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 complained about discrimination, 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 January 2014:
The EEOC settled separate disability lawsuits against two nursing and rehabilitation centers, both of which refused to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Britthaven, Inc. and its successor, Principle Long Term Care, Inc., in North Carolina will pay $50,000 to a former employee after it elected to terminate her employment instead of granting her request for medical leave to receive necessary breast-cancer treatment. Additionally, Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New York has agreed to pay $25,000 to a former employee for terminating her employment after she had requested medical leave related to a back injury.
The EEOC also charged Genesis HealthCare, LLC with disability discrimination for retracting an offer of employment to a deaf applicant because of his disability.
ADA/GINA Violations and Pregnancy Discrimination
Founders Pavilion, a former nursing and rehabilitation center in Corning, NY, has agreed to a $370,000 settlement stemming from alleged violations of both the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The EEOC charged Founders with violating the ADA after it fired two employees because of their perceived disability and refused to hire three women who were pregnant. It also charged the company with violating the GINA by requesting family medical history as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants.
Retailer J.C. Penney Corporation will pay $40,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit after denying employment to a female job applicant after learning she was pregnant.
Worldwide labor contractor MMR Constructors, Inc. has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a racial harassment lawsuit for refusing to take appropriate action when white employees subjected a black employee to racially offensive language, graffiti and death threats.
The EEOC charged Benhar Office Interiors LLC (Benhar) with sex-based discrimination in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, when it refused to hire an applicant after finding out she was pregnant.
Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $87,500 to settle a suit alleging it unlawfully retaliated against an employee who had filed a sex-discrimination charge against the company by refusing to hire the complainant's adult son and daughter for entry-level positions. According to the Supreme Court's decision in Thompson v. North American Stainless — in which the Court held that employers cannot take adverse actions against employees, their relatives or others close to them because the applicant or employee complained of unlawful conduct — such retaliation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
Medical provider UnityPoint Health Trinity (Trinity) has also agreed to settle a case involving retaliation in response to complaints of sexual harassment. The $65,000 settlement with a group of current and former employees involved charges that Trinity subjected a class of female employees to sexual harassment and that the hospital system unlawfully fired one of the alleged victims who complained of the harassment to management.
Gender-Based Wage Discrimination
Finally, the EEOC filed a lawsuit for gender-based wage discrimination against NFI Road Rail LLC and NFI Industries, Inc. (NFI), a New Jersey-based business that provides logistics, transportation and warehouse services to manufacturers and retailers. NFI allegedly paid a female director less than the salaries paid to two males for doing the same job in violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Employers can avoid costly investigations, litigation and negative publicity by training employees on the law.