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August 2014 EEOC Verdicts and Settlements

Published by on September 9, 2014

A summary of recent EEOC verdicts and settlements. MN —- Royal Tire, Inc. a commercial and retail tire company based in St. Cloud, Minn, will pay $182,500 to a female human resources director and be subject to a detailed consent decree for violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) and Title VII of the […]

A summary of recent EEOC verdicts and settlements.

MN —- Royal Tire, Inc. a commercial and retail tire company based in St. Cloud, Minn, will pay $182,500 to a female human resources director and be subject to a detailed consent decree for violating the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by paying her lower wages than it paid a male employee who held the very same position and less than the minimum salary for the position under Royal Tire’s own compensation system.  The female executive complained and asked to be compensated fairly, but Royal Tire did not make up the difference.  In addition to substantial monetary relief to the female human resources director, Royal Tire must comply with the three-year consent decree, which contains an injunction prohibiting the company from any future discriminating based on sex, paying men and women different wages for doing equal work, and retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under federal law. Additionally, the consent decree requires Royal Tire to evaluate its pay structure to ensure compliance with the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, and if it discovers employees who are being paid less than required by law, it must immediately raise the wages for those employees. The decree requires training for Royal Tire’s managers and employees under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, and allows the EEOC to monitor Royal Tire’s compliance with the decree. Royal Tire must report to the EEOC any complaints it receives about pay discrimination and provide information on how it handles those complaints

IL —- Turner Machine Company will pay $80,000 and furnish other significant equitable relief to resolve a lawsuit for retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Ken Woodard, a mechanical engineer at Turner Machine Company, voiced concerns about daily mandatory employee meetings, where employees would discuss milestones occurring in their personal lives including their religious affiliations and church activities.  Woodard opposed this practice, and subsequently filed a discrimination charge.  The charge with the EEOC was resolved through an informal mediation process, but Turner Machine later retaliated against Woodard by firing him.  Besides the monetary relief, the four-year consent decree settling the suit, requires that Turner Machine maintain a written policy prohibiting future discrimination in the workplace, including retaliation.  To further ensure the effective implementation of the anti-discrimination policy, Turner Machine will also conduct training on Title VII for its employees.  The decree also requires that Turner Machine post in its facility a notice containing the terms of this settlement.

PA —- MPW Industrial Services Inc., a provider of industrial cleaning, facility management and labor support services, will pay $37,500 to settle an EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit, after terminating a laborer from his position before his first day of work after learning during a fitness-for-duty evaluation that he has an implanted Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit in his lower back for a back impairment.  MPW Industrial Services fired the laborer because a company occupational nurse feared that he would not be able to charge the TENS unit at the worksite to which he might be assigned, even though he explained that he did not need to charge the unit at work or during working hours.  He was not under any medical restrictions and the company never requested any additional medical documentation from the laborer’s doctor or explored providing a reasonable accommodation instead of terminating him.

In addition to the monetary relief to the terminated laborer, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins MPW Industrial Services from engaging in discrimination based on disability and from retaliation. The company will create and distribute to all employees policies prohibiting any future discrimination, harassment and retaliation. These policies shall include a complaint procedure to encourage employees to come forward with complaints of violations of the policies against discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as well as a supervisor accountability requirement. Moreover, MPW Industrial Services will provide training on the ADA to human resources staff, the occupational nurse, and all personnel whose job responsibilities include collecting or reviewing medical information, conducting fitness for duty examinations, acting on requests for a reasonable accommodation or conducting discrimination investigations. The company will also post a remedial notice.

VA —- Lee’s Food Corp., doing business as Food Rite Community Supermarket, will pay $10,500 and provide other relief to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit.  Food Rite refused to hire Deborah Newell for a vacant part-time courtesy van driver position because of her gender.  Newell, who met all the job’s qualifications, was told by the store manager that he would not hire a woman for the courtesy van driver position out of concern that a female driver would be at greater risk of being assaulted on the job than a male driver.  Approximately five days after Newell inquired about the courtesy van driver position, the store hired a male candidate for the position.  Sex discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to monetary damages, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit includes injunctive relief prohibiting the company from discriminating on the basis of sex in the future, and from retaliating against employees who resist unlawful discrimination or complain about it.  The settlement also provides that Lee’s Food Corp. will implement an employment policy prohibiting sex discrimination; conduct training for all employees; post an employee notice about the settlement; provide a copy of its anti-discrimination policy to all employees; and report discrimination complaints to the EEOC.

