Employee Who Filed Bias Claim Was Refused Severance Pay, Federal Agency Charges
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Cardiac Science Corporation, a company which manufactures and markets diagnostic and therapeutic cardiology products and services, violated federal law by refusing severance pay to employees who file discrimination charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the EEOC charged in a new lawsuit.
According to John Rowe, director of EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, the agency's investigation revealed that on Oct. 19, 2010, Cardiac Science offered severance agreements to Lashell Love and 56 other employees it had decided to lay off. The agreements were identical except for each employee's name and the monetary amount offered to him or her. When Cardiac Science learned that Love had previously filed an EEOC charge against it, the EEOC said, it refused to give her the severance payments and benefits it had promised her.
"The language in the severance agreements appears to have been intended to deter the other 56 employees from filing their own EEOC charges, and that interferes with our ability to identify discrimination and enforce the law," said Rowe.
Cardiac Science's conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the EEOC said. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost severance benefits and compensatory and punitive damages for Love, an order barring future discrimination and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Cardiac Science Corporation (Civil Action No. 13-cv-1079), was filed Sept. 25, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and assigned to U.S. District Magistrate Judge William E Callahan, Jr.
"Federal law guarantees each individual the right to file a charge with the EEOC if he or she believes that job discrimination has occurred," Rowe said. "The EEOC cannot stand by while employers try to deter employees from exercising the rights that Congress has guaranteed them."
EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson added, "The EEOC's position is that no employer can take away a benefit -- whether it's vacation time, overtime pay, or, as here, severance pay -- simply because an employee otherwise entitled to that benefit will not give up his or her federal statutory right to contact the EEOC and file a charge. Employers who insist on using retaliatory threats of withheld benefits to force signatures on such agreements can count on a challenge from us. We're determined to ensure that workers are not deprived of their rights under federal law."
According to its website, Cardiac Science is a subsidiary of Opto Cardiac Care Ltd. headquartered in Bengaluru, India. Based in Waukesha, Wis., Cardiac Science also has operations in California, China, central Europe, Denmark, France and Great Britain. It has direct and indirect sales personnel and distribution in more than 100 countries and an extensive worldwide service network.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The case will be litigated by attorneys in the Milwaukee Area Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.