Settlements net $587K for 110 workers for alleged Title VII, ADA violations
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Settlements net $587K for 110 workers for alleged Title VII, ADA violations

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Plus, a new suit charges that a medical laundry and linen service violated the ADA when it refused to extend a job offer to an applicant due to his hearing impairment and cerebral palsy.

Recent EEOC settlements have netted $587,055 in monetary relief for 110 employees to resolve allegations of disability, race, national origin, sexual orientation, and pregnancy discrimination, as well as sexual harassment and retaliation. The federal antidiscrimination agency also filed a new lawsuit against a Georgia employer claiming it discriminated against a job applicant due to his disabilities.

Sales consultant harassed. Baccarat, Inc., will pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle allegations that the Manhattan retail store that sells luxury crystal products violated Title VII and the ADA by harassing a sales consultant at based on race, sexual orientation, and disability. The EEOC alleged that the sales consultant was subject to constant and virulent verbal harassment by two coworkers for nearly three years, with the knowledge of the supervisor, to whom the sales consultant complained on several occasions. The harassment victim was purportedly forced to quit to escape the abuse.

The lawsuit initially charged Baccarat with failing to take prompt action to end race and disability harassment following numerous employee complaints to management and HR, but the federal agency amended the complaint to include an allegation of sexual orientation harassment following the Supreme Court’s June 15, 2020, decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.

The two-and-a-half-year consent decree also requires Baccarat to implement an 800 hotline for employee complaints; train employees, including management and HR staff, on the requirements of Title VII and the ADA and their prohibition against workplace harassment; provide specific one-on-one training for the manager who failed to report or stop the harassment; and report to the EEOC any complaints of race, sexual orientation, or disability harassment it receives.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Southern District of New York; the case is No. 1:20-CV-02918.

Thai farm workers. Green Acre Farms, Inc., and Valley Fruit Orchards, LLC, will pay $325,000 to 105 Thai farm workers who were placed at the two farms by farm labor contractor Global Horizons to resolve charges that it violated Title VII by discriminating based on national origin and race. The companies will also provide injunctive relief, according to the EEOC.

A default judgment was previously awarded against Global Horizons, the company that provided farm labor services and supplied H-2A guest workers from Thailand to Green Acre and Valley Fruit. The two farms are the only defendants left in the case. The EEOC’s claims against the farms were initially dismissed on summary judgment, and both farms were awarded their fees and costs of litigation. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the award of fees and costs was overturned, and the case was reversed and remanded back to the district court. On remand, the court again dismissed the EEOC’s claims on summary judgment and granted the farm defendants’ second motion for fees. The EEOC again appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

The case was then resolved. In addition to the monetary award, Green Acre and Valley Fruit will implement injunctive relief including accountability measures over farm labor contractors, training, review of policies and procedures, and reporting. The farms have denied liability at all times during the action.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Eastern District of Washington; the case is No. 11-CV-3045-RMP.

Pregnant employee fired. Multi-South Management Services, LLC, has agreed to pay $42,500 and provide certain equitable relief to settle allegations that the Memphis-based property management company violated Title VII and the ADA when it failed to accommodate and then fired a pregnant employee with medical complications. The employee, who was the community director of a large apartment complex in Montgomery, Alabama, began having medical complications that made her high-risk for preterm labor. In January 2018, the same day Multi-South officially took over management of the complex, it allegedly fired her without warning or explanation. The employee, who had been employed in her position for more than four years with no record of performance problems, was the only employee at the complex not retained by Multi-South. Allegedly, she was abruptly fired shortly after offering Multi-South’s management official a doctor’s note detailing her pregnancy-related limitations.

In addition to the monetary relief, the 30-month consent decree resolving the case prohibits Multi-South from discriminating against any applicant or employee due to sex (pregnancy) or disability in the future. The company must also post a written notice to employees of their EEO rights; provide at least two trainings to all employees; and develop and communicate to all employees company policies designed to ensure a discrimination-free workplace.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Middle District of Alabama; the case is No. 2:19-cv-00740-RAH-WC.

