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April 2018 EEOC Verdicts and Settlements

Published by on May 9, 2018

Our summary of recent employment discrimination verdicts along with EEOC verdicts and settlements for April 2018.

New York: After a three-week trial, a Jury awards $5.1 million for a religious discrimination case against United Health Programs of America, Inc. and Cost Containments Group, Inc. to 10 employees. The company and its parent violated Federal law by coercing 10 employees to engage in religious practices at work. Out of the 10 employees, one opposed the practices and later was fired. This created a hostile work environment for the remaining employees.

The Health Network forced the employees to participate in religious activity created by a relative of one of the CEO’s. The religious activities is a belief system called “Harnessing Happiness” or “Onionhead.” The aunt of the CEO spent time in the company’s offices implementing the religious activities as well as being part of the hiring and firing of the employees.

Michigan: Ford Motor Co. awarded $16.8 million to an ex-employee in a discrimination suit. Former Ford engineer, Faisal G. Khalaf had been discriminated against from the car manufacturer due to his background and accent. The unjust treatment continued for a year and was later retaliated against by terminating Khalaf after coming forward about the issues.

Khalaf filed a complaint with human resources informing them that he was being subjected to discrimination and harassment based on his national origin. His complaint included allegations against whom he reported directly to. Instead of the issues being addressed, Khalaf was placed on a retaliatory performance enhancement plan. Khalaf continued to be belittled by the defendants, and was made clear that “Ford wanted him gone.” Khalaf was forced to take a medical leave because of the stress he had in the workplace. After attempting to return to work following his disability leave, Khalaf was placed on unpaid leave and “no job available” status. Later that year he was officially terminated.

California: California jury reached a verdict in the matter regarding Martinez v. Rite Aid Corporation, awarding plaintiff over $6 million. Maria Martinez began her employment with the drug store in 1983 at the age of 17. Martinez started as an ice cream scooper and promoted to a pharmacy clerk. She later became a licensed pharmacy technician.

In 2004, Martinez suffered an incident at work which caused her to have an emotional reaction and be transported to the hospital. Prior to these events, she never suffered from any anxiety or psychological conditions. After returning to work from her medical leave, she was transferred to four different stores in a 2.5 year period.

Martinez was dealing with false accusations from her supervisor. Her direct supervisor would have her co-workers make false statements about Martinez as a plan to get her fired. Martinez also had an encounter with a District Manager outside of work and made threats to her about her employment.

Martinez loved her job and had been appreciated for her excellent service prior to the mentioned events. Her attorneys stated, “Rather than cherishing a dedicated, hardworking employee, her supervisors chose to discriminate against her due to an isolated medical incident and her age.” “This type of behavior is not morally wrong and unethical, but it is illegal.”

Arizona: Scottsdale Wine Bar to pay $100,000 for sexual harassment and retaliation suit. Two employees who worked at the wine bar (also known as Scottsdale Wine Café, LLC d/b/a/ 5th & Wine) alleged sexual harassment against the company because of the employees’ perceived sexual orientation and for retaliation against one for complaining about it. The wine bar allowed its management and line staff to harass Wyatt Lupton and Jare Bhanick, including name calling, touching, etc. Although the two employees complained to their supervisors, the supervisors did nothing about the conduct and, in some instances participated in the harassment. When Lupton mentioned that he planned on taking legal action against the wine bar, the company fired him.

The district court held a default judgment hearing after 5th &Wine failed to defend itself in court. The judge found that 5th and Wine were liable for sexual harassment and retaliation that led the Claimants to compensatory and punitive damages.

Washington: Stemlit Growers and AG Services to pay $95,000 to settle harassment and retaliation suit. The company is the largest grower of organic tree fruit and based in Wenatchee, Washington. Heidi Corona, was employed as the only female tractor driver for the largest grower of organic tree fruit.

After her second day at the new location, she had faced sexual harassment by her direct supervisor. He had driven her to a remote location where he had made sexually explicit comments and propositioned her for sex. Corona asked him to stop and informed him she was only there to work. After she reported the harassment to upper management, they gave her a choice to continue working under that supervisor or to be transferred to a warehouse for less pay. Although the Warehouse position would be a demotion, she had no choice than to choose this route to avoid further contact with the supervisor.

Alaska: Salvation Army to pay $55,000 to settle disability discrimination lawsuit. The aid organization refused to hire Eric Yanusz as a donation attendant, an entry-level position, at its Wasilla, AK thrift store. The position did not require experience therefore was called for an interview. After a successful first interview, the Salvation Army imposed a highly unusual second interview on Yanusz and ultimately rejected him due to unfounded concerns about his ability to interact in public.

Failing to hire a person based on disability violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was enacted to ensure that employers evaluate candidates based on individual merit rather than general stereotypes about what people with intellectual disabilities can or cannot do. This settlement helps ensure that all workers have a level playing field and can participate in the workforce to their fullest ability, said the EEOC attorney.

