EEOC Settlements Announced in January

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced settlements of 15 employment law cases in January 2013.  This post briefly summarizes them.  In addition to the monetary compensation noted below, many settlements included consent decrees, under which the employer must monitor their workplaces, provide training on anti-discrimination law and / or report any violations.

Waive future claims or we fire you.
One case is particularly interesting.  Cognis Corporation required existing employees to sign an agreement prohibiting the employee from filing charges of discrimination as a condition of continued employment – even for adverse actions that had yet to occur.  One employee refused to sign, and Cognis fired him. The U. S. District Court held that this violated Title VII, leaving damages for the jury.

The employer paid $500,000 to settle with the plaintiff and five other employees to whom Cognis said, “Sign if you want to work here.”

Age: Refusal to Hire.  A college paid $125,000 to a 64-year-old applicant for a tenure track assistant professorship.

Race.  Emmert International paid $180,000 to two employees.  One suffered frequent racial slurs, including the “N-word,” and the other was called a “N—lover.”

Religion.  A young woman’s religion required her to wear skirts.  During her interview for a job at Burger King, the manager said they would accommodate the request.  The employer did not honor the request, and paid $25,000 to settle her claim of religious discrimination.

Sex / Retaliation Settlements.
The world’s largest Burger King franchise paid $2.5 Million to settle claims of egregious sexual harassment by managers against 89 women, including many teenagers.  The conduct went way beyond offensive comments.  It included strip searches, propositions, stalking and even rape.

A restaurant in Wisconsin paid $41,000 to settle claims by waitresses of crude remarks and groping breasts.  The owner did not stop the manager, but, instead, fired some of the waitresses for their complaints.

A bakery paid $220,000 because the owner allegedly subjected at least 19 women to sexual comments, innuendo and unwanted touching.  Some women quit their jobs because of the harassment.

An auto dealership paid $85,000 to three women fired one week after they complained about sexual harassment by the sales manager.

Disability Discrimination Settlements.
Disability discrimination accounted for more than one-half of the settlements announced in January.  Often there was a retaliation component, too.  The following lists the nature of disability, amount of settlement and number of complainants.

Disability

Amount

#

Heart Attack. Employer advertised for replacement property manager on the same day it learned of heart attack.

$37,000

1
Bipolar disorder.  Fired for taking prescribed medication.

$50,000

1
Bipolar disorder.  Fired after medical leave

$49,900

1
Deaf. Restaurant demoted prep chef to janitor, cut his hours because of disability and his complaints,  and then fired employee.

$47,814

1
Hearing Loss.  Employer refused to engage in the interactive process and fired employee for requesting accommodation.

$130,000

1
Bilateral Amputee. Refusal to rehire employee.

$350,000

1
Degenerative Joint Disease.  Employer refused accommodation.

$50,000

1
Arthritis / Retaliation.  Supervisor made fun of employee’s limp.  She and co-worker reported harassment.  Both forced to resign

$77,000

2

Jeff Merrick
Copyright 2013