First Quarter EEOC Settlements.

rastahairAccommodating Rastafarian hair, overly broad medical inquiries, and the continued use of the “N-word” are among the items that caught my eye in EEOC news releases. This post highlights what interested me and then summarizes all settlements announced during the first quarter.

 

Employer must accommodate Rasta Hair.

Christopher Young applied to deliver beer from the warehouse to customers. The distributing company did not like Mr. Young’s hair, and said he’d have to cut it.   “That’s against my Rastafarian religion,” said Mr. Young.

Everyone knows about Rastafarian dreadlocks. Originating in Eastern Africa, warriors of several tribes had them. Europeans pronounced the hair “dreadful.” Rastafari cite Biblical passages against cutting hair. Practitioners revere people with very long hair because it indicates patience and a long spiritual journey.

The employer paid $50,000 for its refusal to hire Mr. Young without a haircut.

Employer may not require ALL medical information on employees.

PAM Transport, Inc. wants safe truck drivers. Its policy required drivers to tell the company whenever he or she had ANY contact with a medical professional. That policy cost PAM $477,399 for a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the ADA, the employer may only ask about medical conditions that are job related and necessary for the business.   Requiring information on EVERY medical contact is overly broad.

Racial Harassment.  Really!?

EEOC reported three racial harassment settlements. I know I should not be surprised by racial harassment any more than sexual harassment, age, or other forms of discrimination. Perhaps disappointment is a better term. I just feel that we, as a people, should be more advanced and not degrade others for sport.

A Detroit auto dealership paid $75,000 to a detailer who endured racial slurs and jokes from his supervisor and co-workers.   A South Carolina company paid and employee $40,000 who it fired in retaliation for complaining about his white co-worker’s repeated use of the “N-word.”

A contractor denied responsibility for workplace racial harassment of African American subcontractors. It fought the case until the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found it to be a joint employer. Then, it settled for $95,000. (EEOC v. Skanska USA Building, Inc.)

Here’s my summary of other first quarter cases.

Sexual Harassment / Retaliation Settlements

Nursery business supervisor propositioned female employee. He fired her about a month after she said, “No.” $40,000
County sheriff’s department, including the Sheriff’s brother subjected women to severe sexual harassment, including sexual touching, over a period of years. Repeated complaints went unaddressed, until county fired her for complaining about the brother. $870,000
Owner of Seapod Pawnshops referred to his mostly female workforce as “my Seapod bitches” and subjected them to graphic sexual comments. He also disparaged African-American customers. $300,000 + owner barred from business
Female fired after complaining about co-worker harassment in retail store. $20,000
Pregnancy Discrimination: Company rescinded job offer one day after it learned employee had recently given birth and had pregnancy-related surgery $20,000
Disability Discrimination Settlements
Worker returning from maternity leave sought additional unpaid leave due to post-partum depression. Employer fired her. Then, it extended her leave. However, employer did not return her to work, even though there was a vacant position for which she qualified. $75,000
Car dealership hired manager with promises of partnership. After multiple sclerosis diagnosis, employer failed to offer partnership and asked, “What’s wrong with you? Are you a cripple?” $250,000
House cleaning service made fun of a worker who walked differently because of a stroke. She complained about being mocked.   Employer asked, “Are you crippled?”   Employer argued that just a few instances over a two-day period did not constitute unlawful harassment because they were not sufficiently severe or pervasive. $15,000
Hospital fired woman who needed leave longer than the six-month policy because of breast cancer.   Hospital believed she’d never return to work, despite a note from her doctor saying she’d be back. $300,000
Kmart demands urine samples from applicants. Applicant with kidney disease offered to give blood sample or hair sample instead.   Kmart refused to accommodate the request. $102,048
Marine Corp veteran asked for unpaid medical leave because of service-related seizures. Company denied request because he was a probationary employee.   The ADA applies to probies, too. $65,000
Employer admitted firing employee because of HIV status.  $125,000
Employer withdrew job offer after it learned applicant took prescription medication for a seizure disorder $30,000
Title examiner sought part-time work because of her end-stage renal disease. At first, employer accommodated. Then, it revoked the accommodation and fired her. $95,000
Employee with scoliosis wanted a mat on which to stand for back pain. When employer refused, employee alleged discrimination. Then, employer fired her. $27,500
Hospital greeter asked for written job instructions because she could not keep it all straight in her head.   Cognitive disability. Hospital fired her instead of working on an accommodation. $125,000
Age and Disability Discrimination: Wal-Mart supervisor referred to his subordinate as “old man” and the “old food guy.” Following diabetes diagnosis, he sought reasonable accommodation. Employer refused to engage in interactive process. $150,000

Jeff Merrick