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EEOC Settlements

2017-02-07

The following is a summary of some of the recent EEOC settlements and lawsuits.

2/3/17 – EEOC sues HP Pelzer Inc., an automotive components manufacturer, for retaliation by firing a female employee because she complained of sexual harassment.  A female employee alleged that a human resources manager made unwelcome comments that the employees felt constituted sex harassment.  The female reported the comments to the plant manager but the investigation was delayed until it was reported to a higher official in the company who ordered the plant manager to conduct an investigation.  After completing the investigation, the plant manager informed the female employee that the company could not substantiate her complaint. The company then fired the employee, supposedly for violating its harassment policy. Specifically, the company claimed the employee "purposefully falsified a claim of harassment" in violation of company policy.

2/3/17 – Rooms to Go (RTG Furniture Corp.) will pay $55k to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by EEOC for firing a female employee because she was pregnant.  The complainant was hired to work as a shop apprentice using various chemicals to repair furniture. When she informed management that she was pregnant, the regional shop manager showed her a can of lacquer thinner that contained a warning that the contents could potentially pose a risk to a woman or her unborn child.  She was then told that because she was pregnant, she could no longer work at the facility.  RTG entered into a 3-year consent decree requiring it to develop and implement a policy that prohibits pregnancy-based discrimination and to conduct annual all employee training at certain facilities.

2/3/17 – Pioneer Health Services is sued by EEOC for disability discrimination and retaliation.  It is alleged that the company discriminated against a social worker/therapist because of her disability when it refused to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, fired her and then retaliated against her by refusing to re-hire hire after she complained. 

1/27/17 – Hospman LLC, a hotel management company, will pay $35k to settle a race discrimination lawsuit after firing several black employees after taking over management responsibility of a Ft. Meyers hotel.  EEOC charged that Hospman's former CEO ordered the housekeeping supervisor to terminate all of the housekeepers - all but one of whom were black - because he did not work with "those kind of people." The CEO also asked Jones about her race and, upon learning that she was black, fired her as well. Risha Stewart, the only black front desk attendant, was also terminated, while other non-black front desk workers were allowed to continue their employment.

1/26/17 – Papa John’s Pizza will pay $125k to settle an EEOC suit alleging disability discrimination by terminating an employee with Down syndrome. The employee had been successfully working for more than five months with a job coach when he was observed by an operating partner who ordered local management to fire him.  Under the consent decree, in addition to the financial settlement Papa John will review its EEO policies, conduct training and establish a new recruitment program for individuals with disabilities in Utah.

1/10/17 – Gonnella Baking Co. to pay $30k to settle an EEOC lawsuit alleging race harassment by failing to respond adequately to black employee’s complaints that he endured a pervasive pattern of disparaging racial comments made by his co-workers.  Examples of the harassing conduct included persistent references to black employees as "you people," as well as offensive statements such as, "Black people are lazy," and "I better watch my wallet around you."  EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The judge entered a consent decree resolving the lawsuit on January 9, 2017. In addition to the $30,000 relief to the one employee, Gonnella must also provide training to its employees on civility in the workplace and must institute a policy holding managers and supervisors responsible for preventing and stopping harassment in the workplace.

1/9/17 – Diallo’s of Houston, a nightclub and party venue, will pay $139,366 to an employee it forced to provide medical documentation to prove she was not HIV-positive, and then fired her when she failed to do so. EEOC claimed that Diallo’s owner/manager approached the employee and informed her that she had “heard” from an unidentified third party that Parks was HIV-positive.  The owner/manager twice demanded that the employee provide documentation based only on the assumption that the employee’s HIV status was hazardous to the company’s business.  This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

After attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, EEOC filed its lawsuit.  On December 29, 2016, the judge entered default judgment against Diallo's and granted EEOC judgment following its presentation of evidence in court, and obtained an award for the affected employee of $139,366. The court awarded all the relief sought by EEOC, including $89,366 in back pay and other pecuniary losses to Parks, plus compensatory damages for her mental pain and suffering and punitive damages totaling an additional $50,000. The court also granted EEOC's requested injunctive relief prohibiting Diallo's from engaging in future disability discrimination, and ordered that the nightclub institute policies, practices and programs to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified persons with disabilities. The court also awarded EEOC its court costs.

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.