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EEO Litigation Activity – March and April 2019

2019-04-09

The following summarizes the EEOC litigation activity for March and April 2019.  EEOC filed seven lawsuits and settled 15 during the two months.  Disability and sexual harassment discrimination were the most prevalent types of discrimination with three disability related and two sexual harassment lawsuits filed.   EEOC also settled nine disability and three sexual harassment cases.

Summary of lawsuit by type

Disability

  • Goodwill Industries of New York and New Jersey [3/25/19] EEOC alleges that it failed to provide reasonable accommodations that would have allowed an employee to continue working as a janitor.   As a result of his cognitive disability, the employee had trouble navigating certain interactions with other employees and members of the public.  Instead of providing him with additional training or job coaching to properly understand the rules he was required to follow, Goodwill gave him written warnings, which he was unable to read or understand.  His requests for assistance in understanding the warnings were disregarded and ultimately he was fired.
Disability Harassment
  • Herbruck Poultry Ranch, Inc. [3/4/19] EEOC alleges that Herbruck harassed Melinda Crooke, a line worker, when it learned about her disability-related symptoms and then retaliated against her for complaining.  On a daily basis, her supervisors and co-workers mocked her using nicknames and physical imitations of her symptoms.  The supervisor began following Crooke to the bathroom to time her breaks and one day shouted at her.  After complaints to human resources led to no action, Crooke quit when the work environment got unbearable.
National Origin
  • Fidelity Home Energy, Inc. [3/7/19] EEOC alleges that the company created a hostile work environment due to national origin that ultimately caused Ayesha Faiz to quit.  Faiz, of Afghan descent, learned that 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 a three week time period, Faiz was asked to turn away potential customers of Middle Eastern or Indian descent almost daily, either personally or by proxy through her subordinates.  The distress of following the company practice caused her to quit, telling the company officials that it made her sick to know the company refused services based on ethnicity. 
Retaliation (Disability Discrimination)
  • Erickson Living Management, LLC [3/1/19] EEOC alleges that the company fired one of its directors because she opposed perceived disability-based discrimination against her subordinate.  The director complained to a human resource representative that the company had mistreated a subordinate because of manifestations of the employee’s disabilities.  She also expressed concerns that she would be retaliated against for reporting what she believed was a discriminatory abuse of the performance management system.  Shortly after making her report, she and her subordinate were terminated as part of a purported company restructuring. 
Sex and Disability
  • Party City Corporation [3/7/19] EEOC alleges that a Texas store fired a pregnant team leader because of her sex and disability.  Due to cancer treatment she had received, Jahneiss Groce, experienced complications in her pregnancy.   Groce was fired after she presented the company with physical job restrictions required by her doctor.  
Sexual Harassment
  • Cańon City Chili’s Restaurant [4/2/19] EEOC alleges that the restaurant’s managing partner and assistant manager were subjecting female servers and hostesses to sexual harassment and retaliation, including pervasive sexual comments and innuendo.  The restaurant failed to take preventative or corrective action when the employees complained and some women were forced to resign.
  • Swami Pancake, LLC d/b/a IHOP [3/20/19] EEOC alleges that the franchise’s owner and general manager subjected a class of female employees to sexual harassment by asking them out on dates, making crude sexual comments to them about female body parts and touched them. 

