Posts Tagged ‘Title VII’

EEOC: Hotel Management Looked Other Way After Male Inspector Harassed Female Worker

Once management learns sexual harassment it is occurring, it has a legal duty to stop it. Apparently there was breakdown of that process at this Missouri hotel.

Two operators of a DoubleTree hotel in Jefferson City, Mo., violated federal law when they allowed a male room inspector to sexually harass a female housekeeper, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed February 7.

According to the EEOC, Vinca Enterprises, Inc. and Puri Group of Enterprises, Inc. (PGEI), which operate this DoubleTree in Missouri’s capital city, failed to stop the room inspector from regularly making offensive sexual comments and engaging in unwanted physical contact with a female house­keeper.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting it. The EEOC’s suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Vinca Enterprises, Inc. and Puri Group of Enterprises, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:20-cv-04021-NKL) alleges that although management and an owner were aware of the inspector’s unwelcome comments and behavior, Vinca and PGEI failed to investigate or take appropriate action to stop the unlawful harassment and protect the employee.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit after attempting to resolve the case through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief, an order prohibiting future sexual harassment, employee training, and new policies and procedures on sexual harassment.

“Sexual harassment in the workplace is always disturbing,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s Regional Attorney in St. Louis. “But this harassment occurred on a frequent basis and continued even after management and one of the owners knew what was happening. The EEOC is here to defend the rights of sexual harassment victims.”

L. Jack Vasquez, director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District office, said, “Management has an obligation to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Companies must realize that offensive and unwelcome sexual comments and conduct are a violation of law.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including sexual harassment. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

$6M Settlement Reached Between Dollar General, The EEOC in Criminal Background Check Lawsuit

It’s a new day at Dollar General for job applicants who have criminal records. The company made up for past wrongs and committed to a new procedure in a settlement with the federal government.

Major retail chain Dollar General will pay $6  million and furnish other relief to settle a class race discrimination lawsuit  brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal  agency announced on Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Dollar General, the largest  small-box discount retailer in the United States, violated federal law by  denying employment to African Americans at a significantly higher rate than  white applicants for failing the company’s broad criminal background check.

Employment screens that have a disparate impact on the basis  of race violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, unless an employer  can show the screen is job-related and is a business necessity. The EEOC filed  suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago  (EEOC v. Dolgencorp LLC d/b/a Dollar General,  Civil Action No. 13 C 4307), after first attempting to reach a voluntary  settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by  U.S. District Court Judge Andrea Wood, requires that Dollar General pay $6  million into a settlement fund which will be distributed through a claims  process at the direction of the EEOC to African Americans who lost their chance  at employment at the company between 2004 and 2019. If Dollar General chooses  to use a criminal background check during the term of the decree, the retailer must  hire a criminology consultant to develop a new criminal background check based  on several factors including the time since conviction, the number of offenses,  the nature and gravity of the offense(s), and the risk of recidivism. Once the consultant  provides a recommendation, the decree enjoins Dollar General from using any other  criminal background check for its hiring process.

Dollar General is also enjoined from discouraging people  with criminal backgrounds from applying, from engaging in retaliation, and from  otherwise discriminating on the basis of race in implementing a criminal  history check. In addition, the decree requires the company to update its  reconsideration process – which operates when a rejected applicant asks the  company to reconsider its decision despite the applicant’s criminal convictions.  The new reconsideration process must include clear communications to failed  applicants that they may provide information to Dollar General to support reconsideration  of their exclusion. Finally, the retailer must also provide reports to the EEOC  about the implementation of any new criminal history checks and reconsideration  processes.

“This case is important because Dollar General is not just providing  relief for a past practice but for the future as well,” said Gregory Gochanour,  regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “If the company plans to use  criminal history, it must retain a criminologist to develop a fair process. Unlike  other background checks based on unproven myths and biases about people with criminal  backgrounds, Dollar General’s new approach will be informed by experts with  knowledge of actual risk.”

