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March 2018 EEOC Verdicts and Settlements

Published by on April 10, 2018

Our summary of recent EEOC verdicts and settlements for March 2018.

California: Former Napa County prosecutor wins $570K verdict in discrimination suit. Jose Rossi worked for the DA’s office from 1993 until 2015. He alleged that he was discriminated against based on his age, disabilities and for openly supporting incumbent district attorney’s opponent in an election. The district attorney was terminated, although the jury did not think the county retaliated against Rossi for political reasons.

Rossi was out on leave for six weeks after surgery related to a cancer diagnosis. Rossi’s doctor approved to let him return to work although, the county refused to let him return to work. He was told by the county’s Human Resources department that his work space was moved to the library due to the earthquake and that the space might not be able to fit his computer, according to his suit. The county allowed him to come to work, only after he had an attorney send a letter to the county requesting that he be able to return to work with all his accommodations at the end of the month. The accommodations were not made, according to the suit and his employment ended up terminating shortly after.

Hawaii: Hawaii nurse awarded nearly $4M for harassment. The nurse was awarded $4 million dollars after an image of a noose was taped to her locker and a racist note was left in her hospital mailbox. The jury found that race was a substantial motivating factor in the harassment and that the conditions created a hostile work environment.

Ellen Harris was the only black nurse at the time in the medical intensive care unit. Co-workers were reporting to management that she was stealing narcotics that were intended for patients. Two other nurses eventually reported the same drug-use suspicions to management. After Harris reported her initial patient-safety concerns to management, the harassment intensified.

New York: Refinery worker wins $13.4 million lawsuit for sexual harassment suit. The refinery worker is a female storeroom attendant with more than 20 years’ experience where she came under supervision of a new male manager in 2008. The Plaintiff, Rosanna Mayo-Coleman alleged that she was being harassed by her manager repeatedly, eventually sending her into psychiatric counseling and treatment.

Coleman’s manager, Tyrone Smith commented on Coleman’s looks regularly and solicited her romantic attention. Coleman alleged that her Smith also spoke to her in a way in front of others and would call her into disciplinary meetings alone, close the door and inappropriately grab her from behind. Smith, also allegedly denied her for a chance for work at a better assignment helping welders in the refinery.

Coleman complained repeatedly to management from 2010 onward, including a letter that said the harassment must stop. Coleman’s attorneys characterized the internal investigation as incomplete. They stated this award to a single-plaintiff is historic as they believe that the current #MeToo movement has empowered the jury to send a message that gender-based hostility in the workplace will no longer be tolerated and juries are sending the message loud and clear.

Michigan: Professional Endodontics, P.C. to pay $47,000 to settle age discrimination suit. The oral surgery practice violated federal law by firing Karen Reurat four days after her 65th birthday. According to the lawsuit, Ruerat had worked for the company for 37 years and was terminated in January 2016, shortly after her birthday due to a company policy requiring employees to retire at the age of 65.

This alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age older from employment discrimination based on age. The consent decree settling the suit, in addition for the award of monetary relief to Ruerat, prohibits any similar discrimination in the future and requires Professional Endodontics to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees.

Arizona: Mine Rite Technologies to pay $75,000 to settle EEOC disability suit. The manufacturing company will pay settlement amount and other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination and harassment lawsuit. Employee, Jason Kaufman, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was harassed by his supervisor because of his condition. The supervisor had called him “psycho” to his co-workers and also made comments about “Psycho Thursday”, because that was the day of the week when the employee attended therapy sessions to treat his PTSD. The harassment became intolerable for Kaufmann and forced him to quit.

“A veteran should never be ridiculed because of PTSD, “This man gave his all for this country, came back suffering, and was brave enough to get help from the Veterans Administration for his condition. Our veterans deserve better than this. Furthermore, mental health is a significant problem in this country, and such mistreatment only makes things worse.” The resolution of this lawsuit should serve a reminder to employers that unlawful harassment because of mental health condition will not be tolerated.

Texas: Off the Air, II, Inc. d/b/a Nick’s Sports Grill will pay $24,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination a suit. The Sports Grill had a mandatory uniform that consisted of a tight, body-hugging shirt and short hot pants. The allegations included that Taylor King, a bartender, starting wearing capri pants instead of the usual hot pants uniform and added a layer of clothes to the usual tight top because of her pregnancy, the general manager told her that the owner would not approve, and forced her off the job.

The allegations violated the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed the suit, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The three-year consent decree settling the suit, prohibits future discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it. Also, in addition to the monetary relief for King, the decree requires the company to disseminate specific parts of its employee handbook to all employees; provide annual training on pregnancy and other forms of discrimination; report all complaints of discrimination to the EEOC for the decree’s term; impose discipline up to termination on any manager who discriminates based on sex or permits such conduct to occur under his or her supervision; and post a notice on employee bulletin boards about the decree, explaining procedures for reporting the same.

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