IXL Learning Sued by EEOC for Retaliation

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Employee Fired for Posting About Discrimination on Glassdoor.com, Federal Agency Charges

SAN FRANCISCO - Educational technology company IXL Learning Inc. violated federal law when it retaliated against an employee for accusing the company of discriminatory practices on Glassdoor.com, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

According to the EEOC's complaint, IXL fired product analyst Adrian Scott Duane within minutes of confronting him about a negative review he had posted on Glassdoor.com, a job recruiting and ratings website. The 32-year-old transgender man, fueled by a belief that IXL was discriminating against him, had written, "If you're not a family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball - then you're likely to find yourself on the outside … Most management do not know what the word 'discrimination' means, nor do they seem to think it matters."

In addition to facing inappropriate questions about his gender identity and orientation from co-workers, Duane felt IXL treated his request to telecommute (due to post-operative recovery after gender confirmation surgery) differently from similar requests by two coworkers (due to situations related to their opposite-sex spouses). Given these experiences, Duane posted on Glassdoor.com in opposition to what he regarded as discrimination, and was fired for doing so.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for opposing discrimination, even when that activity is public. The EEOC filed suit (Civil #17-CV-02979) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation. The EEOC's lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

"Retaliation is the No. 1 basis for charges filed with the EEOC, comprising over 45% filings nation­wide," said William Tamayo, the EEOC's San Francisco District Office director. "Under the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan, it is a priority to defend employees' rights to speak out and challenge practices that they believe to be illegal discrimination."

EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi added, "While the platforms for employees to speak out against discrimination are evolving with technology, the laws against retaliation remain constant. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal discrimination occurred, the EEOC will vigorously defend that worker's right to raise the issue, whether they do so by filing a charge with our agency, notifying company management or posting in a public arena such as Glassdoor.com." 

According to www.ixl.com, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company's K-12 learning program is used by 1 out of every 9 U.S. students and in more than 190 countries.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email 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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