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Archive for September, 2017

Updated OFCCP Complaint Form Available (Sept. 25, 2017)

Monday, September 25th, 2017

OFCCP protects jobseekers and employees of companies doing business with the federal government from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. Discrimination may also occur if a covered employer, under certain circumstances, disciplines, terminates, or takes other adverse employment actions against a jobseeker or employee for asking about, discussing, or sharing information about pay.

OFCCP’s complaint form provides employees with a way to file employment discrimination complaints. OFCCP recently updated the form to allow online completion and automatic submission to an OFCCP regional office. Users may also complete and submit the form using their cell phone or any other handheld device.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission News (Sept. 2017)

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Company Discharged Employee Because She Requested Religious Accommodation, Federal Agency Charged

DETROIT – A Michigan-based franchisee of Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop will pay $22,500 to settle a religious accommodation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor¬tunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Sleneem Enterprises, LLC violated federal law by firing Amanda Corley after she requested a religious accommodation. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in 2015, Corley was hired by Sleneem to work at the Tim Hortons cafe in Romulus, Mich. On Nov. 16 of that year, Corley requested that she be permitted to wear a skirt instead of pants, in accordance with her Pentecostal Apostolic religious beliefs. Corley attempted to present a letter from her pastor, explaining her need to wear a skirt. Rather than allow Corley to wear a skirt, Sleneem fired her, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Tile VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Sleneem Enterprises, LLC, dba Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shop, No. 2:17-cv-12337) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to providing for the award of monetary relief to Corley, prohibits any similar discrimination in the future and requires Sleneem to train its shift supervisors and managers on all forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VII, including the obligation to provide reasonable religious accommodations.

“Under federal law, an employer has an obligation to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice religion with operating its business,” said Miles Uhlar, trial attorney for EEOC’s Detroit Field Office. “When this obligation is not met, the EEOC will step in and protect workers.”

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the agency’s Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

Sports Fashion Chain Refused to Hire or Promote African-Americans and Hispanics Into Management Positions and Harassed Black Employees, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – City Sports, a chain of sports fashion stores with over 20 locations in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, violated federal civil rights laws by failing to hire and promote African-Americans and Hispanics into management positions in favor of hiring Koreans to fill management roles, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. City Sports also subjected three black salespeople to harassment because of their race, the EEOC charged.

Julianne Bowman, the district director of EEOC’s Chicago office, said that the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that while most of City Sports sales staff were African-American or Hispanic, very few managers were. Generally, when the company hired managers, it hired Korean individuals from outside the company, passing over for promotion black or Hispanic salespeople who had worked for the com¬pany for years, not even giving them the chance to apply for a promotion.

Company officials’ explanations for why they favored hiring Koreans for management positions revealed they held negative stereotypes about the suitability of African-Americans and Hispanics for management roles. In addition, the investigation showed that a Korean store manager harassed Dorian Hudson, Curtis Ingram and D’Andre Brown because of their race, by subjecting them to repeated racial slurs.

Race and national origin discrimination and harassment violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed today’s suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Palm USA, Inc. dba City Sports, et al., Civil Action No. 17-cv-6692 was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division and assigned to Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including back pay, instatement or promotion for affected individuals, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct City Sports’ practices going forward.

“Denying employment opportunities based on ugly, negative racial and ethnic stereotypes is illegal and wrong,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Title VII’s guarantee of equal employment opportunity is not fulfilled simply by hiring people of a particular race or ethnicity into entry-level positions. Every qualified employee, regardless of race or national origin, must be given the opportunity to compete for high-level positions. That opportunity was denied here, and we hope this suit will lead to fair consideration of black and Hispanic candidates for management jobs in the future.”

The City Sports locations covered by the suit include 18 stores in Chicago, and stores in Joliet, Bolingbrook, North Riverside and West Chicago.

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment 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.

Gym Subjected Female Employees to Unwanted Touching and Sexual Advances, Fired Employee Who Complained, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – Lincoln Park gym Lakeshore Sport and Fitness violated federal law when it fired an employee in retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The federal agency charged Lakeshore with failing to protect its female restaurant employees at its Lincoln Park location from unwelcome comments and touching by one of its male restaurant employees.

