Disability bias, sexual harassment, retaliation settlements net $819K; new suits raise similar allegations
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Disability bias, sexual harassment, retaliation settlements net $819K; new suits raise similar allegations

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Employers in the industrial device manufacturing, insurance company, commercial and industrial janitorial services, restaurant, and aviation maintenance support industries settled or were named in new EEOC lawsuits.

Since mid-April, the EEOC has announced the settlement of several lawsuits against employers challenging practices that allegedly resulted in disability discrimination, sexual harassment, or retaliation, netting $819,000 in monetary awards for affected employees. The federal antidiscrimination agency has also filed new lawsuits raising similar allegations.

Settlements

Perceived disability prompted discharge. Worldwide industrial device manufacturer IDEC Corporation has agreed to pay $275,000 and furnish other relief to settle allegations that it violated the ADA when it terminated an employee at its East Dundee, Illinois, location because it perceived the employee to have disabling impairments, including sleep apnea and a heart condition.

Under the two-and-a-half-year consent decree settling the suit, the monetary relief will go the former employee's estate and attorney. IDEC will also train its East Dundee employees on the ADA's protections and report to the EEOC all future complaints of disability discrimination as well as requests by employees for workplace accommodation of disabilities that IDEC denies.

The EEOC filed suit in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago; the case is No. 18-cv-4168.

Accommodation followed by adverse action. American Security Insurance Company will pay $49,000, among other relief, to settle the EEOC’s claim that the insurance company and subsidiary of Assurant, Inc., violated the ADA after granting a senior processing clerk with 23 years’ tenure permission to work from home as an accommodation to her complications with Type 2 diabetes. Allegedly, despite granting her accommodation request, her supervisor constantly chastised her for teleworking, criticized her performance without basis, and ultimately fired her.

The 18-month consent decree settling the lawsuit also requires American Security Insurance to distribute its antidiscrimination policy to all employees, provide equal employment opportunity training to key management and supervisory officials, and report to the EEOC on its compliance with the consent decree, including how it will handle future discrimination complaints in its Duluth, Georgia, facility.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division; the case is No. 1:19-CV-3411-AT-JKL.

Sexual harassment and retaliation. Greenville, South Carolina-based HM Solutions, Inc., has agreed to pay $315,000, in addition to other relief, to resolve allegations that the company, which provides commercial and industrial janitorial services, violated Title VII when it subjected four female employees to a sexually hostile work environment and fired the women in retaliation for objecting to the harassment. The women were assigned to a client's battery recycling facility in Florence, South Carolina, where they performed general housekeeping tasks and cleaned up lead and mercury contamination. They were purportedly subjected to sexual harassment by an HM Solutions account manager and a shift supervisor, both male. Some of the sexually harassing behavior was allegedly observed by other supervisors, who took no action to stop the sexual harassment.

The four female employees repeatedly complained about the ongoing sexual harassment, but the abuse continued, the EEOC said. The four women were ultimately fired by HM Solutions purportedly for not acquiescing to the sexual harassment or in retaliation for complaining about it.

The two-year consent decree settling the suit also requires HM Solutions to develop an auditing process to assist the corporation with identifying and addressing actual or potential incidents of sexual harassment and retaliation; provide annual training to all employees on Title VII, sexual harassment, and retaliation; revise its anti-harassment policy; and provide periodic reports to the EEOC on all employee complaints about sex-based conduct or comments.

Retaliatory harassment and constructive discharge. Giant fast-food chain Whataburger Restaurants LLC will pay $180,000 and provide other relief to resolve the EEOC’s contention that it violated Title VII when a general manager of a Tallahassee, Florida, location repeatedly instructed her hiring manager to hire white, and not black, applicants for employment. When the manager complained, she was allegedly told that upper management wanted the teams to "reflect the customer base where we do business." The manager was then subjected to physical and verbal abuse, threats, a schedule change, and additional work assignments, which ultimately forced her to resign, according to the EEOC.

The three-year consent decree resolving the suit also requires Whataburger to adopt new human resources policies, conduct live and computer-based training, maintain an anonymous hotline for complaints, post a notice at its worksite about the lawsuit, and report any new complaints of retaliation to EEOC.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division; the case is No. 4:17-cv-00428-WS-MAF.

New lawsuits

Forced discontinuance of prescribed medication. The EEOC contends that Army Sustainment, LLC, violated the ADA by requiring employees to discontinue taking medications prescribed by their physicians to treat their disabilities as a condition of maintaining their employment. From 2003 to 2018, Army Sustainment was a government contractor providing aviation maintenance support to the U.S. Aviation Center and U.S. Air Force at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Beginning in 2016, Army Sustainment allegedly prohibited all use of certain prescription medications during both work and non-work hours, including certain pain control medications, without regard to whether the medication interfered with an employee's ability to work safely. Some employees switched to less effective medications to keep their jobs, while others left their jobs rather than comply, according to the Commission.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Middle District of Alabama; the case is No. 1:20-cv-00234-SRW.

"Many of these employees had been taking their medication for several years without incident prior to Army Sustainment's implementation of its policy banning use of certain prescription drugs," said EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker. "Under the ADA, an individualized assessment of an employee's ability to perform his job duties safely is required before prohibiting employees from taking medications prescribed to treat and manage their disabilities."

Sexual harassment and retaliation. WRIG Management, LLC, a restaurant management company operating Locos Grill & Pub, The Derby, Tavern House, and Central City Tavern brands in Georgia, violated Title VII law by subjecting a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment and discharging her in retaliation for her complaints about it, the EEOC alleges. A male line cook at the Locos Grill & Pub in Sugar Hill, Georgia, purportedly made sexual advances toward a female line cook, as well as obscene physical displays and indecent propositions to her. The female cook reported the sexual harassment to the company, but after receiving her complaints, Locos Grill & Pub never again scheduled her for work, the federal agency said.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia; the case is No. 1:20-cv-1707-LMM-CCB.

Companies: IDEC Corporation; American Security Insurance Company; Assurant, Inc.; HM Solutions, Inc.; Whataburger Restaurants LLC; Army Sustainment, LLC; L-3 Army Sustainment, LLC; Army Fleet Support, LLC; WRIG Management, LLC; Locos Grill & Pub; The Derby; Tavern House; Central City Tavern.

News: AgencyNews Discharge Discrimination DisabilityDiscrimination GovernmentContracts SexDiscrimination SexualHarassment Retaliation GCNNews

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