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October 2018 Verdicts and Settlements

Published by on November 14, 2018

Our summary of recent jury verdicts and settlements for October 2018.

California: San Bernardino jury awarded $3.2 million to former employee terminated by Loma Linda University Medical Center. The former employee claimed he was subjected to religious and disability discrimination by his supervisors, as well as the medical center’s Human Resources Department. The former employee claimed that his supervisors began treating him differently and harassing him when he converted to Islam and after he was injured and placed on modified duty by his physician. The employee’s complaints to Human Resources regarding the harassment were allegedly ignored. The employee was subsequently suspended then terminated for allegedly discussing terrorist activities with co-workers. Perhaps a significant factor in the large verdict was that, at trial, a medical center official testified that the employee’s religion was considered in the termination decision.

Washington: Federal jury awarded $5 million to a former employee terminated by Mercedes-Benz of Seattle for violations of the ADA and Washington State Law Against Discrimination. The former employee had been diagnosed with cancer and underwent laryngectomy surgery in 2014, which required him to speak using a prosthetic voice box. Following surgery and recovery, the employee was cleared by his physicians to return to work.

Just prior to his scheduled return to work as a finance director for the dealership, the employee met with the dealership’s president, who determined that the employee could no longer do his job based on that single meeting. The president had privately explained that the employee’s voice box would be unappealing to customers. The dealership then terminated the employee because he was allegedly unable to perform essential functions of the finance manager position. The plaintiff went on to successfully perform the same position for another dealership.

California: California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) to pay $300,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination class charge. The State agency allegedly failed to comply with the ADA during hiring and medical review processes. CalHR agreed to enter into a conciliation agreement without admitting liability. In addition to monetary relief for the alleged victims, an Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) consultant, a medical consultant, and an EEO officer have been appointed to revise CalHR’s current medical evaluation policies.

Arizona: Phoenix restaurant Altata Seafood to pay $220,000 to resolve severe sexual harassment, age discrimination, and retaliation lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of a group of female employees. Employees claimed violations of Title VII and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), alleging that they had been subjected to severe harassment at least since 2011. The employees further alleged that the restaurant retaliated against women who refused to comply with sexual demands. In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, the restaurant was also ordered to review its employment policies in consultation with an external consultant.

California: Triton Management Services to pay $110,000 to settle disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of an employee who was denied a reasonable accommodation and whose employment subsequently terminated. The management services company denied medical leave to the employee, then terminated her employment in violation of the ADA. In addition to the monetary relief, Triton must review and revise its written policies to achieve compliance with the ADA, provide regular training to all employees regarding the ADA, maintain a log detailing accommodation requests and complaints and conduct regular audits, and oversee recordkeeping and reporting requirements through a designated EEO officer. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the three-year consent decree.

Illinois: Rosebud Restaurants to pay $160,000 to settle sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of two female employees. One of the employees had complained to Rosebud’s management of a co-worker’s unwelcome sexual comments, sexual propositions, unwelcome touching. The EEOC stated that Rosebud did not take adequate steps to address her complaints and that the employee was later terminated for pre-textual reasons after complaining. In addition, the EEOC sought relief for a second employee who was allegedly harassed by another co-worker and identified a third employee who had also been harassed by the same co-worker named by the employee who was terminated after complaining to management. The restaurant had been previously sued for failing to hire African-American applicants because of their race.

In addition to monetary relief, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit prohibits Rosebud from engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation in the future. Further, Rosebud must provide annual training to all its employees regarding sexual harassment during the decree’s two-year term and provide semi-annual reports to the EEOC of any complaints about harassment or retaliation.

Ohio: Sherwood Food Distributors to pay $3.6 million to settle class sex discrimination lawsuit. Sherwood, one of the largest independent food distributors in the U.S., allegedly excluded women from entry-level warehouse jobs in Ohio and Michigan. The EEOC, who filed on behalf of the class, also charged that the company failed to make and preserve records related to the company’s discriminatory hiring practices in violation of Title VII.

In addition to the monetary relief, Sherwood must offer jobs to at least 150 of the women identified during the claims process. The consent decree also requires Sherwood to create and produce to the EEOC electronic data such as applicant flow logs, and to disclose the number of female and male applicants who seek entry-level warehouse positions, the number of females and males hired for such positions, and the company’s progress in meeting hiring goals. The EEOC will monitor Sherwood’s hiring practices and the company’s compliance with the decree for five years.

Missouri: Floyd’s Equipment, Inc. to pay $25,000 to settle a Title VII race discrimination and retaliation suit in Missouri. The EEOC, bringing suit on behalf of an individual, charged that Floyd’s violated federal law by discriminating against an employee because of his race. The employee complained about his supervisor’s repeated use of racial slurs. After complaining, Floyd’s transferred the employee to a less desirable job and ultimately terminated his employment.

Indiana: SMS Group, Inc. has agreed to pay up to $62,000 to resolve an EEOC discrimination finding of disability and genetic information discrimination. The suit alleged that the SMS Group requested and required disclosure of genetic information from applicants in violation of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (“GINA”).

New York: Absolut Care to pay $465,000 to settle pregnancy and disability discrimination suit. The health care company allegedly failed to accommodate pregnant employees and employees with disabilities in violation of Title VII and the ADA. The company allegedly failed to accommodate disabled workers; denied leave as a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities; refused to allow disabled employees to return to work unless they could do so without medical restrictions; and subjected employees to impermissible disability-related inquiries and medical examinations. The EEOC also charged that the company fired employees on the basis of pregnancy and failed to accommodate pregnancy-related medical restrictions.

Texas: Denton County to pay $115,000 to former female county doctor after a federal court entered judgment in favor of the EEOC in a pay discrimination lawsuit. Denton County paid a female doctor less than a male doctor performing the same duties. Upon complaint from the female physician, the County failed to take remedial measures in response to about unequal pay.

Kentucky: MPW Industrial Services to pay $170,000 to settle race discrimination lawsuit in Ohio. The industrial cleaning company allegedly subjected two African-American employees to racial harassment, including hangman’s nooses, racial epithets, racist comments and jokes, and an alleged KKK meeting at the worksite.

New York: Applebee’s franchisee Apple-Metro, Inc. and Hawthorne Apple, LLC to pay $100,000 to settle sex-based harassment and retaliation suit. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the transgender employee was repeatedly harassed and fired after complaining to management on several occasions.

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