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago who managed the federal agency’s pre-suit administrative investigation, said that the EEOC’s investigation revealed that a male super-visor subjected restaurant employees Shelita Bridges and Shayleaf Alsberry to unwanted touching and sexual advances.

Bridges repeatedly complained about the sexual harassment she had experienced, Bowman said. Rather than responding to Bridges’s complaints by investigating them and possibly disciplining the harasser, Lakeshore instead chose to fire Bridges, Bowman said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation in employment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. LHC Operating LLC d/b/a Lakeshore Sport and Fitness, Civil Action No. 17-cv-6803 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on Sept. 20th after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Sara L. Ellis. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including reinstatement, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Lakeshore’s practices going forward.

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said, “Lakeshore had the opportunity to stop the harassment and chose not to. By looking the other way, Lakeshore put its employees in harm’s way and its company at risk for this lawsuit.”

According to company information, Lakeshore promotes health and fitness services in the Chicago metropolitan area and employs over 500 people.

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment 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.

Vessel Company Discharged Deckhand With ‘Situational Depression’ Because It Perceived Him to be Disabled, Federal Agency Charged

NEW ORLEANS – An oil and gas vessel company doing business in the Larose, La., area violated federal law by firing an employee because it perceived him to be disabled, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Gulf Logistics discharged deckhand Jason Gunderson after seeking assistance from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) because the company perceived him to be disabled due to his “situational depression” even though he was able to perform the essential functions of his job without any restrictions. The suit further alleged the company did not conduct any intensive individualized assessment of Gunderson’s mental impairment, as the law requires, to determine if it affected his ability to perform the essential functions of the position as mandated by the law before discharging him.

Additionally, the EEOC asserts that forcing Gunderson to seek a medical release to return to work because he asked for a referral to the company’s EAP constituted an illegal medical inquiry or exam under the law.

Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-09362) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination and retaliation, as well as back pay, compensatory damages, pecuniary losses and punitive damages for Gunderson.

“It is clearly and plainly unlawful to discharge an employee due to biases about that employee’s ability to perform his or her job because of a medical condition,” said Keith Hill, field director for the New Orleans office.

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for EEOC’s New Orleans and Houston offices, said, “No employee should be subjected to unlawful stereotyped decisions based on his or her medical health and attempts to seek assistance to cope with difficulties in their lives.”

Michelle Butler, senior trial attorney for the New Orleans Field Office, added, “Mr. Gunderson was performing his duties without any restrictions. Gulf Logistics fired him based on an unsubstantiated determination that he was not able to perform his duties. When this happens, the EEOC will step in to defend such people’s rights.”

According to company information, Gulf Logistics operates a fleet of offshore workboats for the Gulf of Mexico oil and gas industry. Its vessels support a multitude of projects for companies engaging in oil and gas exploration and production. Its corporate office is in Larose, La.

Casino Violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by Refusing Time Off for Cancer Surgery, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – Rivers Casino in Des Plaines violated federal law prohibiting disability discrimination by denying an employee’s request for additional leave to get cancer treatment and then firing him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that Rivers Casinos wrongfully denied Donnan Lake’s request for a reasonable accommodation of a few additional weeks of leave to have surgery related to his cancer. Lake suffers from sarcoma and has required chemotherapy and surgery to treat his cancer.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified employees with disabilities, include providing medical leave if does not present an undue burden to the employer.

The EEOC filed yesterday’s suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Midwest Gaming LLC, dba Rivers Casino, Civil Action No. 17-cv-6811 was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division and assigned to Judge Rubin Castillo.

“Employers need to be reminded that a limited request for medical leave can be a reasonable accommodation and employers risk violating the law if they summarily deny such requests,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Mr. Lake was a good employee who just needed a little more time to fight his cancer. It is unfortunate that Rivers ignored its obligations under the ADA and fired him while he was trying to fight his cancer.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment 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.

