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November 2014 EEOC Verdicts and Settlements

Published by on January 6, 2015

Our summary of recent EEOC verdicts and settlements for November 2014. AK —- Randall Ford to Pay $128,750 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit.  Company Failed to Accommodate Manager and Then Fired Him Due to Back Surgery, Agency Charged.  Car dealership Randall Ford in Fort Smith, Ark., will pay $128,750 as part of the settlement […]

Our summary of recent EEOC verdicts and settlements for November 2014.

AK —- Randall Ford to Pay $128,750 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit.  Company Failed to Accommodate Manager and Then Fired Him Due to Back Surgery, Agency Charged.  Car dealership Randall Ford in Fort Smith, Ark., will pay $128,750 as part of the settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  The EEOC’s lawsuit challenged Randall Ford’s treatment of a used-car manager when the company refused to accommodate his disability following surgery on his spine. Among other things, the manager had asked permission to make greater use of a cart that he and other employees already used from time to time. Instead of making such accommodations, Randall Ford fired the manager a few days later.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is unlawful to deny a qualified individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation, and it is also unlawful to fire such a person because he needs an accommodation. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC. v. Randall Ford, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:13-CV-02206) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The former employee joined in the EEOC’s suit and was represented by Joe D. Byars of Fort Smith.  In addition to requiring the company to pay $128,750 in damages and back pay to the former manager, the consent decree resolving the case mandates that Randall Ford revise its ADA policy to provide a clear avenue for employees to request a reasonable accommodation. Additionally, Randall Ford will distribute its revised policy to all employees, post notice of this resolution, and provide disability training to all of its employees.  “The EEOC is committed to enforcing the laws against disability discrimination on the job,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of Mississippi. “Ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace is central to the ADA and is a priority for the EEOC.”  The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

IL —- EEOC and Chicago-Area Marshmallow Maker Reach Accord in Disability Suit.  Doumak Agrees to Modify Leave Policies at Manufacturing Facilities.  Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, has agreed to change its leave policies to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.  In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the company had capped the duration of leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities, without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to  individuals with disabilities. This can include making exceptions to leave policies to allow an individual with a disability to successfully return to work and perform his or her job. More information about leave as a reasonable accommodation is available in question-and-answer format on the EEOC’s website.  The EEOC filed suit under the ADA on Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (EEOC v. Doumak, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-7492) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Teamsters Local 703 was also joined as a party to the action for relief purposes, since the leave policies in question were codified in collective bargaining agreements between Doumak and the union.  Doumak and the union agreed to resolve the suit without further litigation, and a consent decree was entered on Nov. 4 by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah. Under the decree, Doumak and the Union will not enforce the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements in any manner that would deny a qualified individual with a disability additional leave when it is needed as a reasonable accommodation. Doumak will also negotiate with the union to amend the relevant provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. The company will pay a total of $85,000 to five individuals who the EEOC said were affected by the prior policies, and it will conduct training about the ADA for current employees.  “Federal law requires employers to be reasonable and flexible in applying their workplace policies to people with disabilities,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “We are pleased that Doumak and the union will be taking steps that will enable more individuals with disabilities to continue to earn a living. Ultimately, that benefits everybody.”  The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.  According to Doumak’s website, the company’s founder, Alex Doumakes, “invented and patented the extrusion process of manufacturing marshmallows,” and the company has been manufacturing a range of marshmallow products in the Chicago area since 1961.  The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