TN —- Bertolini Corporation, a stackable chair manufacturer based in Chino, Calif., will pay $92,500 to settle a retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC had charged Bertolini Corporation with unlawful retaliation against two employees, a maintenance mechanic and a human resources assistant, by firing them because they complained about unlawful discrimination at the company.

Besides the $92,500 in monetary relief, the one-year consent decree settling the lawsuit enjoins the company from retaliating against any employee; requires it to provide in-person training regarding retaliation to its Tennessee employees and to maintain records of any complaints of retaliation.  The company must also provide a report to the EEOC regarding any such complaints.

CA —- Sal’s Mexican Restaurant in Fresno, California settled a sexual harassment charge with the EEOC for $15,000.  The restaurant allegedly subjected a female hostess to sexual harassment by a male supervisor in 2009, while she was still a teenager.  The supervisor allegedly made unwanted sexual propositions and advances, grabbed her body parts and tried to kiss her.  The hostess further alleged that he required her to give hugs and back rubs as a condition of employment due to her gender.  Her repeated complaints to management about the behavior were not addressed.  The harassment and discrimination allegedly continued until the hostess felt compelled to resign in 2010 and subsequently filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.  The EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the restaurant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the sexual harassment, intimidation, discrimination and constructive discharge to which she was subjected due to her gender.

Without admitting liability, Sal’s Mexican Restaurant entered into a two-year conciliation agreement with the EEOC and the former hostess, thereby avoiding litigation.  Aside from the monetary relief, the restaurant agreed to i) hire a third-party consultant to help create, revise and implement new policies and procedures to address and prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace; ii) provide all employees with live training on their rights and responsibilities with respect to discrimination and harassment in the workplace; and iii) establish a record-keeping system to track and monitor complaints.

MO —- A federal judge ruled that New Prime, Inc., one the nation’s largest trucking companies, doing business as Prime, violated federal law by discriminating against female truck driver applicants when it required that they be trained only by female trainers.  The court found that the trucking company engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination by denying employment opportunities to women through its same-sex trainer policy.

The court ruled that the company’s policy violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it discriminated against women in its policy of assigning female trainees only to female trainers.  Prime had very few female trainers, therefore this practice resulted in female trainees waiting extended periods of time, for a female driver to become available, which resulted in most female drivers being denied employment.  Male applicants were promptly assigned to male trainers.  The EEOC has clearly provided sufficient evidence to justify a potential award of punitive damages and looks forward to getting remedies for all the women who have been discriminated against.

SC —- RockTenn CP, LLC, formerly known as Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation, will pay $20,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Darren Fraley was hired by Smurfit-Stone as a third shift production supervisor in August 2008. In February 2009, Fraley was hospitalized with a severe back condition and informed Smurfit-Stone’s senior human resources clerk that he had been hospitalized, was under a doctor’s care and would require back surgery. Because of his short tenure at the company, Fraley was not eligible for disability leave. However, Fraley was erroneously placed on short term disability, effective February 2009. From February 2009 through July 2009, Fraley kept the HR clerk informed about his prognosis, condition, and return-to-work status.  On July 29, 2009, the HR clerk contacted Fraley and informed him that he had been mistakenly placed on short term disability for which he was ineligible and that he was being terminated effective August 1, 2009.  Fraley objected to the termination and told the HR clerk that he was scheduled to be released to return to work the following week.  On August 3, 2009, Fraley’s doctor released him to return to work without restrictions, effective August 4, 2009. Smurfit-Stone violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to allow Fraley leave as a reasonable accommodation for his disability for the period from around July 29, 2009 until he was released to return to work around August 4, 2009. Rather, the company discharged Fraley because he could not return to work because of his disability.

In addition to monetary damages, the one-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires RockTenn to, among other things, conduct training on the requirements of the ADA and the inter-relationship between the ADA and other types of leave; distribute and maintain its formal, written anti-discrimination policy; and post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at its facility in Latta, S.C. Defendant must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit at the Latta facility.

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