Office of Disability Employment News Brief (Sept. 2017)

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Announcement Posted for Supervisory Policy Advisor Position at ODEP
A job announcement posted on USA Jobs for a Supervisory Policy Advisor GS-301-15 on the Employer Policy Team at the Office of Disability Employment Policy in Washington, DC. The person selected for this job will be responsible for ensuring that ODEP’s policies and practices address the needs of the business community, and will be charged with networking and building coalitions with the business sector to promote disability employment. There are two announcements – one for federal employees (federal employee status, veterans, and Schedule A eligible applicants) and one for applicants outside the federal government. The announcement is open until October 10.

DOL Joins the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee
The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee reports to Congress and federal agencies on issues related to serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance. The Department of Health and Human Services established the ISMICC on March 15, 2017, in accordance with the 21st Century Cures Act. The ISMICC is composed of senior leaders from 10 federal agencies including HHS, the Departments of Justice, Labor, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and the Social Security Administration along with 14 non-federal public members. The ISMICC reports to the Secretary of HHS or their designee. The Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use chairs the ISMICC, with management and support services provided by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Reports Released Highlighting SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative Online Dialogue Series
The final summary reports for Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Policy Collaborative online dialogue series are now available. These virtual crowdsourcing events, hosted by the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative and ePolicyWorks, sought input and ideas from the public and other stakeholders, including subject matter experts, on SAW/RTW policies and communications. During the three dialogues hosted between March and July, 252 registrants submitted 62 ideas, 406 comments and 431 votes. The ideas and comments gathered will be used to further guide the work of ODEP’s SAW/RTW Policy Working Groups to develop policy recommendations, resources and materials to assist states and stakeholders in improving services to injured or disabled workers.

Workforce Recruitment Program Featured on SSA’s Ticket to Work Blog
In a post on the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work blog, Lauren Karas, ODEP project manager for the Workforce Recruitment Program, explains how college students with disabilities can qualify to participate in the program. The WRP offers these students a potential pathway to internships and permanent jobs with the federal government. In the blog, Karas highlights the success stories of several former WRP interns, including herself.

Workplace Accommodations Prove to be “Low Cost, High Impact”
The Job Accommodation Network released the 2017 update to its annual “Workplace Accommodations: Low Cost, High Impact” study. The research, which has been conducted annually since 2004, indicates that the majority (59 percent) of workplace accommodations cost nothing, while for those that do, the typical small expenditure pays for itself multiple-fold in the form of reduced insurance and training costs and increased productivity and morale.

ODEP Launches WIOA State Plan Matrices Tool
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act State Plan Matrices tool has been launched as part of the Employment First web portal. To create this resource, ODEP analyzed WIOA state plans based on 12 elements with an employment focus. To view the information, visit the Employment First web portal, select any state, and click on the “WIOA Profile” header. On the profile page, you can look at each employment-focused element individually, download a full PDF of the WIOA profile, or download the entire WIOA state plan.

NCWD/Youth Publishes Info Brief on “Designing Professional Development for Youth Workforce Development”
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth published an Info Brief describing strategies and considerations for designing and delivering professional development for youth service professionals at the state and local levels. “Designing Professional Development for Youth Workforce Development” highlights strategies, required resources, and lessons learned from three different professional development initiatives. The brief informs the decisions of organizations, agencies, and funders as they consider how to invest in professional development efforts within the workforce development system and other youth service systems and program contexts.

Office of Disability Employment Policy: Business $ense (Sept. 2017)

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Inclusion Drives Innovation: Countdown to National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Have you checked the calendar? National Disability Employment Awareness Month — is only a few weeks away, and there’s no better time than now to start planning NDEAM festivities centered around this year’s theme: ‘Inclusion Drives Innovation.’

NDEAM is a nationwide campaign celebrated every October, promoting the skills and talents that workers with disabilities bring to our workplaces. This year’s theme reflects the many ways that inclusion produces results in today’s innovation economy. By hiring and welcoming the perspectives of diverse talent pools — including people with disabilities — businesses amplify their ability to gain fresh insights, creative solutions and big ideas.

