EEOC Verdicts & Settlements During the First Quarter

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced settlements and verdicts of 31 discrimination cases during the first quarter of 2013.  This post highlights two topics I found most interesting and then provides settlement data on all cases.

Money to Pay the Taxes

What caught my eye in EEOC v. Radio Shack, (D. Colo. # 10-cv-02365), was a supplemental award to help the fired employee pay his additional tax burden.   A jury found that Radio Shack unlawfully retaliated against its employee for his age discrimination complaint, awarding $187,706 in back pay.  The EEOC sought front pay in lieu of reinstatement plus money to offset the increased tax burden.  The judge agreed, awarding $199,470 for front pay plus $101,657 to compensate for taxes.

Egregious Harassment = ~ $200,000.

It is hard to believe that employers still tolerate egregious racial and sexual harassment. Here are four examples reported by the EEOC:

For African Americans, the 21st century workplace still includes verbal attacks including, being called “N- – -r,” “monkey,” “boy,” “coon” and being shown a noose with the message, “This is for you.  Do you want to hang from the family tree?” A jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to two African-American men who suffered from this conduct, despite complaining to the manager and the owner of a North Carolina trucking company.

A potato wholesaler paid $255,000 to settle claims arising from a supervisor who repeatedly harassed multiple women.  The warehouse supervisor made sexual comments, groped women, exposed himself and solicited sex.

A New York company who supplies labor and construction services to the power industry paid $190,000 to an African American worker who suffered harassment and was fired shortly after complaining.  The foreman insulted the man with racial jokes, insults, and derogatory stories referring to African Americans as stupid and incompetent.  Also, he tripped him several times and once kicked him in the buttocks.

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.”

The above examples involve occupations that had been dominated by white males, including trucking, construction and warehouse work.  The concept that the “good ‘ol boys” get a pass on unacceptable conduct may be long gone in the law, but it seems to persist in reality.

Other settlement data follow.

Although I only mention the dollar amounts, the settlements typically include other provisions, including trainiing, posting, and monitoring.

Pregnancy Discrimination.
EEOC reported pregnancy discrimination settlements with four employers in the following amounts: $31,000, $20,000, $37,500 & $27,500.

Other Sex / Retaliation Settlements & Verdict.
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 Chicago bar and grill that allegedly “fostered a culture” where sexual harassment and retaliation against women went unchecked settled before answering the complaint for $100,000.

After stipulating to back pay, the EEOC and a mall store tried the case for compensatory damages of teenage employees subjected to allegedly “severe sexual harassment.”  Some of the girls quit, and another had her hours reduced for resisting sexual harassment.  “$30,000,” said the jury.

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.

Religion.
When the job interview is primarily about religious activities and beliefs, that’s a problem.  It cost Voss Electric, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, $82,500.  The applicant was religious, and the interviewer sent information on the applicant’s religion to the branch manager, who then really grilled the applicant about his religion.  The employer hired someone else, whose religious beliefs lined up better.

An employee requested a day off for a Jehovah’s Witness convention.  The employer denied the request.  When the employer attended the convention anyway, the employer fired her.  Ozarks Electric paid $95,000 plus entered into a consent decree. Among other things, it agreed to establish an appeals process to address religious accommodation requests.

Rastafarian abuse, including threats and the use some “N-words,” cost an employer $135,000. A previous consent required to the dress code to accommodate Rastafarian employees.

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.

Waive future claims or we fire you.  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. Cognis paid $500,000 to settle with six 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.

Disability Discrimination Settlements.  Disability discrimination cases were the most numerous.  The following lists the disability, amount of settlement and number of complainants.

Disability Amount #
Crohn’s Disease. University’s lateness and attendance policy violated the ADA because it lacked exceptions for reasonable accommodations. $92,500 1
Traumatic Brain Injury.  New restaurant manager fired server because of his “mistaken beliefs about what individuals with disabilities can accomplish.” $65,000 1
Stroke.  Employer failed to accommodate an extension of leave time. $50,000 1
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, Employment Law Mediator
Copyright 2013

Jeff Merrick