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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Litigation Briefs (Nov. 2017)

November 7, 2017

CON ED TO PAY $800,000 TO SETTLE EEOC DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION SUIT: Utility Giant Refused to Hire Applicants Due to Their Disabilities, Federal Agency Charged

NEW YORK – Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., the utility that provides electrical and gas service to New York City and Westchester County, will pay $800,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, the company’s doctors refused to medically approve quali-fied applicants to begin employment because of their disabilities, even though they could perform the jobs for which they applied. The company also performed medical examinations of applicants without giving them a conditional job offer first. Finally, the company’s doctors imposed improper medical restrictions on some existing employees with disabilities that reduced their earnings, and in one case led to termin¬ation, the EEOC said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination in hiring and terms and conditions of employment based on disability. This includes refusing to hire applicants because of their disabilities when they can perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. Additionally, an employer may not ask applicants disability-related questions and may not conduct medical examinations until after it makes a conditional job offer to the applicant. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., Civil Action No.17-cv-7390), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, the company will pay the job applicants and employees who were discriminated against $800,000 in lost wages and damages. The decree also requires that Con Ed give a written job offer before it conducts any pre-hire medical examination. Under the decree, Con Ed must make an individualized assessment of each applicant’s ability to perform the job and will raise the threshold for its doctors to place disability-related restrictions on applicants and employees.

“The EEOC appreciates Con Ed’s willingness to resolve this case without protracted litigation,” said Jeffrey Burstein, the EEOC’s regional attorney for the New York District Office. “The agency remains committed to enforcing federal law to ensure that people with disabilities do not face discrim-inatory barriers to full and equal participation in the workforce.”

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry said, “Congress passed the ADA to protect Americans with disabilities from adverse employment actions based on fears and myths about their conditions. We applaud Con Ed’s willingness to change its hiring procedures to ensure that disabled applicants are given a fair and equal opportunity to work for them.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

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.

November 15, 2017

SPEC FORMLINERS TO PAY $105,000 TO SETTLE EEOC EQUAL PAY LAWSUIT: Female Sales Representative Was Paid Less Than Her Male Coworker, Federal Agency Charged

LOS ANGELES — Spec Formliners, Inc., a Santa Ana, Calif.-based business, will pay $105,000 and provide other relief to settle an equal pay lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Spec Formliners paid a female sales representative less than a male sales representative in base pay. The EEOC also contended that the company required the female sales representative to sell more to earn the same commission as her male colleague.

Such alleged conduct violates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit on Nov. 17, 2016 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Spec Formliners, Inc., Case No. 8:16-cv-02066-BRO-AJW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As part of the consent decree settling the suit, Spec Formliners will pay $105,000 to the former employee. In addition to the monetary relief, Spec Formliners also agreed to retain external equal emp-loyment opportunity consultants who will assist the company in creating, reviewing and revising its policies and practices to ensure compliance with Title VII and the EPA. The external EEO consul¬tants will also assist the company in conducting fair pay audits, reviewing and revising its recruitment prac-tices, and preparing annual reports for the EEOC on the company’s progress. Spec Formliners further agreed to conduct anti-discrimination training and distribute the revised policies to all employees. The EEOC will monitor Spec Formliners’ progress with the 2.5-year decree.

“We commend Spec Formliners for agreeing to put measures in place that will help remove barriers for female sales representatives and ensure equal pay for equal work,” said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Orange County in its jurisdiction. “Employees will do their best work when they know that their efforts are fairly compensated.”

Rosa Viramontes, director of the agency’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “The changes that will be implemented as part of this settlement will ensure that female sales representatives will receive fair compensation for sales equal to those of their male counterparts. This not only benefits female employees, but also the company as a whole.”

According to the company’s website, www.specformliners.com, Spec Formliners creates and customizes form liner patterns for concrete projects.

Enforcement of equal pay laws and targeting compensation systems and practices is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’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. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

November 14, 2017

STRATAFORCE SETTLES EEOC DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT: Company Required Applicants to Complete an Unlawful Pre-Offer Health Questionnaire, Federal Agency Charged

INDIANAPOLIS – Strataforce, a staffing firm with offices in California, Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, agreed to resolve a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that the company made pre-offer health inquiries of applicants in violation of federal law.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Strataforce asked applicants to complete an application package that included a detailed medical questionnaire before the company offered the applicant a position or placement. The medical questionnaires asked for sensitive health information, and included numerous disability-related questions. Employers are generally prohibited from making pre-offer medical inquiries and refusing to hire qualified individuals with disabilities by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

EEOC filed suit against Strataforce in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division (EEOC v. Workforce Integration Inc d/b/a Strataforce, Case No. 1:17-cv-4104, S.D. Ind.) on Nov. 6, 2017. The parties reached agreement and filed a joint motion to approve a consent judgment on November 7. The motion was approved by the Court and the Consent Judgment was entered on November 13. Under the Consent Judgment, Strataforce will be required to provide notice to applicants of their rights under the ADA and submit annual compliance reports to the Commission during the Judgment’s four-year term.

“Congress recognized that prohibiting pre-offer medical inquiries was necessary to prevent applicants from being subjected to harmful and unfounded stereotypes on the basis of an actual or perceived disability,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird. “As staffing agencies now play a large role in our nation’s workforce, eliminating any discrimination in their screening practices is increasingly important to ensuring that workers with disabilities have equal access to work opportunities. Here, EEOC’s investigation showed Strataforce has hired many individuals with disabilities, and we are pleased that in the future Strataforce will conduct its hiring processes in compliance with the ADA. I commend Strataforce for entering an early resolution of the case.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These barriers can include exclusionary policies and practices, restrictive application processes, and the use of screening tools such as pre-employment tests, background checks and medical questionnaires.

The Indianapolis District Office’s jurisdiction includes Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and parts of Ohio. The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

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