This year, businesses in all industries can bring the NDEAM theme to life through events, outreach and educational activities, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy offers a wide range of ideas for inspiration. For example, businesses can display NDEAM posters (to be available soon), conduct disability awareness training for employees and express support for NDEAM through their social media activities. The possibilities are endless, and materials to help you get started can be found in ODEP’s NDEAM Resource Toolbox.

In the words of U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, “Hiring employees with diverse abilities strengthens business, increases competition and drives innovation.” This NDEAM, and all year long, employers are encouraged to advance that important message, and capitalize on an inclusive workplace to fuel business success.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) Poster Now Available

The official poster for National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2017 is now available to order for free in print or electronic copy in English and Spanish from the ODEP website! Show how “Inclusion Drives Innovation” by displaying these colorful and dynamic posters in your business, organization, classroom or wherever you would like to share the message of NDEAM.

Observed each October, NDEAM is a national campaign that celebrates individuals with disabilities and their contributions and achievements to America’s workforce. Reflecting the important role that different perspectives play in workforce success, ODEP created this year’s theme with input from a wide variety of its partner organizations, including those representing employers, people with disabilities and their families, and federal, state, and local agencies. ODEP offers a range of resources to help organizations plan NDEAM observances, including not only the official poster in English and Spanish, but also sample articles, a news release, proclamation and social media content These resources can be found on ODEP’s website at www.dol.gov/ndeam.

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division News (Sept. 2017)

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS

Friday, September 8, 2017

A former supervisory correctional officer at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to participating in the beating of a handcuffed and shackled inmate, conspiring to cover up his misconduct by falsifying official records and lying to internal investigators about what happened. Another defendant pled guilty in November 2016 for his role in the beating and cover up. Two co-defendants are scheduled for trial in January of 2018.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice celebrates its 60th anniversary on Saturday, September 9th. On September 9, 1957, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, creating the Civil Rights Division. The 1957 Act was the first civil rights law passed since Reconstruction, and was a first step leading to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act the following year, and numerous other civil rights laws enacted in the years since that are enforced by the Civil Rights Division.

The Justice Department reached a settlement with the owners and manager of three Edmonds, Washington, apartment buildings to resolve a lawsuit filed earlier this year alleging that those landlords refused to rent their apartments to families with children, in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits apartment owners and managers from denying housing to families because they have children. The landlords will pay a total of $95,000 in damages and civil penalties.

The Justice Department reached a settlement with Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, to resolve allegations that the Township violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) when the Township denied zoning approval to allow the Bensalem Masjid to build a mosque on three adjoining parcels of land in the Township. As part of the agreement, the Bensalem Masjid will be permitted to use the three adjoining properties for the purpose of building a mosque.

Two Florida men were sentenced to a total of 54 months of incarceration for assault and cross burning aimed at intimidating an interracial couple living next door. Both men pled guilty to civil rights violations for their roles in attacking and intimidating the couple in Port Richey, Florida. A third co-defendant, also pled guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 37 months imprisonment on March 23, 2016. All three of the co-defendant’s sentences are to be followed by three years of supervised release. A fourth co-conspirator is now deceased.

Two Texas men pleaded guilty to assaulting men because of their sexual orientation. The defendants used a social media platform for gay men, in order to arrange a meeting at the victim’s home. Upon entering, the defendants restrained the victim with tape, physically assaulted the victim, and made derogatory statements about the victim’s sexual orientation. Both men pled guilty to federal hate crime charges.

A Florida man pleaded guilty to hate crime and weapons of mass destruction charges for attempting to attack a Florida synagogue. During the plea proceedings, the defendant admitted, he planned to conduct a firearms or explosives attack on the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Florida. He took steps to prepare for this attack including conducting surveillance of the Jewish Center.

The Justice Department filed a complaint alleging that the City of Glendale, Arizona, violated the employment rights of an Arizona Air National Guard member under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment following absences due to military service obligations, and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations.

