Employment is heavily regulated in the U.S., where it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because he or she made a discrimination complaint, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment-discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Discrimination is getting more expensive for noncompliant employers as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) actively investigates charges of discrimination.

Here are some cases the EEOC filed or settled during March 2014:

Disability Discrimination

Rexnord Industries, LLC — a manufacturer of mechanical and water management components — was ordered to pay a former employee $25,000 for firing her based on its perception that a health condition put workplace safety at risk. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from firing an employee because of an actual or perceived disability, unless the employee poses a threat to safety that cannot be eliminated by an accommodation. In this case, the judge determined that Rexnord failed to properly use the best available medical information to analyze the seriousness and likelihood of any risk posed by the assembler's medical condition.

Osceola Community Hospital will pay $75,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit based on its refusal to hire a volunteer employee at its Bright Beginnings day care center out of an unfounded fear that her cerebral palsy would not allow her to safely care for children in the facility.

Two healthcare providers are being sued for denying accommodation to and terminating an employee because of his disabilities. The operators of Consulate Health Care, a residential nursing home, denied the request of employee Doug Johnson to limit his workload to eight-hour days as a reasonable accommodation for his diabetes and heart condition. The company fired Johnson while he was on approved leave and recovering from a heart attack.

Similarly, Laurie Goodnough suffers from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis that substantially limits her walking and bending, yet, with the aid of a cane, she was able to successfully perform her duties as a home health aide. Nonetheless, the EEOC alleges that her employer, Baywood Home Care, fired her without assessing whether Goodnough's use of a cane interfered with her ability to perform her job, or considering any other reasonable accommodation for her disability.

Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., a staffing service for healthcare professionals, offered a position to an individual that was contingent on his subsequent completion of a health status certification. Although the individual was cleared to work, Maxim refused to hire him based on his HIV-positive status reflected in the health status certification. The EEOC claims that refusing to hire someone because of a fear and bias of his or her HIV status violates the ADA.

Age Discrimination, Sex Discrimination and Retaliation

Medical device and equipment manufacturer PMT Corporation was charged with engaging in a pattern or practice of hiring discrimination in violation of the ADEA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by refusing to hire women and applicants over the age of 40 and by retaliating against its former human resources director who reported the allegations of discrimination.

An administrative investigation revealed that between Jan. 1, 2007 and late 2010, PMT did not employ any female sales representatives, despite hiring at least 70 individuals during that time. Witnesses maintain that PMT's CEO allegedly directed hiring officials to reject female applicants for sales representative positions, commenting that "women in sales is a 100% failure rate," and that women were a "failure at travel," a requirement of the sales position. During the same time period, PMT also allegedly did not hire any applicants over the age of 40. Witnesses confirmed the CEO directed employees to screen out any resumes and applications with college graduation dates that go back more than 10 years. Finally, PMT management is also charged with falsely accusing a human resources employee with felony theft in retaliation for the employee reporting PMT's practices to the EEOC.

Retaliation

Winfield Rubber Manufacturing Co. Inc. will pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit for retaliating against an employee who properly investigated and responded to a complaint of sexual harassment, yet was fired when he objected to the reinstatement of the alleged harasser.

Equal Pay/Retaliation

Harmony Public Schools has resolved claims with both the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) based on alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The charges were brought on behalf of a former teacher at the Harmony Science Academy-Austin who was fired after she complained to the school about its discrimination against women and Americans with respect to compensation. Harmony Public Schools has agreed to pay $125,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages to the teacher and provide other relief outlined in the consent decree.

Sexual Harassment

Ricardo's Restaurant of Erie, Pennsylvania will pay $20,000 to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit stemming from allegations that the restaurant's co-owner made frequent offensive comments of a crude or sexual nature in the presence of female employees and touched female employees in a sexual manner in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

International Services, Inc. (ISI), formerly known as International Profit Associates, Inc. (IPA), issued the final checks to 82 women who the EEOC charged were victims of egregious sexual harassment at the company. The checks will complete payment of the $8 million settlement agreed to by ISI to resolve the charges filed in 2001 and settled in 2010. The average payments per victim are approximately $100,000.

The EEOC has sued multi-state trucking company, Panama Transfer, Inc., for allowing a female dock worker to be sexually harassed by her supervisor and firing her for complaining of the harassment.

The EEOC filed suit against an automotive wheel and accessory chain store for allegedly allowing a sexually hostile work environment in one of its stores and firing the employee in retaliation for reporting it.

Racial Harassment

Olympia Construction, Inc. will pay three former employees a total of $100,000 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by allegedly subjecting the employees to racial slurs and intimidation, then firing them when they complained to the EEOC.

The EEOC obtained a judgment against Titan Waste Services, Inc. ordering it to pay $228,603 to a former truck driver who was subjected to racial discrimination by Titan's highest-level managers during his employment and terminated without cause. According to the lawsuit, Michael Brooks — Titan's only African-American driver— was given less favorable routes than white drivers and was made to perform degrading and unsafe work assignments. Brooks was also subjected to racial slurs, racially derogatory insults, taunting and racial stereotypes, including the use of the "N-word." Shortly before the 2008 presidential election, Titan's facility manager terminated Brooks without cause after discussing the upcoming election with him.

AA Foundries (AA) agreed to drop its appeal of a racial-harassment judgment against it for $140,000. AA had appealed a 2012 jury verdict finding that a top AA plant official not only used the "N- word" himself, but admitted that he allowed derogatory racial slurs to be commonly heard in the workplace. The official also referred to African-American employees as mother-f------g boys," posted racially-tinged written material in the break room and routinely slandered black employees and African-Americans in general. After complaints of racial harassment were filed with the EEOC, a noose was displayed at the AA Foundries workplace and the plant official referred to the complaints as "B.S." and stated that the noose "was no big deal" and that "you people are too sensitive."

LaFontaine Buick Cadillac GMC, Inc. is being sued for allegedly subjecting an African-American detailer to racial slurs, including the "N-word," despite the fact he complained about the use of the slurs.

Race/National Origin Discrimination and Harassment

A federal judge has held that Global Horizons, Inc. is liable for harassing, discriminating and retaliating against hundreds of Thai workers by subjecting them to physical and verbal harassment based on their race and/or national origin in order to secure their compliance and obedience. Global Horizons routinely brought Thai farm workers into the U.S. to work under the H2-A visa program and subjected them to physical abuse, exploitation and barbaric security measures, including slapping, punching, humiliation, heavy surveillance and threats of being shot, deported or arrested. The case will now go to trial to determine the amount of money Global Horizons will be required to pay, as well as the measures that Global will need to implement to prevent future abuses.

Pregnancy Discrimination

Holiday Inn franchisee Jiji, Inc. will pay $20,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit stemming from terminating an employee upon learning of her pregnancy and replacing her with a non-pregnant employee. Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

V&B LLC, a Merry Maids home-cleaning franchise, faces a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit by the EEOC for allegedly firing an employee who suffered from pregnancy-related health issues, even though such health issues did not prevent her from fulfilling her job functions.

Employers can avoid costly investigations, litigation and negative publicity by enforcing policies and implementing a comprehensive compliance program.

Topics:  ADA, ADEA, Age Discrimination, Compliance, Disability, Disability Discrimination, Discrimination, EEOC, Employer Liability Issues, Enforcement Actions, Gender Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation, Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment

Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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