Settled suits recover $320,000 for alleged disability discrimination, racial and sexual harassment, retaliation
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Monday, November 30, 2020

Settled suits recover $320,000 for alleged disability discrimination, racial and sexual harassment, retaliation

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

New lawsuits challenge employers for refusing to hire an applicant with an opioid addiction, firing an employee undergoing cancer testing, and subjecting African-American male employees to same-sex and racial harassment.

The EEOC has separately settled lawsuits raising disability discrimination, racial and sexual harassment, and retaliation claims, recovering $320,000 in monetary relief for affected employees. The federal antidiscrimination agency also filed new lawsuits alleging disability discrimination and same-sex and racial harassment.

Fired after requesting medical leave for disability. KS Aviation, Inc., dba the Sierra Academy of Aeronautics in Atwater, California, and Xing Kong Aviation Service, LLC, have agreed to pay $10,000 and provide other relief to settle allegations that they violated the ADA when they fired an employee who sought medical leave. The EEOC’s lawsuit alleged that an employee of the Sierra Academy asked for a medical leave of absence due to her disability. The company failed to engage in the interactive process required by law when informed of her disability and request, the EEOC said, and instead fired her as retaliation.

In addition to the monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires Sierra Academy to review and revise its policies to achieve ADA compliance, provide regular ADA training to employees, and maintain data on any discrimination or retaliation complaints. A designated HR manager will monitor compliance, implement training, and oversee recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Eastern District of California; the case is No. CV-18-00744-NONE-SKO.

Black employee in interracial relationship harassed. Icon Burger Acquisition, LLC, has agreed to pay $70,000 and implement substantial non-monetary measures to resolve allegations that the international hamburger restaurant chain, operating under the name "Smashburger," violated Title VII when a manager in Long Island, New York, subjected an African-American employee to a racially hostile work environment, frequently referring to him by racial slurs. She also purportedly harassed him for being in an interracial relationship, referring to him by racial slurs when speaking to his fiancée. The employee’s complaints to his district manager about this unlawful conduct were not taken seriously and the manager succeeded in having him involuntarily transferred to a location much farther from his home, according to the EEOC.

The three-year consent decree resolving the case also requires the employer to revise its nationwide antidiscrimination policies; create nationwide procedures for investigating discrimination and retaliation complaints; provide nationwide training for supervisors, management, and HR employees; provide training for all New York employees; and periodically report to the EEOC.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York; the case is No. 20 Civ. 1601.

Supervisor sexually harassed female employees. Franklin, Massachusetts-based Tegra Medical LLC will pay $240,000 and take additional steps to resolve a lawsuit alleging that the medical device manufacturer violated Title VII by permitting a manufacturing supervisor at Tegra’s Franklin facility to sexually harass at least two female employees—one of whom was only 18 years old at the time—by repeatedly making lewd comments to the women and other female employees, and touching one woman inappropriately.

Purportedly, when one female employee complained about supervisor’s conduct to Tegra’s HR department, the company failed to take measures to end the harassment, even though at least three other female employees had previously complained about his inappropriate behavior. Instead, about a week after she complained, Tegra retaliated against her by denying a leave request to care for her son, the EEOC said. When another female employee complained soon after to Tegra’s HR manager about the supervisor’s conduct, the manager falsely denied the existence of prior complaints, and instead of disciplining the supervisor, Tegra knowingly transferred the woman to a position where she was exposed to materials to which she was allergic, the suit alleged.

Under the consent decree resolving the case, Tegra will also provide EEO training to all employees, with additional training for its HR department, which must now employ a Spanish-speaking individual. The HR manager also must obtain a senior HR certification in order to maintain her post. Tegra will in addition establish an independent hotline for employee complaints, revise its policies on discrimination and investigation of complaints, and report complaints of sex discrimination and retaliation to the EEOC.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the District of Massachusetts; the case is No. 1:20-cv-11344.

Refused to hire applicant with opioid addiction. Professional Transportation, Inc. (PTI), a transportation company headquartered in Evansville, Indiana, with operations throughout the United States, violated the ADA by refusing to hire a job applicant because of her opioid addiction disability, according to a new lawsuit. A woman under Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction applied for a driver position at PTI’s Bluefield, West Virginia, branch. After making a conditional offer, PTI told the applicant that she had to pass a pre-employment drug test. In advance of her drug test, the applicant informed PTI that she was receiving Suboxone treatment but that her medication did not affect her driving ability, the EEOC said.

In response, a PTI HR official looked up public information on possible safety-related side effects of Suboxone, and based on the research and without considering whether the applicant actually experienced any side effects from Suboxone, PTI purportedly withdrew its job offer. However, the applicant does not experience side effects from Suboxone and PTI’s decision to reject her based on her prescribed medical treatment was illegal employment discrimination, the EEOC contends.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Southern District of West Virginia; the case is No. 1:20-cv-00745.

Fired to "focus on her health."Another new lawsuit alleges that used car dealers Victory Automotive Group, Inc., and Cappo Management XXIX, Inc., violated the ADA when they fired a title clerk at Harrold Ford, one of their Sacramento dealerships, shortly after learning she was undergoing testing for cancer. The joint employers purportedly terminated the employee because they regarded her as disabled. After missing several days of work due to a sudden illness, the employee informed her supervisor of her hospitalization and testing for cancer, and her plan to return to work a few days later. Soon after, she received a termination letter which stated that her termination was not performance-related and advised her to "focus on her health," according to the EEOC.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Eastern District of California; the case is No. 2:20-cv-02245-MCE-KJN.

Same-sex, racial harassment of Black employees. Engie Services Inc., a Canadian company that provides baggage handling and maintenance services at airports across the country, violated Title VII when its supervisors harassed African-American male employees at its Birmingham International Airport facility, the EEOC claims in a new lawsuit. Supervisors purportedly subjected two African-American male employees to sexual harassment and subjected one to racial harassment. A male supervisor allegedly engaged in unwelcome touching of the employees and sexually assaulted one employee on two occasions. The same supervisor made racially and sexually offensive comments, including joking about the supposed sexual preferences of African-American men and referring to one of them as "boy," the EEOC said. Another supervisor allegedly used a racial slur to refer to African-American employees and commented on the skin color of workers.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Northern District of Alabama; the case is No. 2:20-cv-01767-ACA.

Companies: Professional Transportation, Inc.; Icon Burger Acquisition, LLC; Smashburger; Tegra Medical LLC; KS Aviation, Inc.; Sierra Academy of Aeronautics; Xing Kong Aviation Service; LLC Victory Automotive Group, Inc.; Cappo Management XXIX, Inc.; Engie Services Inc.

News: AgencyNews Discrimination Discharge DisabilityDiscrimination RaceDiscrimination Retaliation SexDiscrimination SexualHarassment GCNNews

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