Religious accommodation denied. Chalfont & Associates Group, Inc., will pay $69,555 and furnish other relief to settle charges that the owner of 11 McDonald’s restaurants in the Greater Orlando/Central Florida area violated Title VII when it refused to hire a Jewish applicant as a part-time maintenance worker because he would not shave his beard to comply with McDonald’s "completely clean-shaven" grooming policy due to his religious practices. The EEOC said that the stated purpose of McDonald’s grooming policy was supposedly to convey an "image of wholesomeness" to the public.

The applicant purportedly offered to wear a beard net as a solution but it was rejected. After the applicant reported religious discrimination to the EEOC, McDonald’s allegedly responded by revising its applications to expressly require all applicants to certify that they would comply with the company’s "completely clean-shaven" grooming policy. Such a denial of an accommodation request violates Title VII.

In addition to the monetary relief for the applicant, the two-and-a-half-year consent decree requires McDonald’s to amend its grooming policies; conduct live antidiscrimination training; provide written notice to each employee about their rights under Title VII; report to the EEOC any religious accommodation requests which the company denies; and post notices at all of its restaurants about the lawsuit.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division; the case is No. 6:19-cv-01304-Orl-78GJK.

Sexual harassment including physical contact. Sol Mexican Grill, LLC, and Sol Mexican Grill Two, LLC, which own and operate several restaurants in Washington, D.C., will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to resolve charges that they violated Title VII by subjecting female employees to sexual harassment by a supervisor and retaliated against those who complained. The alleged harassment included unwelcome sexual comments and propositions, as well as unwelcome physical contact. When the employees complained about harassment, Sol Mexican Grill purportedly failed to adequately respond and instead retaliated against the female employees by reducing their work hours or firing them for objecting to and complaining about the harassment, and for participating in the EEOC’s investigation.

In addition to the monetary relief that will be paid to two alleged victims of the harassment, the consent decree resolving the suit requires Sol Mexican Grill to retain an external consultant with expertise in Title VII compliance to investigate any complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation; disseminate a revised sexual harassment policy in English and Spanish; provide training to all employees on preventing and reporting sexual harassment; and provide periodic reports to the EEOC. The supervisor allegedly responsible for the harassment no longer works for Sol Mexican Grill.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the District of Columbia; the case is No. 1:18-cv-2227.

Applicant rejected due to disabilities. The EEOC also filed a new lawsuit against Crothall Healthcare, Inc., alleging that the medical laundry and linen service violated the ADA when it refused to extend a job offer to an applicant at its Rome, Georgia, location because of his disabilities, a hearing impairment and cerebral palsy. When Crothall interviewed the applicant for a laundry services worker position, he came with an American Sign Language interpreter and mobility aids and asked for a stool as an accommodation for his disability. Crothall refused to extend an offer to him and claimed the position had been filled, but it hired more than 80 non-disabled workers for the position shortly after he applied, the EEOC said.

The federal agency is seeking reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages for the applicant, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination.

The EEOC brought its lawsuit in the Northern District of Georgia, Rome Division; the case is No. 4:20-cv-190-HLM-WEJ.

Companies: Baccarat, Inc.; Green Acre Farms, Inc.; Valley Fruit Orchards, LLC; Global Horizons, Inc., Global Horizons Manpower, Inc.; Green Acre Farms, Inc.; Valley Fruit Orchards, LLC; Multi-South Management Services, LLC; Chalfont & Associates Group, Inc.; McDonald’s; Sol Mexican Grill, LLC; Sol Mexican Grill Two, LLC; Crothall Healthcare, Inc.

News: AgencyNews Discrimination Discharge DisabilityDiscrimination NationalOrigin RaceDiscrimination SexDiscrimination PregnancyDiscrimination SexualHarassment GCNNews

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