it’s gross.” After learning about Mazzella’s pregnancy, the regional property manager also subjected her to unwarranted job scrutiny and unrealistic deadlines or goals. The EEOC says that Friedman terminated Mazzella in August 2013 because of her pregnancy.

Freidman also fired two other women because of their pregnancies. In 2013, Friedman terminated an apartment cleaner who had been employed for almost three years just three days after she disclosed her preg­nancy to the company vice president, the EEOC charges. Friedman also terminated a leasing consultant who worked at its Somers Point, N.J., facility in April 2017, three months after she told the vice president and other managers that she was pregnant, according to the suit.

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, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Friedman Realty Group, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-07659) in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. As part of the suit, the EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Mazzella and other class members, as well as broad injunctive relief.

“These women were doing a good job, but Friedman fired them when they needed their salaries the most – as they were preparing to support a growing family. That’s unjust and against federal law,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.

EEOC District Director Kevin Berry added, “It’s bad for society when an employer deprives hard-working women and their families of their livelihood because of pregnancy. The EEOC is here to defend the rights of pregnant workers.”

EEOC: Company Took Back Job Offer After Finding Out Male Applicant Was Transgender

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is sticking to its position that sex discrimination includes against persons who are transgender.

A&E Tire, Inc., a Colorado chain of automotive service shops, violated federal law by retracting a job offer and refusing to hire a male applicant once it was discovered that he was transgender, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 29.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Egan Woodward applied for a services manager position at A&E Tire’s Denver location, and after his interview he was offered the position pending a drug test and background check. The application and background screening paperwork used by A&E Tire asked Woodward for his sex and for any other names he used in the past. In completing the application and paperwork, Woodward identified his assigned sex at birth and indicated he used another name typically associated with the female sex in the past.

Less than an hour after A&E Tire extended Woodward a job offer, he received a call from a manager asking him if there were a mistake in his paperwork, the EEOC said. When Woodward stated there was not, A&E never got back to him about completing the screenings or a start date and ultimately hired someone else for the position, the agency said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including transgender status and sex-based stereotypes. The EEOC filed its lawsuit, EEOC v. A&E Tire, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17cv-02362-STV, in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent similar such discriminatory practices in the future.

The lawsuit announced today is part of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which it renewed in 2016. The SEP includes “[p]rotecting lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination based on sex” as a Commission enforcement priority.

“Despite the significant legal and cultural progress we have made as a country in recent years respecting the rights of transgender workers, a lot of work remains to be done in rooting out stereotypes and prejudice,” said the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, Mary O’Neill.

Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the Phoenix District Office, said, “Transgender individuals want to work and give to the economy, sharing their skills and ideas just like anyone else. They should not be deprived of the right and ability to do so just because of unfounded fears, misconceptions, and biases.”

EEOC Sues Health Care Provider for Firing Rather than Accommodating Pregnant Worker

How a health care provider doesn’t know that it’s illegal to fire a pregnant employee who is able to work is beyond me, but it happens.

Trinity Health, an integrated healthcare provider with 2,500 employees headquartered in Minot, N.D., violated federal law when it fired an employee rather than accommodate her pregnancy and disability-related medical restrictions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago who managed the federal agency’s pre-suit administrative investigation, said that the agency’s investigation indicated that Trinity Health fired its employee once it learned of her pregnancy and her pregnancy-related disabilities. When she requested light-duty work because of her restricted ability to lift, they refused to give her light-duty tasks available to its employees injured on the job. They also did not provide her with leave as required by the statutes.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, including disabilities related to pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Trinity Health, d/b/a, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00200-CSM) in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota on September 25, 2017, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The case is assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, Jr. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Trinity Health’s practices going forward.

“The PDA makes it clear that an employer must accommodate pregnant employees to the same extent that it accommodates other employees similar in their ability or inability to work,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “In turn, the ADA requires an employer accommodate disabling conditions. Trinity abided by neither obligation.”

Jean Kamp, associate regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said, “The nurse was willing and able to perform light-duty work. Instead, Trinity fired her. When employees are treated this way, the EEOC is ready to step in.”

According to company information, Trinity Health operates in Western North Dakota and in Montana and operates facilities in Minot, among others.

Employee Wanted Out From Bible Study; When Employer Said No, EEOC Stepped in and Sued

It’s OK for an employer to hold Bible study sessions, but not to insist that employees who object to attending them do so anyway.

Shepherd Healthcare, a medical practice in Lewisville, Texas, violated federal law when it fired an employee because of her repeated requests to be excused from a daily morning Bible study, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Sept. 20. The EEOC also charged that the company unlawfully fired three other employees in retaliation for their opposition to the compulsory Bible study and other employer-imposed, religious-based observances or expectations.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Shepherd Healthcare has conducted mandatory staff meetings that begin each workday with a reading or study of Biblical verses, to include a discussion of how those principles could be applied to the employees’ personal lives. Almeda Gibson had worked in the office call center of the medical practice for approximately one year. The EEOC alleges that Gibson, a follower of principles of Buddhism, asked to be excused from attending the religious portion of the compulsory meetings. Gibson’s repeated requests for accommodation were denied, and she was then fired in July 2016 just one day after renewing her request to be excused from attending Bible Study sessions.

The EEOC also alleges in its lawsuit that Shepherd Healthcare retaliated against three other employees who were fired after expressing their objections or opposition to the office’s mandatory meeting requirements for compliance with the religious expectations of the owners.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace as well as retaliation for opposing an employer’s discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tim Shepherd MD, PA d/b/a Shepherd Healthcare, Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-02569-G), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concilia­tion process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the victims, as well as injunctive relief.

“Of course, employers and employees are not required to leave their own religious beliefs at home when they walk through the workplace door. However, the law requires that employers reasonably accom­modate requests to be excused from company-sponsored religious activities rather than firing employees who seek such accommodation,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard.

[Not] Skirting the Law: $22K Payment Closes EEOC Suit Against Bake Shop Over Dress Code

A Michigan cafe and bake shop could have saved itself some grief and legal costs had it granted a female employee’s request that she be allowed to wear a skirt to work.

A Michigan-based franchisee of Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop will pay $22,500 to settle a religious accommodation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced yesterday.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Sleneem Enterprises, LLC violated federal law by firing Amanda Corley after she requested a religious accommodation. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2015, Corley was hired by Sleneem to work at the Tim Hortons cafe in Romulus, Mich. On Nov. 16 of that year, Corley requested that she be permitted to wear a skirt instead of pants, in accordance with her Pentecostal Apostolic religious beliefs. Corley attempted to present a letter from her pastor, explaining her need to wear a skirt. Rather than allow Corley to wear a skirt, Sleneem fired her, the EEOC said.

See my write up of the lawsuit here.

Such alleged conduct violates Tile VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Sleneem Enterprises, LLC, dba Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop, No. 2:17-cv-12337) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to providing for the award of monetary relief to Corley, prohibits any similar discrimination in the future and requires Sleneem to train its shift supervisors and managers on all forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VII, including the obligation to provide reasonable religious accommodations.

“Under federal law, an employer has an obligation to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice religion with operating its business,” said Miles Uhlar, trial attorney for EEOC’s Detroit Field Office. “When this obligation is not met, the EEOC will step in and protect workers.”