CA —- Seed and Fertilizer Providers to Pay $187,500 for Genetic Information and Disability Discrimination.  Class of Job Applicants Was Subjected to Illegal Medical Exams and Family Medical History Inquiries, EEOC Charged.  Three Southern California seed and fertilizer providers —- All Star Seed, Inc., La Valle Sabbia and Abatti – will pay $187,500 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a class of job applicants who were subjected to illegal medical and genetic information inquiries, the federal agency announced today.  The EEOC contended that the El Centro, Calif.-based agricultural companies (which operated as a single employer) required job applicants to undergo physical exams and fill out health questionnaires as a condition of employment that violates federal laws. The EEOC charged that the questionnaires contained improper inquiries about the applicants’ medical conditions and family medical histories, also known as genetic information.  At least one applicant was denied hire as a result, the EEOC said. In 2010, a temporary worker applied for a full-time permanent dispatcher position in Long Beach, Calif. The applicant was allegedly informed that he would be considered for hire after taking a physical examination and drug test. The individual continued to work as a temporary worker in the dispatcher position pending those results. The medical examination solicited disability-related information and family medical history unrelated to the job. As a result, the applicant was required to disclose a prior medical condition, one shared by others in his family. The applicant was thereafter denied hire due to his perceived disability even though the prior condition had no correlation to the work he was already successfully performing.  At least three additional class members underwent similar inquiries, despite ultimately being hired. The EEOC further alleged that the companies failed to adequately maintain the confidentiality of the medical and genetic information, permitting such information to be unlawfully commingled with non-confidential personnel files.  Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). The EEOC filed suit against the companies in 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California [EEOC v. All Star Seed dba Eight Star Commodities, Green Touch Fertilizer, and Allstar Seed Company; La Valle Sabbia, Inc. dba Eight Star Equipment and Eight Star Logistics; and Abatti dba Abatti Companies; Case No. CV13-07196 JAK (AJWx)] after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The parties entered into a four-year consent decree to resolve the suit, prohibiting the companies from: subjecting job applicants and employees to pre-offer medical examinations; making inquiries into medical conditions that are not job-related; inquiring about genetic information; and failing to maintain the confidentiality of medical information by applicants and employees. The four affected individuals will receive the majority of the monetary relief obtained, and a smaller class fund will be established for unidentified class members at the discretion of the EEOC.  The companies also agreed to ensure that the companies’ policies and procedures are revised to comply with the ADA and GINA, and that the policies are available in both English and Spanish. The companies’ further agreed to provide bi-annual training to all of the companies’ managers, supervisors and leads with respect to the policies, procedures and legal responsibilities and requirements under the ADA and GINA. Managers and supervisors will also be held accountable in their performance evaluations for any failure to comply with anti-discrimination policies.  “The law with respect to genetic information is relatively new, and this is one of the first cases resolved in litigation by the EEOC in this district,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “We commend All Star Seed, La Valle Sabbia and Abatti for making the necessary changes to comply with the federal anti-discrimination laws on both genetic information and disability. Employers need to familiarize themselves on the prohibitions with respect to pre-employment inquiries and maintaining the confidentiality of medical information.”  Marla Stern-Knowlton, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “There are strict guidelines prohibiting inquiries into a job applicant’s medical condition and disability prior to hire. Even after hire, employers should avoid asking questions about an applicant’s medical condition if it is not job-related. With respect to genetic information —- or family medical history —- the law is even more restrictive in that most employers may never ask or acquire genetic information from applicants or employees.”  One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.  The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

MD —- ACM Services to Pay $415,000 to Settle EEOC Class Race, Gender Discrimination and Harassment Suit.  Contractor Shunned Blacks and Women for Jobs, and Harassed and Fired Two Women for Opposing the Discrimination, Federal Agency Charged.  ACM Services, Inc., a Rockville, Md.-based environmental remediation services contractor, will pay $415,000 and provide comprehensive equitable relief to resolve a class race, gender discrimination and harassment lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. The EEOC had charged that ACM Services engaged in a pattern or practice of race and sex discrimination in hiring and also harassed two women based on sex, race and national origin and retaliated against them.  According to the EEOC’s suit, ACM Services exclusively used word-of-mouth recruitment practices for field laborer positions with the intent and effect of failing to recruit black job applicants. The EEOC said that ACM Services also refused to hire black job applicants, or female applicants for field laborer positions. The EEOC also alleged failure to preserve employment applications.  The EEOC charged that ACM Services also subjected two Hispanic female employees to harassment based on sex, national origin, and race and engaged in unlawful retaliation against them because they opposed the harassment and discrimination and that the retaliation resulted in their terminations. The EEOC also alleged that one of the Hispanic female employees was subjected to harassment because of her association with black persons.  Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, sex and national origin. Title VII also forbids employers from retaliating against individuals who oppose discrimination. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (U.S. EEOC v. ACM Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:14-CV-2997-PWG), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  In addition to the $305,000 in monetary relief for a class of persons not hired or recruited because of race or sex and $110,000 in monetary relief to the two Hispanic female employees, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins ACM Services from engaging in any future race, sex, or national origin discrimination or retaliation, and provides substantial non-monetary relief.  Among other things, ACM Services will:  implement numerical goals for hiring qualified black applicants and female applicants, including both permanent and temporary or contingent workers, for field laborer positions; create a job opportunities advertisement program to recruit a diverse pool of qualified applicants for field laborer positions and refrain from using word-of-mouth recruiting as its sole method for seeking job applicants; •conduct extensive self-assessment of hiring and work assignment practices to ensure non-discrimination and compliance with the terms of the consent decree; •pay for advertising of the class claims process; and •submit reports to the EEOC concerning numerical hiring goals and other consent decree compliance issues.  The EEOC will be conducting a claims process over the next 35 months to identify eligible claimants and determine awards.  “It is well-established that diversity is good for business,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “We encourage all employers to take a proactive approach in ensuring that their recruitment practices and workplaces are free of discrimination.”  EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “We are pleased that ACM Services worked with us to resolve this lawsuit quickly and without engaging in protracted litigation. These affirmative measures will benefit all employees and applicants. All employers should consider proactive measures to foster equal employment opportunities for job applicants and workers.”  Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.  The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.  The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.

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