The Justice Department reached a settlement with Barrios Street Realty LLC, a company based in Lockport, Louisiana, to resolve claims that it discriminated against U.S. workers in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The company and its agent allegedly failed to consider or improperly rejected U.S. workers who applied for positions as sheet metal roofers or laborers, and then sought to fill the vacancies with foreign workers under the H-2B visa program. The company has paid approximately $108,000 to 12 U.S. workers pursuant to the settlement agreement.

A former Oklahoma jail administrator was sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for his conviction on a charge that he violated an inmate’s civil rights by depriving him of medical care, resulting in the inmate’s death. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge on February 9, 2017.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Louisiana-based companies Technical Marine Maintenance Texas LLC, which provides contract shipyard labor, and Gulf Coast Workforce LLC, a related company, alleging that they violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by discriminating against applicants and employees during the employment eligibility verification process based on the workers’ citizenship status.

The Justice Department filed a complaint against Farmacia Lugo, Inc. (Farmacia Lugo), a business based in Puerto Rico, alleging that the company violated the employment rights of an U.S. Army Reservist under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). According to the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, the Reservist’s military service was a motivating factor in Farmacia Lugo’s decision to terminate her employment.

For more information, go to https://www.justice.gov/opa.

EEOC Weekly News Bulletin (Sept. 17, 2017)

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

EEOC SUES LA LOUISANNE RESTAURANT FOR PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION
Restaurant Engaged in a Practice of Removing Pregnant Female Servers, Federal Agency Charges

LOS ANGELES — LA Louisanne, Inc., a Los Angeles restaurant and jazz night club, violated federal law when it discharged an employee because of her pregnancy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the restaurant cut a pregnant server’s hours after she announced she was pregnant and refused to let her return to work after she gave birth. The EEOC also believes that other employees have been subject to discrimination because of their pregnancies.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. LA Louisanne, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-06690) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the female employee and a class of similarly affected employees, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination at the business.

“Pregnancy discrimination continues to be a persistent problem, even though it has been against federal law for nearly 40 years,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District. “Employers should be cognizant of their obligations under the law to maintain a workplace free of discrimination against employees who are expectant mothers.”

Christopher Green, director of the EEOC’s San Diego local office which investigated the charge, added, “Women should not have to choose between their job or having children. Employers need to be aware that the EEOC takes pregnancy discrimination seriously and the agency will continue to protect the rights of pregnant employees.”

RIVER REGION MEDICAL CENTER TO PAY $100,000 TO SETTLE EEOC DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION SUIT
Vicksburg Health Care Provider Fired 36-Year Employee Over Shoulder Surgery Recovery Issues, Federal Agency Charged

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC, dba River Region Medical Center, which provides inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services in Vicksburg, Miss., and surrounding areas, has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Beatrice Chambers, a former licensed practical nurse employed by River Region, sought and was approved for sick leave from work to have surgery on her shoulder. Shortly before her leave was to expire, Chambers requested, consistent with the advice of her physical therapist and physician, a reasonable accommodation of an extension of her leave, or to return to work on light duty. River Region refused Chambers’ requests, refused to provide any accommodation, and failed to engage in any interactive process to try to reach a solution. According to the EEOC, River Region refused to place Chambers temporarily in an available light-duty position for which she was qualified, and then terminated her after 36 years of employment there.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 5:13-cv-00189-KS-MTP) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Northern Division on Sept. 30, 2013 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. After the district court dismissed the case, the EEOC appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (EEOC v. Vicksburg Healthcare, L.L.C., No. 15-60764 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2016)). The case was settled after the Fifth Circuit reversed summary judgment and returned the case to the district court for trial.

In addition to monetary relief, the one-year consent decree settling the suit requires River Region to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA, review its anti-discrimination policies and modify them if necessary, and enjoins the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of disability. The decree also requires River Region to post notices on its bulletin boards reaffirming to its employees its policy not to discriminate against employees with disabilities, and informing them of their right to contact the EEOC if they feel they have been discriminated or retaliated against.

After one year, the EEOC and River Region will confer with the court to determine whether River Region has complied with the decree’s terms. The court will retain jurisdiction of the case for one year to ensure that River Region complies with the terms.