EEOC Chicago District Director Julianne Bowman added, “Because  of the racial disparities in the American criminal justice system, use of  criminal background checks often has a disparate impact on African Americans. This  consent decree reminds employers that criminal background checks must have some  demon­strable business necessity and connection to the job at issue.”

This case was litigated by EEOC Trial Attorneys Jeanne  Szromba, Richard Mrizek, and Ethan Cohen and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane  Smason.

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

EEOC: Home Improvement Co. Required Sales Rep to Shun Middle Eastern, Indian Customers

Whatever energy efficient improvements this contractor could offer homeowners was offset by its alleged refusal to deal with entire ethnicities, a condition of employment that one sales rep found intolerable.

San Leandro-based home improvement contractor Fidelity Home Energy, Inc. violated federal law by creating a hostile work environment due to national origin that ultimately caused an employee to quit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed March 7.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, within her first week as a representative services supervisor responsible for making appointments with potential customers, Ayesha Faiz, a female of Afghan descent, learned Fidelity had a practice of rejecting all customers perceived to be Middle Eastern or Indian. She observed supervisors placing such people on the ‘do not call’ list and flagging their records in the internal database to disqualify them from getting appointments.  In three weeks of employment, Faiz was asked to turn away potential customers of Middle Eastern or Indian descent almost daily, either personally or by proxy through her subordinates.  Despite raising her concerns to other supervisors, Faiz never learned the reasoning behind the practice.  Ultimately, the distress of following a company practice requiring her to discriminate for no justifiable reason caused Faiz to quit, informing company officials it made her sick to know the company refused services based on ethnicity.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employers from discriminating based on national origin.

The EEOC filed suit (Civil #:19-cv-01231) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks lost wages and expenses, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Employers cannot subject employees to a hostile working environment filled with discriminatory practices, even if those practices are directed at customers.  Title VII protects employees from this type of national origin discrimination,” said EEOC Oakland Local Director Dana Johnson.

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi said, “Being required to reject customers based on national origin was unbearable for Ayesha Faiz.  No one should be required to discriminate as part of their job duties. Title VII’s prohibitions against national origin discrimination are increasingly more important and this much is clear. Employers must keep workplaces from being polluted by discrimination.”

Fidelity Home Energy, headquartered in San Leandro, is a family-owned and operated business providing homeowners with energy-efficient products and in-home installation services.

$95K Settlement Closes EEOC Lawsuit Against Hospital That Denied Pregnant Nurse Light-Duty

Employers have to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees just as they would other employees with restrictions stemming from a workplace injury. A hospital in North Dakota just learned that lesson the hard way.

Trinity Health, doing business as Trinity Hospital in Minot, ND, will pay $95,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced on Dec. 20.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Trinity refused to provide light-duty work to a pregnant nurse who had lifting restrictions because of a pregnancy-related health condition. Instead, it fired her, although it provided light-duty positions to nurses injured on the job.

The EEOC contended that Trinity had violated both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not providing the employee with accommodations for her lifting restrictions. The EEOC filed its suit (EEOC v. Trinity Health, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00200-CSM) in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

To resolve the suit, Trinity will pay the employee $95,000. In addition, it will revise its policies to assure that they comply with Title VII and the ADA in requiring accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations. It will also provide training to its human resources employees and make sure that its policies are accessible to its employees. In addition, Trinity Health will report to the EEOC for the three-year term of the consent decree settling the suit.

“Employers must understand that the law obliges them to accommodate restrictions of pregnant employees — just as they would accommodate other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, who managed the federal agency’s pre-suit administrative investigation. “It is especially important that they understand that if they are accommodating persons with restrictions arising from a work-related injury, they may have to provide the same accommodations to employees with restrictions arising out of pregnancy.”

Greg Gochanour, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District, added, “Both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act may require that an employer provide accommodations such as light duty to nurses with pregnancy-related limitations. It is essential that employers know the rights of pregnant employees under these statutes.”

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

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.