EEOC Settlements Last Quarter

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Was $7.6 million for near slavery the largest resolution announced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last quarter? No. A strictly enforced medical leave policy cost Lowe’s $8.6 million. A 45-year-old case settles another chapter, plus things that caught my eye and a recap of all resolutions.

From its Beverly Hills headquarters, Global Horizons, Inc. connects laborers with work around the world. When agribusiness in Washington and Hawai’i needed farmworkers, Global Horizons matched them with people from Thailand.  A match.com for business?  Well, civil and criminal prosecutors alleged GH, Inc. made these people believe that if they discontinued working for the employer, they could be arrested and deported. In case words were not enough to restrain them, GH retained their passports, too.  To keep people working fast, they’d strike one on the head with a cane or otherwise use fear, intimidation, humiliation and shame, according to Judge Shea in the Washington case, where he awarded $7,658,500 in compensatory and punitive damages.

National retailer Lowe’s paid $8.6 million to settle with the EEOC for firing thousands of workers with disabilities whose leave exceeded Lowe’s maximum leave policy. I’ve reported on this before: compliance with state and federal leave laws does not equal compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act. The employer must make individual determinations and provide reasonable accommodations.

Male supervisor harassed lesbian:  “I want to turn you back into a woman;” “You would look good in a dress.”   Shortly after she complained, she was fired. $20,000 of the $202,200 settlement for sex discrimination to be donated to “Human Rights Campaign Foundation Workplace Equality Program.”  EEOC considers this a landmark early case of sexual orientation discrimination.

Intellectual Disability. The 26-year old had been cleaning up the amusement park and restaurant for four years. The employer changed the clock in procedure, and the employee couldn’t get it because he had a traumatic brain injury as a kid. EEOC charged the employer could have and should have accommodated him. $20,000.

Targeted recruiting cost a couple of employers.

Lawler Foods in Texas wanted Hispanics. It used word-of-mouth recruiting and advertised its Spanish-language preference. EEOC charged discrimination against African-American and non-Hispanic applicants, and the employer paid over $1 million to settle.

A Newark firm also used word-of-mouth recruiting. Plus it falsely told African-American applicants that no positions were open when, in fact they were hiring. The consent decree orders payment of $350,000 plus imposes affirmative action in recruiting black candidates and giving priority in hiring to those whom the EEOC identified as having been harmed, among other things.

In 1971, the United States sued a union and apprentice program alleging they did not want African-Americans and Hispanics to become sheet metal workers. The names of the prosecuting entities changed, as did some of the defendants.  Last quarter, they settled claims arising between 1991 and 2002 for $1,650,000.

Failure to retain applications and other documents relating to the hiring process violates 29 C.F.R. §1602.14 and the ADA. Employment agency violated that provision and it failed to hire an applicant because she disclosed her disability. The expert employer paid $30,000.

New Prime Trucking Inc. will pay $3.1 million for pattern and practice discrimination against women.  The story begins in 2004, when Prime was liable for harassment of a woman by a male truck driver trainer. In response, Prime adopted a policy of same-sex trainers.  Because Prime had so few women trainers, women had to wait, sometimes up to 18 months for training, meaning most women were denied employment. Employer paid lead plaintiff $250,000 plus $2.8 million for 63 other women.

Other settlements follow.

Sexual Harassment: Funeral Home Manager tried to enliven the working environment with sexual innuendo, unwanted touching, porn pictures, grabbing breasts and buttocks, etc. $85,000
Maine farm allowed work environment with groping, sexual comments, and requests for sex. One woman who said, “No,” was subjected to increased harassment. $120,000
24-year-old man secretly videotaped younger male co-workers in men’s bathroom. When one victim complained, manager cut his hours, demoted him, and issued excessive and unwarranted discipline. $27,500
National Origin: North Dakota oilfield company harassed a Filipino-American, though the manager seemed confused on what is the correct term to degrade Filipinos. He tried, “non-white motherf’r,” “spic,” “ni***r,” and “ape.” $250,000
Employer working on a federal contract allegedly violated the Civil Rights Act AND Executive Order 11246 by creating a hostile work environment for Hispanic employees. $100,000
Race:  Warning a job applicant that the manager does not want African-Americans constitutes actionable opposition to discriminatory employment practices.   The employer said it fired the two African-American “snitches” because their statement to the job candidate was a lie. $90,000
African-American manager at nursing home missed a single day of work and was fired, despite letting employer know in advance. In the context of other firings, it seemed like a plan to eliminate African-Americans from management $40,000
Years of racial slurs, which continued despite complaints to management. Fired after complaining. $40,000
Racial and ethnic slurs. $40,000
Moving company fired woman just hours after she complained about racial harassment. $30,000
SEX:  EEOC alleged sex discrimination when worker was fired shortly after she informed co-workers she planned transition from male to female. She worked for a contractor with a college. The college asked for her removal. The contractor paid. $140,000
Coca-Cola Bottling of Mobile refused to hire a woman for warehouse work. $35,000
Pregnancy discrimination with good evidence: Audiotape of owner saying his whiskey bar customers would be offended if he allowed a pregnant woman behind the bar. $66,000
RN / charge nurse requested to lift no more than 25 pounds following surgery relating to reproductive system impairment. EEOC noted employer had accommodated non-pregnant employees with similar lifting restrictions. Here, employer told employee to reapply for work after she gave birth and no longer had restrictions, which she did. Still, employer refused to rehire her. $132,000
Pregnant EMT wanted the same accommodation on lifting the company gives workers with bad backs –a power cot to lift patients.   Accommodation denied. $55,000
Employee informed boss of her pregnancy. He fired her immediately after she trained a new employee. $45,000
ADA / GINA (Genetic Information Discrimination act).     Asking questions relating to an applicant’s family medical history, medical condition and disability prior to hire violates federal law. Questionnaires impacted 1,100 job applicants. $329,640
Overbroad release of medical records for fitness-for-duty exam and questionnaire seeking family medical history violated GINA and ADA.   Also, employer fired applicant when he objected to breadth of release. Employer blamed third-party vendor who performed medical examinations.   Employer paid. $87,000
Disability: Employee underwent coronary bypass surgery and notified employer he was cleared to return to work, initially for half days. Employer notified employee he was fired. $187,000
Indianapolis printing company fired two workers with HIV.   Also fired former HR employee for opposing (other) illegal practices. $110,000
Commissioned salesperson had odd symptoms about three months after starting work for auto dealership. She provided medical note to be off work until they could confirm the tentative diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Liberty Chrysler Dealerships exercised its freedom to break the law and fire her. $50,000
Seizure disorder caused medical leave. Neurologist cleared worker’s return to work. At first, employer demanded that he no longer have the condition. Then, it required him to take controlling meds under observation of certain others at work.   Said EEOC, “An employer cannot single out an employee who has a disability and impose a unique and over-protective rule on that person as a condition of employment. $33,000
Kroger accommodated stock person’s bad back with work as a cashier.   When Kroger discovered the condition was permanent, it fired her. $33,000
AGE: Milpitas, CA hired the 39 year old over better-qualified guys over 50. $140,000
Maui County police hired younger, less qualified officers and commented on the applicant’s age during the interview $24,000

Jeff Merrick, Mediator

(C) 2016 by Jeff Merrick

Jeff Merrick