“Employers should know they violate federal law when they mandate that disabled employees can only return to work without work restrictions,” said Marsha L. Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “Employers also violate the law when they have inflexible policies restricting medical leave to 12 weeks as required by the Family and Medical Leave Act. Employers have a duty beyond the FMLA to provide unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation unless such an accommodation would cause undue hardship to the employer.”

Delner Franklin-Thomas, the EEOC’s Birmingham District director who oversaw the agency’s investigation, said, “We are pleased that this employer is now taking proper steps to assure that reasonable accommodation measures are in place and publicized to its employees.”

The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.

AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT SUED BY EEOC FOR FIRING EMPLOYEE WHO OPPOSED SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Cruise Director Fired for Supporting Coworker’s Harassment Claim, Federal Agency Charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – American Queen Steamboat Company, a cruise company headquartered in Memphis, unlawfully fired an employee after he supported his coworker’s complaint about sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that in December 2014, Cruise Director Carson Turner submitted a written complaint to American Queen supporting the claim of his coworker that this coworker was being sexually harassed by a supervisor. Turner criticized American Queen for failing to stop the harassment. Turner also criticized a high-level company manager for alerting the alleged harasser, a friend of that manager, about the coworker’s complaint. The manager confronted Turner about his complaint and threatened his job. Turner reported this retaliatory conduct to his immediate supervisor, but the super-visor took no remedial action. And in May 2015, American Queen fired Turner, even though his super-visor told him that he had done “nothing wrong.”

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination, including opposing the sexual harassment of a co-worker. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee (EEOC v. American Queen Steamboat Company, Civil Action 17-cv-02669), after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting American Queen from retaliating against employees who engage in protected activity in the future, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Turner. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Liane T. Rice of the EEOC’s New York office, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Raechel Adams.

“An employee who reports the sexual harassment of a coworker is doing the workplace and the employer a big favor,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Such whistleblowers are entitled to the fullest protection of the law, and the EEOC will fight to see they get it.”

Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, added, “This case shows clearly the critical importance of employers training their supervisors to respond appropriately and effectively to discrimination complaints – and certainly never to punish someone for reporting such misconduct.”

HUNTINGTON INGALLS SUED BY EEOC FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
Shipyard Refused to Hire a Hearing-Impaired Pipefitter Because He Used Hearing Aids, Federal Agency Charges

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News-based shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Incorporated violated federal discrimination law when it refused to hire a pipefitter after discovering his hearing impairment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The lawsuit also alleges that the company failed to provide the pipefitter with a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Stanley Dowdle, an experienced pipefitter, received a con-ditional offer of employment to work at Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding facility in July 2013. Employment at the shipyard was contingent upon Dowdle passing a physical examination, including a hearing test. Dowdle wears hearing aids in both ears and according to the complaint, requested to be tested while wearing his hearing aids. Dowdle’s request was denied, and as a result, his job offer was rescinded because he had failed the hearing test.

The EEOC brought the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in employment, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Huntington Ingalls Incorporated, Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-00113-HCM-LRL) was filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, Newport News Division, on Sept. 13, 2017. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct employment practices at the shipyard. The EEOC is also asking that the company hire Dowdle as a pipefitter.

“Employers must remember their obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities – even at the hiring phase – unless doing so would cause an undue hardship,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “In this case, he only wanted to wear his hearing aids, which he already used. Allowing him to use his hearing aids for the purpose they were intended for wouldn’t be an unusual or burdensome request.”

According to publicly available information, with approximately $4 billion in annual revenues and more than 20,000 employees, Newport News Shipbuilding identifies itself as the largest industrial emp¬loyer in Virginia and the largest shipbuilding company in the United States.

