EEOC Resolutions Announced During the Second Quarter

fred MeyerA lewd customer, combined with management’s failure to respond appropriately to employee complaints about him, cost Oregon retailer Fred Meyer $487,500 to settle sexual harassment charges.  That story, generalized anxiety disorder as a disability, and more, as I recap EEOC resolutions announced in the Second Quarter of 2014.

Sexual Harassment by Customers.

The man visited the Milwaukie, Oregon Fred Meyer store almost daily for several years.  And why not?  The 84 year old would fondle, grab, and make nasty comments to employees and no manager stopped him.  He’d visit multiple times on certain days.  Management instructed employees that he could not be excluded unless the security department personally witnessed his offensive conduct, despite numerous complaints and even video evidence.  The settlement provides a reminder to employers that they need to take appropriate action to protect employees from harassment at the hands of customers, too.

Male victims of sexual harassment.

It’s not just women who endure egregious conduct.  An Albuquerque dealership paid $2 Million to settle a lawsuit alleging that managers frequently solicited oral sex and regularly touched, grabbed and bit male workers on their buttocks and genitals – for years.

Lots of Disability Discrimination Cases.

The disability case that jumped out to me was the failure to accommodate an employee’s request for a service dog because of her generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).  It seems like 60% of the people I know could be diagnosed with GAD.  However, professionals say the number of those truly suffering from GAD is less than 5% of the population.

So, the employee’s dog alerted the woman to oncoming panic attacks, helped alleviate symptoms during a panic attack, and could also do other “tasks,” such as retrieve objects and guide her to an exit. The employer paid $53,000.  Plus, as in almost all EEOC cases, the consent decree required other things, including employee training and reporting to the EEOC for a number of years.

Engage in the interactive process!

Several disability discrimination settlements involved the employer’s failure to consider any accommodation.  Maybe a magnifying glass or new computer monitor was all the legally-blind employee needed, for example. ($18,000).  How about providing and “individualized assessment” of whether the worker could do the job instead of just assuming that a worker with “degenerative disc disease” would be unable to do the job. ($110,000).  When the job applicant’s lack of kidneys prevented her from producing testable urine, consider her request to use a different method of drug testing.  ($30,000).

$1.35 Million despite complying with FMLA.

Beware of rigid rules that do not consider all legal obligations.

The hospital knew what the Family Medical Leave Act required.  If an employee was not covered by the FMLA, it would fire him after being absent for a short time.  It fired covered employees who needed more than 12 weeks leave.  The consent decree said that a rigid policy that limits the amount of leave can violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when the employer fails to engage in the interactive process.  Also, the employer cannot require employees returning from disability leave to present a doctor’s note certifying that they may return to work without any restrictions.

Here’s my table of the other settlements.  Again, the settlements usually include additional terms such as training, posting legal duties, etc.

Sexual Harassment / Retaliation Settlements
Restaurant owner physically verbally harassed, touched employees, including allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted female employees.  Also fired manager who objected to owner’s conduct.

$200,000

Male bank branch manager repeatedly subjected females to physical and verbal harassment.

$300,000

Male supervisor subjected male employees to sexual touching and comments. Solicited nude photos and sex.

$155,000

Male employee alleged sexual harassment, including gestures of a sexual nature.

$75,000

Two related sexual harassment claims led to payment for a group of current and former employees of a hospital.

$65,000

Manager streamed security video footage of female employee’s breasts and body onto his office computer.  Company failed to take immediate and appropriate action.

$11,000

Disability Discrimination / Retaliation
Management company fired bookkeeper with impaired vision (retinitis pigmentosa) without engaging in interactive process.

$100,000

Christian Care Center, a nursing home, fired employee immediately upon learning he was HIV positive.

$90,000

Chicago freezing services refused to hire man with prostate cancer.  Deposition testimony included former employee reporting the compassionate owner’s rationale, “in a best-case scenario, he would end up wearing diapers.”

$80,000

Medical transportation company refused to accommodate EMT-paramedic with multiple sclerosis.  Employee sought additional leave, but was fired for absences related to disability.

$72,500

A North Dakota oilfield services company fired employee shortly after it learned he had diabetes.  It did not care that employee was still able to perform job.

$65,000

Poultry processor moved employee from one job into another department, which was in a cold environment.  She could not work there because of her anemia.  There was an open job in warmer environment.  Nevertheless, employer fired her before she could provide a doctor’s note substantiating her condition.

$52,000

Religion and National Origin.  Chicago-area Cadillac dealer paid for the manager’s uses of “terrorist, “sand n—-r,” and “Hezbollah” toward it’s three Arab Muslim employees.  Proving, again, that Free Speech is not always free.

$100,000

Race Discrimination.  Chapman University, in Orange California, denied tenure and promotion to African-American despite strong recommendations by many professional peers.  She was the first of her race allowed to even apply to its school of Business and Economics.

$75,000

Gender Discrimination Against Men.  Makeup and beauty products seller allegedly had a practice of refusing to hire men as Zone Managers.  Finally, it promoted one man after he complained about the practice.  Then, it fired him.  Settlement covers a class of qualified male applicants.

$354,250

Age Discrimination.
EEOC alleged bank fired two women managers because of age and gender.  Bank applied performance criteria that differed of those it applied to younger men.

$230,000

Insurance sales company’s managers made age-related comments and fired three employees because of age or complaining about discrimination.

$300,000

Hospital refused to hire long-time employee for better job.  Decision maker indicated he wanted someone younger, more energetic, and without any back issues.

$12,500

Employer revoked job offers to two women, each over age 70, one day after CEO learned of their ages.

$40,000

Equal Pay.  Checkers, a fast food restaurant, paid women less than men and scheduled them for fewer hours.

$100,000

Equal Pay Retaliation.  Owner fired woman truck driver fired after she texted her belief that he paid her less than men.  Back pay of $21,000 plus liquidated damages of $21,000.

$42,000

Pregnancy Discrimination.
New York office furniture store withdrew employment offer for controller position after it learned of pregnancy.

$90,000

Weight Watchers paid $45,000 after it told pregnant applicant she was disqualified under its “goal weight” requirement despite her being a lifetime member who had met and maintained weight goals before pregnancy.

$45,000

Employee began premature labor at 7 ½ months.  Doctor stopped labor, and employer did not want employee to return to work until after the birth of her baby.  After employee said she intended to file a pregnancy complaint, company fired her.

$27,000

Pregnant employee asked to be excused from working with cleaning chemicals.  Employer wanted a doctor’s note approving chemical use; doctor refused.  Employee wanted job, anyway, but employer fired her.  EEOC sued, and employer paid.

$25,000

New employee told supervisor she was pregnant and asked that it be kept confidential.  She complained multiple times of disparate treatment until employer fired her.

$22,500

Chick-Fil-A noticed the applicant was pregnant.  Asked her about it, and told her to call back after she’d had her baby and childcare taken care of.

$10,000

Jeff Merrick