EEOC Settlements Last Quarter

Employer pays $150,000 for wanting one hair follicle instead of another.  What about the one-armed trucker?  A wellness plan sickened employer, and what’s the $1.9 million “Rosebud” mystery?  I report these stories plus summarize all 32 resolutions announced by the EEOC last quarter.

Let’s start with hair and religion.  The Old Testament forbids cutting scalp hair, believe the Nazirite sect of the Hebrew Israelite faith.  When a pre-employment screen required scalp hair follicles for drug testing, a faithful applicant offered his beard.  U.S. Steel subsidiary did not accommodate his request, revoked the job offer, and paid $150,000 to settle.

“EEOC supports” work wellness plans to “become healthier and lower health care costs.”  But, plans must follow the rules to avoid tripping over the Americans with Disabilities Act.  A Wisconsin employer’s plan shifted insurance costs to employee after she declined a medical examination required by the wellness program.  EEOC alleged employer retaliation.  After the case survived summary judgment, the employer ended it for $100,000.  Here’s a link to EEOC’s summary of the regulations and the actual wellness plan regs.

As he died, Charles Foster Kane mysteriously whispered “Rosebud” to begin Citizen Kane.  It was no mystery, alleged the EEOC, why customers saw few, if any, African-Americans in 13 Chicagoland Italian Rosebud Restaurants.  The four-year consent decree to resolve race discrimination in hiring includes hiring goals, reports to the EEOC plus $1.9 million dollars.

The American Dental Association beat Rosebud for the highest payout last quarter:  $1.95 million to its former chief legal counsel and HR director for complaining to the board about violations of antidiscrimination laws.  Curiously, EEOC included the employer’s denial in its press release.  (A term of the settlement?)  If you need language to explain why an employer is “pleased” to pay nearly $2 million, here’s the link.  “Amicable,” “regrets,” “dedicated and loyal employees”, “differences arose . . . .”

One-armed truckers have rights too.  Fuel transport company believed it could not accommodate him.  Nevertheless, it paid $65,000 because it did not engage in the interactive process with the man who had been driving truck more than 20 years with one arm.

“Speak English,” say bosses.  Requiring “English only” in the workplace without a business reason constitutes National Origin discrimination, alleged the EEOC.  It cost a pizzeria $50,000 and a consent decree requiring policies, training and procedures.  Elsewhere, a manufacturer paid $475,000 after firing 22 employees for lacking sufficient English skills.

I list the other resolutions below.  Often, EEOC settlements appear low compared to settlements negotiated by experienced employment law attorneys.  That’s likely due to many of these individuals not having personal attorneys.  Also, I am not reporting the other consideration EEOC obtains, including multi-year agreements for training, reporting and other nonmonetary terms.

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AGE DISCRIMINATION.  College passed over 66-year-old adjunct professor for full time work.  Instead, it hired younger and less-experienced candidates. $60,000
DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION.  Employer stuck to its leave policy, even when employees needed more leave for cancer or surgeries.  It did not accommodate restrictions and terminated employees.  The ADA trumps employer leave policies, not vice versa.  Settlement includes an extra $200,000 for unknown victims.

$600,000 –

$800,000

Employer asked invasive questions about employee’s ability to perform while he was going through cancer treatment.  Then, it terminated him. $380,000
Kidney transplant medication weakened employee’s immune system.  First time, employer accommodated.  Second time, it refused accommodation and terminated him. $179,576
After five months on the job, employee was promoted from temp to regular employment contingent upon passing pre-employment physical.  Employer rescinded offer after learning of medications, claiming potential side effects were unacceptable and despite employee’s doctor saying she’s good to work. $106,000
Employer rescinded job offer after learning of prescription drug use.  Employee offered proof the medication did not impair her and offered to try different medication.  Employer did not budge. $45,000
Give the woman a stool, said the EEOC.  After returning from medical leave, employee needed to sit for 15 minutes each hour while working at the “Piercing Pagoda” kiosk.  Employer demanded standing every working minute. $30,000
NATIONAL ORIGIN AND COLOR.  Calling Ms. Velazquez, “negra” and the “chocolate one” and opining that “Mexicans are stupid,” was, indeed, hostile. $15,000
RACE DISCRIMINATION.  Also hostile was the Sealy manufacturing plant, which featured a noose, KKK hood, and racial epithets and jokes.  A written anti-harassment policy is not enough; Employer must act fast and appropriately. $175,000
Houston company employees also used a hood as part of their harassment of African-American.  Employer’s response was NOT appropriate.  It told employee it was just a joke, and he should declare under penalty of perjury the employer responded adequately.  When employee refused to sign, employer’s next response was to fire employee. $120,000
Cabinetmaker fired two African-Americans for allegedly falsifying one of their timecards.  However, the evidence was a white co-worker was responsible, and he kept working. $60,000
Racist name calling, racial epithets, racial jokes, physical threats.  Employer learned of at least some of it, but failed to stop the harassment. $35,000
RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION.  Employers must seek to accommodate Rastafarian dreadlocks.  Third-party employer asked Rasta-man to cut dreds for client. $30,000
PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION.  Employer did not promote pregnant employee because it feared she could not handle a manager’s workload.  Default judgment. $118,483
After employer offered job, applicant asked about maternity benefits because she was pregnant.  Employer rescinded offer. $100,000
Christian Camp demoted employee to “less demanding” job after learning she had gestational diabetes.  When she questioned authority, camp fired her and sued her. $70,000
SEX DISCRIMINATION.  County paid female engineer less than male engineers.  County agreed to (1) increase her salary by $24,723, (2) hire consultants on compensation and anti-discrimination plus (3) pay . . . $139,633
Milk manufacturer repeatedly promoted men instead of woman with decades of experience. $84,750
Company provides educational services to students with developmental and learning disabilities.  Its CEO offered woman a job and immediately asked her out to party on a date.  She declined.  He pulled the job offer.  Consent decree requires CEO to attend anti-discrimination education annually with the other employees. $57,000
“This is a man’s job.”  “Not suitable for woman.”  “The work is difficult.”  Staffing agency refused to interview woman at job fair for shipping and receiving position with employer.  Records showed 54 of 55 applicants agency referred to client were men. $50,000
SEXUAL HARASSMANT.  Georgia Tex-Mex restaurant co-owner showed servers sexual pictures and videos, among other harassment.  Restaurant now closed. $20,000
RETALIATION.  Car dealer informed African-American, who required dialysis, he would be transferred to a newly-created position.  Employee was well enough to continue his existing job.  He resisted by asking to keep his current job and saying, “get a white guy” to do the newly created job.  Company fired him. $65,000
Employer refused to rehire five employees who had opposed sexual harassment and participated in EEOC investigation against its client. $62,500
Black employee who worked for third-party staffing agency thought he was passed over for a job placement because of his race.  He complained.  Within days, the agency fired him. $45,000
County jail employee resisted advances from his male manager.  Weeks after he reported groping, employer fired him. $35,000

(c) 2017 by Jeff Merrick, Attorney & Mediator

@JeffreyMerrick

 

Jeff Merrick