Posts Tagged ‘Title VII’

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.”

 

DOJ Retreats on Sexual Orientation, Arguing It’s Not Sex Discrimination Under Title VII of ’64 Act

People in the LGBT community could be forgiven for feeling under siege this week.

First came President Trump’s tweet reversing policy on allowing transgenders to serve in the military.

Then came the news that the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in a Title VII lawsuit to argue that prohibited sex discrimination under the statute does not include sexual orientation.

This reversed the Obama Justice Department’s argument that sex discrimination does include discrimination on the basis of  person’s sexual orientation.

The lawsuit the DOJ intervened in was filed by a now-deceased sky-diving instructor who claimed he was fired by a company called Altitude Express because of his sexual orientation.

According to the lawsuit, the instructor, Donald Zarda, was fired after a female client’s boyfriend complained that Zarda had informed the client that he was gay, ostensibly “to mitigate any awkwardness that might arise from the fact that he was so tightly strapped to the woman,”

A federal district court judge in New York ruled that Zarda could file an employment discrimination complaint under New York law, but not under Title VII because it doesn’t cover sexual orientation discrimination.

Zarda appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld the dismissal of the Title VII lawsuit on the basis of circuit court precedent.

Zarda then appealed to the full appeals court, which has the case now and in which the DOJ filed its friend-of-the-court brief.

Camp Operator Sued by EEOC for Alleged Violation of Pregnant Registrar’s Rights

The operator of a camp in Texas is in the hot seat with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its treatment of a pregnant worker.

In a lawsuit filed last Thursday (the 22nd of December), the EEOC charged that Carolina Creek Christian Camp, Inc. (CCCC), which operates a facility 90 miles northeast of Houston that is used for youth summer camps and retreats, demoted a worker because of her pregnancy and related medical issues, and then fired her and sued her twice after she stood up for her rights.

Around February 2014, within a week of learning that Registrar Korrie Reed had developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, CCCC involuntarily removed her from her position “predominately because of” her “medical condition,” as stated in writing by CCCC, the lawsuit charges. CCCC reasoned that the demotion was triggered by “her need to medically take care of herself and the baby.”

When Ms. Reed returned from maternity leave, she was moved to a different department, and placed in another subordinate position. On several occasions, Ms. Reed expressed to the CCCC Executive Director that she viewed her demotion from Registrar to be illegal and discriminatory. After she expressed this sentiment again in early January 2015, CCCC on January 9, 2015, fired Reed.

After Reed filed an EEOC charge of discrimination in January 2015 and hired an attorney, CCCC sued Reed on February 3, 2015. After the proceedings in that lawsuit were paused, CCCC sued Reed again in Summer 2015. EEOC contends that the lawsuits filed against Reed, and her firing, unlawfully retaliated against Reed for exercising her rights protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex (including pregnancy), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.

As in this case, when a worker is pregnant or has a medical condition that the employer views as a disability, but the employee is qualified to continue performing the job, an employer’s unfounded fears and biases are not valid excuses to deny equal employment opportunities,” said EEOC’s Houston District Director Rayford O. Irvin.

Black Workers Victims of Hostile Work Environment at Minn. Company, EEOC Alleges

The election of Donald Trump as president may or may not have reflected a racial divide in our society, but it is clear that work of eradicating racial hostility in the workplace goes on.

Latest example: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced November 3  it has sued a construction company in Hugo, Minnesota, where it alleges African American employees were subjected to a hostile work environment because of their race.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, William Staple and Dion Pye worked for JL Schwieters Construction, Inc., located in Hugo, as carpenters between September 2012 and December 2013. Staple and Pye were both subjected to racial harassment during their employment by a white supervisor.