EEOC SUES WYNN LAS VEGAS FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
Employee with Ovarian Cancer Denied Leave and Fired, Federal Agency Charged

LAS VEGAS — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against the Wynn Las Vegas hotel/casino for violating federal law when it denied medical leave to and fired an employee because of her disability, the agency announced today.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, in early 2013, after informing her manager that her ovarian cancer had returned, an employee requested leave to undergo surgery and to recover from the procedure. The EEOC contends that the Wynn Las Vegas failed to provide the employee with the requested leave for her medical treatment and discharged her due to her disability. The EEOC also contends that the Wynn Las Vegas discriminated against a class of similarly aggrieved employees based on their disabilities.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of Nevada (EEOC v. Wynn Las Vegas, Case No.2:17-cv-02405) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief to prevent and address any future disability discrimination.

“Disability discrimination continues to be a perpetual problem, and employers should be cognizant of their responsibilities under federal law,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Las Vegas in its jurisdiction.

Wendy Martin, director of EEOC’s Las Vegas local office, added, “Engaging in the interactive process assists employers in providing reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that all supervisors and managers are properly trained on the laws against disability discrimination.”

According to its website, www.wynnlasvegas.com, the company owns and operates an integrated luxury resort, which includes casinos, a golf course, spas, hotels, entertainment venues, along with restaurants and shops on the Las Vegas strip.

GNT FOODS SUED BY EEOC FOR RACIAL HARASSMENT AND RETALIATION
African-American Employees Subjected Daily to Racial Epithets and Fired for Complaining and Taking Part in EEOC Investigation, Federal Agency Charged

ATLANTA – G.N.T, Inc., doing business as GNT Foods, a grocery store located in East Point, Ga., violated federal law when it subjected three African-American employees to a racially hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The EEOC also charged that GNT fired the employees after they opposed the harassment and filed race discrimination and retaliation charges against the store’s owner.

Corey Bussey, Justin Jones and Christopher Evans worked in GNT Foods’ meat department. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, throughout their employment, Bussey, Jones and Evans endured the store owner’s daily use of the words “n—-r,” “monkey” and other racial epithets. The owner also prominently displayed racially offensive posters with monkeys displayed on them in the meat department intended to humiliate the black employees. Despite numerous complaints by all three employees, the harassing behavior did not cease. In July, September and December 2015, respectively, Bussey, Evans, and Jones filed discrimination charges with the EEOC. The store owner sought to persuade each of them to withdraw their EEOC charges. However, when each refused, they were fired by GNT Foods in retaliation for their complaints to the EEOC.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. G.N.T., Inc., dba GNT Foods, Civil Action No. 1:17-CV-3545-MHC-LTW) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Bussey, Jones, and Evans, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Employers have a duty to protect their workforce from racially offensive conduct and to take immediate corrective action when necessary,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “When a company’s owner is the one disregarding federal anti-discrimination laws in such a manner, the EEOC’s involvement is indispensable to ensure that employee rights are upheld.”

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “Unfortunately, too many employees are discouraged from asserting their rights due to official misconduct such as this. Employers must be cognizant that the EEOC will vigorously prosecute these types of cases to protect our community’s workforce.”

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

United States Census Bureau Releases New Language Tables (Sept. 2017)

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The U.S. Census Bureau is releasing a new language code table with the release of the 2016 American Community Survey estimates in September 2017. Languages are currently grouped in the American FactFinder tool in Table B16001 that tabulates languages based on the top 39 language categories. The languages of Haitian, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu and Tamil are being added into the table where they previously fell under the “French Creole,” “Other Indic languages” and “Other Asian languages” categories. Data on these languages will soon be accessible through American FactFinder and the Census Bureau’s application programming interface. The estimates of Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu and Tamil speakers are currently available in the American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample for the nation, states and many counties and metropolitan areas.

