Grocery chain resolves pregnancy bias claims; new suits allege disability, religious discrimination and sexual harassment
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Monday, September 28, 2020

Grocery chain resolves pregnancy bias claims; new suits allege disability, religious discrimination and sexual harassment

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The new suits were filed against a technical staffing firm, home health care provider, fast-food sandwich shop, medical diagnosis information services provider, and medical cannabis products distributor.

As the EEOC’s fiscal year fast approaches its conclusion at the end of September, the commission has separately announced the settlement of a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit for $30,000 and certain equitable relief, and the filing of five unrelated lawsuits alleging disability and religious discrimination and sexual harassment and retaliation.

Refused to change schedule to accommodate pregnancy. Ralphs Grocery Company will pay $30,000 to settle allegations that the national retail grocery store chain violated Title VII when it subjected a female courtesy clerk to discrimination based on pregnancy while she was employed at a store in the Point Loma area of San Diego. The EEOC said that the store denied the employee’s request for a schedule change as an accommodation for her pregnancy. As a result of the ongoing discrimination, the clerk was purportedly forced to quit.

In addition to the monetary relief, the two-year consent decree requires Ralphs Grocery Company to review and revise its policies and procedures on discrimination and provide training to employees and managers on federal antidiscrimination laws, with an emphasis on pregnancy discrimination and handling employees’ accommodation requests for pregnancy-related medical conditions. The company will also maintain all necessary records to demonstrate its compliance with the settlement.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Southern District of California; the case is No. 3:20-cv-01802-WQH-MDD.

Alternative drug test denied. Swift Technical Services, LLC, dba Airswift, violated the ADA when the Houston-based staffing firm focused on the oil and gas industry refused to accommodate an employee with a disability who worked in a liquid natural gas facility in Gregory, Texas, according to a new lawsuit. A the start of his employment, the building superintendent allegedly told his employer that he had thyroid and prostate cancer in remission and that the prescription medication he was taking could cause false positives for illegal substances on a drug test. He takes prescription medication to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, which was a side effect of his cancer treatment. When he later failed a urinalysis drug test, the employee purportedly requested the reasonable accommodation of a retest using either a blood or hair sample, but Airswift fired him instead.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division; the case is No. 2:20-cv-231.

Telework accommodation granted and then reversed. An unrelated lawsuit charges Gentiva Health Services, Inc., dba Kindred at Home, with violating the ADA by failing to accommodate an employee in the home health services provider’s purchasing department and instead placing her on involuntary unpaid leave because of her disability. Kindred allegedly learned that the employee suffered from Morton’s Neuroma and capsulitis of the metatarsophalangeal joint of both feet. She initially asked to telecommute for three weeks in accordance with her doctor’s recommendation to stay off her feet, as an accommodation for her disability. Allegedly, Kindred originally permitted her to telework for a week but then reversed its decision and unilaterally placed her on unpaid leave without benefits for four months.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division; the case is No. 1:20-CV-3936-MHC-AJB.

Hard-of-hearing job applicant rejected. Ranrae, Inc., a southern Indiana fast-food sandwich shop, allegedly violated the ADA by rejecting a hard-of-hearing applicant because of his hearing and resultant speech impairments. The company, which owns and operates Subway Store #1005 in Bloomington, Indiana, refused to hire the qualified hearing-and speech-impaired applicant for an open sandwich artist position because of his disability, citing "a communication concern" due to the applicant’s "hearing" and "speaking," the EEOC contends. The company’s actions were allegedly intentional and demonstrated a reckless indifference to the applicant’s federally protected rights.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division suit; the case is No.1:20-cv-02450-JRS-DML.

Sabbath accommodation withdrawn after a decade. Quest Diagnostics violated Title VII when it refused to accommodate the religious beliefs of a long-term employee and then fired her, a new lawsuit alleges. A phlebotomist who is a practicing Seventh-day Adventist began working for the medical diagnosis information services provider in 2008. Her religious beliefs prevent her from working on her Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Quest allegedly honored her request for religious accommodation not to work on her Sabbath for the first 10 years of her employment. But in her 11th year, Quest purportedly told her it would no longer accommodate her. The employee she was forced to call "out" on each Saturday shift she was scheduled to work until she was ultimately fired by Quest, the EEOC said.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division; the case is No. 3:20-cv-02939.

General manager sexually harassed workers. Maryland Health Management, LLC, dba Nature’s Medicines, and AMMA Investment Group, LLC, violated Title VII when they subjected employees to sexual harassment, according to the EEOC. The general manager of the Ellicott City, Maryland, facility of Nature’s Medicine, a retail distributor of medical cannabis products and paraphernalia, allegedly subjected at least three patient service providers to a sexually hostile work environment that included unwelcome touching, highly offensive sexual comments to and about staff and customers, and showing an employee a nude picture from his phone.

The general manager purportedly continued the offensive comments and behavior despite employee complaints. He allegedly told an employee that because of his industry connections, he could prevent anyone from getting employment at other area cannabis dispensaries if anyone complained about him. Nature’s Medicines and AMMA did not have a sexual harassment policy during much of the time when the harassment occurred and failed to stop the harassment even when an employee complained, the EEOC contends.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the District of Maryland, Northern Division; the case is No. 1:20-cv-02786-DKC.

Companies: Ralphs Grocery Company; Swift Technical Services, LLC; Airswift; Gentiva Health Services, Inc.; Kindred at Home; Ranrae, Inc.; Quest Diagnostics; Maryland Health Management, LLC; Nature’s Medicines; AMMA Investment Group, LLC

News: AgencyNews Discrimination DisabilityDiscrimination Discharge PregnancyDiscrimination ReligiousDiscrimination Retaliation SexDiscrimination SexualHarassment GCNNews

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