EEOC said the harassment included the supervisor making racially derogatory comments to Staple and Pye, including calling them “n—-r.” The supervisor told Staple and Pye that he had a gun, and made threats that he could “shoot a n—-r a mile away.” The supervisor made a noose out of electrical wire and threated to hang Staple and Pye, EEOC alleged. The harassment was witnessed by other supervisors, but no action was taken to stop it. According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Pye complained to another supervisor and the company’s safety director about the harassment, but no action was taken to stop or prevent the harassment.

Pa. Federal Court First to Rule That Sexual Orientation Discrimination Violates Title VII

“There is no more obvious form of sex stereo­typing than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality.”

With those words, a federal district court judge in Pennsylvania has upheld the position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The ruling paves the way for the commission to continue its lawsuit against Scott Medical Health Center on behalf of a gay employee allegedly subjected to harassment because of his sexual orientation. In this suit filed last March, the agency said that the male employee’s manager repeatedly referred to him using various anti-gay epithets and made other highly offensive comments about his sexuality and sex life. When the employee complained to the clinic director, the director responded that the manager was “just doing his job,” and refused to take any action to stop the harassment, according to the suit. After enduring weeks of such comments by his manager, the employee quit rather than endure further harassment.

“That someone can be subjected to a barrage of insults, humili­ation, hostility and/or changes to the terms and conditions of their employment, based upon nothing more than the aggressor’s view of what it means to be a man or a woman, is exactly the evil Title VII was designed to eradicate,” wrote U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon in her November 4 ruling.

Iits ruling, the court found that sexual orientation discrimination is a type of discrimination “because of sex,” which is barred by Title VII. Applying decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination includes adverse treatment of workers based on “sex stereotypes,” i.e. pre-conceived ideas of how a man or a woman should act or think, the federal court stated.

According to the EEOC, Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination includes discrimination because of sexual orientation because (1) sexual orientation discrimination necessarily involves treating workers less favorably because of their sex because sexual orientation as a concept cannot be understood without reference to sex; (2) sexual orientation discrimination is rooted in non-compliance with sex stereotypes and gender norms, and employment decisions based in such stereotypes and norms have long been found to be prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII; and (3) sexual orientation discrimination punishes workers because of their close personal association with members of a particular sex, such as marital and other personal relationships.

Read today’s announcement of the court’s ruling.

EEOC: Tenn. Manufacturing Company Tolerated Male Supervisors Harassing Other Male Workers

If the allegations in a just-filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit are proven, then the work atmosphere at a Nashville, Tennessee, manufacturing company was decidedly inhospitable to male workers.

The EEOC announced on  Oct. 3 the filing of a Title VII lawsuit against Centurion Products, Inc., also known as Centurion Stone, is an industry-leading manufacturer of stone veneer. According to the EEOC, male floor supervisor made sexually charged insults and innuendos on a near-daily basis and also engaged in unwelcome grabbing, groping and humping the victims, attempting penetration of male employees’ buttocks with a broomstick, and kissing. Although members of management received numerous complaints from the employees about the harassment, Centurion failed to take action to stop the harassment.

The EEOC notes that in June 2016 it filed a publication Report on Workplace Harassment. One of the key findings in the report is that effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management.

 

 

Stuck in the Mud: California Orchid Grower Denied Rehire to New Moms, EEOC Charges

Job dreams were dashed for new moms who wanted to return to work at a California orchid grower, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday that Dash Dreams Plant, Inc., a grower and wholesale distributer of orchids in Dos Palos, Calif., violated federal law when it fired employees after failing to reinstate or rehire them at the end of their maternity leave.

Specifically, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2014, female employees were told in staff meetings not to get pregnant, that they have too many children, and the next person to get pregnant should stay home and consider herself fired.

EEOC further asserted that pregnant employees were not reinstated or rehired when they attempted to return to work following the birth of their children but were discharged from the company.

“Employers need to be aware that pregnancy discrimination laws also protect employees after they have given birth,” said Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC’s Fresno office. Failing to reinstate an employee after maternity leave and discharging them can be a violation of the law.”

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the lawsuit.