JL SCHWIETERS CONSTRUCTION TO PAY $125,000 TO SETTLE EEOC RACE HARASSMENT LAWSUIT (Sept. 2017)

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Company Subjected Black Employees to Noose, Threats and Racial Slurs, Federal Agency Charged

MINNEAPOLIS – A Hugo, Minn., construction company will pay $125,000 to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that JL Schwieters Construction, Inc. violated federal law when it subjected two black employees to a hostile work environment, including physical threats, based on their race.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Willie Staple and Dion Pye worked for JL Schwieters Construction, Inc. from September 2012 to December 2013 as carpenters. Staple and Pye were both subjected to racial harassment during their employment by a white supervisor, which included racially derogatory comments including calling them “n—-r.” The supervisor also made a noose out of electrical wire and threatened to hang Staple and Pye, the EEOC charged.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination and harassment based on race. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. JL Schwieters Construction, Inc.; Civil Action No. 16-cv-03823 WMW/FLN) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright signed the Order entering the Consent Decree on September 6, 2017. The decree provides $125,000 in monetary relief to Staple and Pye. It also requires Schwieters to revise its policies in its employee handbook to outline a complaint procedure for complaining of racial harassment. The decree also requires the company to train its management personnel on Title VII including its prohibitions against race discrimination and racial harassment.

Further, the decree requires Schwieters to train its non-management employees on their rights under Title VII, including their right to file discrimination charges with the EEOC. Finally, the company must report complaints of race discrimination and racial harassment to the EEOC during the decree’s two-year term.

“Employees have a right to work in an environment free of racial harassment, particularly the kind of severe and outrageous abuse the EEOC uncovered in its investigation of this case,” said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District.

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District, said, “Nooses and threats are absolutely unacceptable in 21st-century America. When such terrible treatment is meted out to workers simply because of their race, the EEOC will fulfill its mandate and take action to stop it.”

The EEOC was represented in the case by Trial Attorney Tina Burnside in the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office.

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

EEOC SUES GOLDEN CORRAL FOR DISABILITY, SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND DISCHARGE (Sept. 2017)

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Restaurant Violated Federal Law by Permitting a Hostile Work Environment and Forcing an Autistic Employee to Quit to Escape Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jax, LLC, which operates a Golden Corral restaurant in Matthews, N.C., discriminated against an employee with a disability when it subjected him to a hostile work environment based on both his disability and his sex (male), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The lawsuit also alleges that the employee resigned because of the harassment.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Sean Fernandez worked as a dishwasher at the Matthews Golden Corral. Fernandez has high-functioning autism, which limits his ability to communicate and interact with others. From around March or April 2014 until January 2016, a male assistant manager created a hostile work environment by repeatedly referring to Fernandez as a “retard,” calling him “stupid,” using profanity, requesting oral sex, threatening to sexually assault him, and subjecting him to un¬wanted physical contact. Fernandez filed a complaint and requested to be moved to a different shift, so that he would not have to work with the male assistant manager. Fernandez resigned due to the harassment after he was again assigned to work with the same male assistant manager who again sexually harassed him.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division (EEOC v. Jax, LLC d/b/a Golden Corral, Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-00535-RJC-DCK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

“All employees, men and women alike, are entitled to a workplace free from sexual harassment,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Likewise, all employees have the right to work without being harassed due to their disabilities. It is particularly alarming when harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor.”

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

EEOC SUES BLOOD BANK OF HAWAII FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION (Sept. 2017)

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Employees With Disabilities Fired for Needing Additional Leave, Federal Agency Charges

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Blood Bank of Hawaii violated federal law when it refused to provide reasonable accommodations for and then fired employees who required additional leave time for their disabilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC contends that Blood Bank of Hawaii maintained a rigid maximum leave policy whereby employees with disabilities were not granted a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation beyond the required 12 weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and were required to return to work without limitations at the end of that leave. The EEOC further contends that as a result of its leave policy and requirement to return to work without limitations, Blood Bank of Hawaii terminated employees who exhausted leave or failed to return to work without restrictions.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Blood Bank of Hawaii, Case No. 1:17-cv-00444) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay and benefits, along with compensatory and punitive damages for the employee and a class of aggrieved individuals, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.

“Employers have a duty to engage in the interactive process and provide reasonable accom-modations to employees with disabilities,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “Employees should never be terminated or forced to resign simply because they need additional leave for their disabilities.”

Glory Gervacio Saure, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “We hope this case sends a clear message to employers that they have different obligations under the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employees cannot be denied their protections under the ADA.”

Addressing disability discrimination in the form of inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.