Summary of settlements by type

Disability
  • JBS Carriers [4/4/19] will pay $250,000 to five individuals who were adversely impacted by the ErgoMed screening.  JBS will stop using the ErgoMed screen and only require job applicants to obtain the DOT medical certification necessary to be a licensed commercial truck driver.  JBS will also provide training on the ADA to its employees, appoint an ADA coordinator, review and revise its ADA policies, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how the company has addressed reports on disability discrimination and requests for accommodation.  
  • Masterbuilt Manufacturing, LLC [4/2/19] will pay $60,000 to the plaintiff, Joshua Moore, who was denied an accommodation in the form of leave for a short period to undergo treatment and counseling for stress caused by his Asperger’s syndrome.   Moore was fired while on leave, despite his repeated requests to return to work and being cleared by medical professionals.  Masterbuilt agreed to provide employment discrimination training to its employees and to post anti-discrimination notices at its facility.  The consent decree also includes reporting and monitoring requirements.
  • Protocall Communications, Inc. [3/26/19] will pay $31,000 to a telemarketer trainee with dyslexia.  When the employee told the Director of Human Resources that she had dyslexia (in response to a question if she had a disability) she was told “there was no point in continuing the training and denied the employee’s request to be allowed to take the script home to practice it.”  Instead of providing a reasonable accommodation, she was fired.  The two-year consent decree also requires the company to distribute policies and procedures prohibiting disability discrimination and addressing reasonable accommodations to all employees and newly-hired employees.  All managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel will be trained on the ADA.
  • Mid South Extrusion, Inc. [3/26/19] will pay $70,000 in lost wages and damages to Jeffrey Wyant who was fired due to his lung impairment.  After Wyant learned that he had breathing issues, the company determined that working in a plastics manufacturing facility would be harmful to his health.  He was immediately fired after a coughing incident. The consent decree requires Mid South to develop a policy to protect applicants and/or employees from any form of disability discrimination, including making an intensive individualized assessment in consultation with the employee, and if needed, their treating physician.
  • BlueCross/Blue Shield of Texas [3/19/19] will pay $75,000 to Sheryl Meadow, a deaf applicant who applied through an online process for an open claims examiner position.  After applying, she was invited to complete a 35-minute assessment exam that included an audio portion which was inaccessible to her because it contained no captions or other visible accommodations for applicants with hearing impairments.  Without the audio portion completed, she was unable to complete the application process.
  • Asurion, LLC [3/11/19] will pay $50,000 to an applicant who applied for a customer care representative position online and was qualified for the position. When the company called Lakisha Person to review her resume and discuss availability, the interviewer learned that Person is paralyzed from the waist down.  The interviewer abruptly ended the interview without inquiring into Person’s skills or relevant experience.  Person applied three more time for the same position but Asurion rejected all of her applications.  The 2-year consent decree requires training and notices posted on the bulletin board informing employees of their right to contact EEOC to exert their rights against discrimination.
  • CRST Expedited, Inc. / CRST International, Inc. [3/6/19] will pay $47,500 to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit when it failed to accommodate, refused to hire and then retaliated against a Navy veteran applicant for a truck driver position, because he used a service dog to assist with his disabilities.  During the application process, the veteran disclosed his disabilities including the use of the service dog to help with post-traumatic stress disorder.  He successfully completed the required commercial drivers’ licensing course but was still denied hire due to CRST’s “no pet” policy.
  • Stanley Black & Decker Inc. [3/5/19] will pay $140,000 to an inside sales representatives it fired for poor attendance even though she exceeded her sales goals and quotas.   EEOC alleged that the termination was because the employee had requested unpaid leave for medical appointments and treatment related to her cancer but the company failed to provide the leave as a reasonable accommodation.  The company’s attendance policy for this position did not provide exceptions for people who need leave as an accommodation.  In the 3-year consent decree, the company will provide training, post a notice about the settlement, update its attendance policy, and provide a positive reference for the employee.
  • Midwest Gaming, LLC (operating as Rivers Casino) [3/5/19] –will pay $60,000 to Donnan Lake who was denied his request for a reasonable accommodation of a few additional weeks of leave to have surgery for treatment of sarcoma, a type of cancer he had fought since childhood.  Instead of granting his request, Lake was terminated.   The company signed a 2-year consent decree requiring them to provide reasonable accommodations, post a notice about the terms of the decree; and report semi-annually to EEOC on requests for accommodations. 
Pay Discrimination
  • Cummins, Inc. [4/1/19] will pay $77,500 to a former female benefits enrollment employee who was paid less than a male employee who performed the same job duties.  In response to a request from the female employee to conduct a salary review, Cummins determined that it paid her less than her male counterpart but did not change her salary.  When the female resigned almost a year later, the company still had not increased her pay to match her male coworker.  As part of the settlement, Cummins will also train its employees, including human resources and management personnel, on the requirements of Title VII and the EPA. 
Pregnancy
  • Friedman Realty Group, Inc. [3/15/19] will pay $60,000 to a leasing agent who was subjected to more scrutiny and discipline after she told management that she was pregnant and was eventually fired.  The 2 ½ year consent decree enjoins Friedman from engaging in pregnancy discrimination or retaliation and requires training of all management, non-management, and human resources employees.  It will also disseminate and post a policy prohibiting pregnancy discrimination to all employees. 
Sex Discrimination
  • American Pride Waste Solutions, Inc. [4/2/19] will pay $32,500 for failing to interview or hire a fully qualified female, Christina Rivers, for a waste truck driver position because of her gender.  She was never interviewed despite holding a commercial driver’s license and having experience driving large trucks.  The company also gave inconsistent and varying excuses for its failure to interview her.  The consent decree requires the company to update and disseminate anti-discrimination policies; provide annual EEO training to its managers, supervisors and employees; post a notice about the lawsuit; and report to EEOC about complaints of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. 
Sexual Harassment
  • HELP USA, Inc. [3/28/19] will pay $150,000 in damages to the harassment victims.  EEOC alleges that a supervisor regularly directed unwelcome sexual advances to female employees, made sexually offensive comments, and ogled women in the workplace.  He also treated female subordinates in a verbally abusive manner, shouting at them and belittling them and their work.  One employee’s repeated complaints were ignored for months and a manager commented that the supervisor was just being “playful.”   HELP will also distribute anti-discrimination policies and provide training to all employees at the facility.  All harassment complaints will also be reported to the EEOC.
  • Premier Employee Solutions LLC [3/26/19] will pay $34,000 to resolve allegations of sexual harassment including inappropriate comments, sexual gestures, and physical touching, including one occasion where the line lead grabbed her breasts.  Even after complaining, the harassment continued.  The company will also implement an amended anti-harassment policy; conduct training for managers, supervisors, and employees at two facilities; post an anti-discrimination notice; and periodically report compliance to EEOC.
  • Sys-con, LLC [3/11/19] will pay $70,000 to two former non-English speaking female employees when their supervisor demanded sexual favors and watched pornographic videos in front of them.  The supervisor sexually assaulted one of the employees and then taunted her, asking whether she “like it.”  The supervisor threatened to fire both his victims and their husbands, who were also employees, if they reported the harassment.  When one of the women refused his sexual advances, the supervisor terminated her.  Sys-con signed a 3-year consent decree requiring the implementation of policies and training to prevent sexual harassment.  
The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.