Florida: Coral Gables Trust Company to pay $180,000 to settle sexual harassment and retaliation suit. A female executive assistant and marketing officer was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her gender and then retaliated against after she complained. The harassment included verbal and physical harassment at the company’s various locations in South Florida occurred during her business trips.

Maryland: Capstone Logistics LLC to pay $50,000 to settle disability discrimination suit. The manufacturing and distribution company refused to hire a qualified applicant because he is deaf. After the deaf applicant applied for a warehouse position at Capstone’s Maryland warehouse, the site manager emailed him to schedule an interview. When the applicant came for the interview, the site manager canceled it and said they would reschedule so that human resources and an interpreter can be present.

Capstone never rescheduled the interview. The suit states that the site manager could not offer a job that would be safe for the employee. Capstone never asked the applicant about his ability to perform any of the essential functions of a warehouse position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

The district director of EEOC’s Philadelphia office states that “this settlement should remind all employers that any safety assessments must be based on objective, factual evidence regarding the individual’s present ability to do the job, and that employers must also determine whether a reasonable accommodation will eliminate or reduce any such risk”.

Nevada: Candid Litho Printing, LT, doing business as Candid Worldwide will pay $242,799 and provide other relief to settle a sex discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. The printing and graphic arts company have facilities located in Las Vegas, NV and Long Island City, NY.

The female employee worked as a production manager when she received regular and continuous discrimination and sexual harassment from the general manager. When the employee complained about the discrimination and harassment, the company fired her, as well as her son and fiancé without justification.

Kentucky: DDZ, Inc. to pay $625,400 to settle sex discrimination lawsuit. DDZ Inc. doing business as DDZ CA, Inc., formerly known as Zoo Printing, Inc. failed to hire female applicants for the position of boxer/packer at their Louisville facility for three years and create hostile environment for women.

Colorado: Hertz to pay $45,000 to settle disability discrimination lawsuit. The car rental company refused to hire applicant because of his disability. After Hertz located Newton’s resume online, he was called in for an interview. Hertz actively recruited Dan Newton for a potential sales position in Denver. During Newton’s interview, the Hertz manager expressed reservations about Newton’s mobility because he used a cane. Newton was later informed that despite his ten years of car sales experience, Hertz decided to hire two other people. Hertz hired two other applicants without or little car sale experience.

Hertz discriminated Newton regarding his disability by expressing his reservations about using a cane. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects applicants and employees from discrimination, including refusal to hire, because of disability, a records of a disability, or because they are regarded as disabled.

The consent decree resolving the case requires Hertz to not only provide a monetary settlement but, to provide Newton with an apology.

Illinois: Macy’s to pay $75,000 to settle disability discrimination lawsuit. The retailer refused to excuse an Asthmatic employee’s one-day absence and fired her after three weeks rather than excuse the day.

The asthmatic employee needed to seek immediate medical attention for her asthma. Although, Macy’s policy permits absences for disability-related reasons, Macy’s denied the employee’s request to have the absence excused. This is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The employee had been working for Macy’s for nearly eight years when she was fired due to her absence. Macy’s refused to excuse her absence regardless if she had been seen in the hospital emergency room. This event is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires to reasonably accommodate employees disability related absences that enable employees to perform their job.

The employee found herself in a potentially life threatening situation and phoned Macy’s to explain her absence before going to the hospital. The employee had even provided documentation from the hospital showing the diagnosis. Macy’s decided to fire her rather than to accommodate which shows violation of the ADA.

Illinois: KIA to pay $100,000 to settle sexual orientation and disability discrimination lawsuit. According to the lawsuit filed, The Chicago car dealership Evergreen KIA harassed one of their employees for suffering from Crohn’s disease and for being gay. The dealership’s owner subjected the employee to a continuing course of unwelcome and offensive conduct which became so intolerable that the employee was forced to quit.

The consent decree settling the suit, prohibits future discrimination and retaliation in the future and will require an outside monitor to investigate any complaints regarding sex, disability or harassment. The car dealership must post the notices of the settlement, revise its discrimination policies, report complaints periodically and train management regarding their obligations under the law.

California: Tarr & Zenith will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed. The dietary company fired pregnant employee days after they were informed of her pregnancy. Thereafter, the company refused to have another pregnant employee return to work after taking maternity leave.

The two companies, Tarr & Zenith, allege they no longer operate, therefore the consent decree is enforceable against the companies’ owners, officers and/or directors, and that any future business endeavors by these individuals will be subject the decree if created during the duration of the decree.

Florida: The Children’s Home, Inc. will pay $18,000 to settle sex discrimination lawsuit. The nonprofit child care organization also known as the Children’s Home Network, violated federal law when it refused to consider hiring a male employee, for a position in its maternity home program. The Children’s Home provides social services to at-risk children and families in a residential setting including, programs for adolescent mothers and children who have been abused or neglected.

The male employee, Luis Vasquez, voiced his concerns about the company’s refusal to consider him because he is a male, he also was prevented from applying to any other positions within the organization.

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