The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. The following are recent cases brought about by the EEOC.
MERCHANT STATE BANK TO PAY $50,000 FOR DISABILITY BIAS
Custodian Fired Due to Chemotherapy, EEOC Charges in ADA Lawsuit
The EEOC today announced that Federal District Chief Judge Karen Schreier has signed a consent decree for $50,000 and remedial relief resolving the federal agency’s litigation against Freeman, South Dakota-based Merchant State Bank under the ADA.
According to the EEOC, Merchant prevented a former custodian from returning to work while he was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer. The employee was allegedly told that he should stay home in order to recover and that he need not worry about his job security. When the employee attempted to return to work at the completion of his therapy, however, he was told that he had been replaced.
Under the terms of the EEOC consent decree, entered on December 23, 2009, in addition to providing monetary relief for the former employee, Merchant is required to ensure that its managers and employees are trained on the requirements of the ADA. Additionally, Merchant will report regularly to the EEOC regarding the circumstances of any termination of employees.
“One of the things that we heard from the bank in this case was that the employee had been asked to stay home out of a sincere concern for his well being,” said Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which has jurisdiction for South Dakota. “Even if we accept that to be true, employers need to understand that good intentions are no substitute for an understanding of, and adherence to, the law. The EEOC’s position is that telling an employee who can work to stay home and get better can violate the ADA.”
EEOC Trial Attorney Ethan Cohen noted that the EEOC has been focused in recent years on large class and systemic cases of discrimination. “It’s true that the EEOC has been focusing on larger cases, and that often means litigating against employers located in metropolitan areas,” Cohen said. “This case should remind employers that they should not assume that they will receive a pass from the EEOC simply because they are smaller, are situated in a rural area, or are facing an individual claim of discrimination.”
The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
DISABILITY SERVICES PROVIDER, CHESCO SERVICES, TO PAY $80,000 TO SETTLE EEOC AGE DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT
73-Year-Old Denied Position Because of Age, Federal Agency Charges
The EEOC announced today that a disability services provider will pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit. The EEOC had charged that CHESCO Services, formerly known as Chesterfield County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs, unlawfully refused to hire a 73-year-old man for a position because of his age.
CHESCO Services, of Columbia, SC, a non-profit organization that is approved by the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) to provide services to DDSN consumers, provides services to people in Chesterfield, Marlboro, Kershaw, Richland, and Darlington counties.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, when CHESCO Services assumed operation of a residential care facility where Larry O. Knight was employed in early 2007, it consolidated Knight’s position with that of a position held by a 43-year-old co-worker. The EEOC said that, although Knight was well qualified for the newly formed position, CHESCO Services rejected him in favor of the less qualified 43-year old co-worker. Knight was age 73 at the time.
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
In addition to monetary damages of $80,000 for Knight, the 30-month consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief enjoining the company from engaging in further age discrimination or retaliation against those who complain about it, requires the posting of a notice about the settlement, and requires the company to report information about its hiring practices to the EEOC for monitoring.
“We are pleased that EEOC was able to resolve this case of age discrimination,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office which includes a portion of South Carolina. “Too often age bias is a motivating factor in hiring decisions, and employers simply write off older applicants. This case reminds employers that all people, regardless of age, deserve fairness and freedom from discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC will vigorously pursue claims of age discrimination.”
The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC), which works with the EEOC in investigating charges of employment discrimination, originally investigated Knight’s charge. These charges raise claims under South Carolina law, as well as under federal laws enforced by the EEOC.
SENTRY CREDIT AGREES TO SETTLE A FEDERAL LAWSUIT FOR DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION
Debt collection agency refused to hire a qualified applicant because she was blind, EEOC charges.
A Seattle debt collection agency has agreed to provide $55,000 and other relief to settle a federal lawsuit charging that the company refused to hire applicant, Cheryl Reith. Although her online application for a recovery specialist position qualified her for an interview with Sentry, once the company’s manager met Reith in person and realized she was blind, the manager immediately stated, “This isn’t going to work out.” Although Reith attempted to explain that she had done similar work for over eight years with the aid of assistive technology for the blind, the manager merely repeated, “This just won’t work,” and sent Reith away.
Reith, age 39, who has been blind from birth, said, “I almost broke into tears that day, I couldn’t believe how quickly I was dismissed. The interviewer’s rejection of me was so instant and blatant, and happened in front of several people… I never had a chance to bring up my success doing similar work for over eight years. All I really wanted was the opportunity to be considered for my actual qualifications and experience, not someone’s preconceptions of what it means to be blind.”
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with disabilities unless it would pose an undue hardship. After an investigation conducted by EEOC investigator Bill Benedict, and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit EEOC v. Sentry Credit.
Under the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, Sentry Credit will pay Reith $55,000, post a notice in the workplace concerning the company’s commitment to complying with the ADA, institute training on preventing disability discrimination, and report to the EEOC any disability discrimination complaints that arise for the next three years.
“Sentry’s refusal to consider accommodating Cheryl Reith turned out to be a huge loss to the company,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “Ms. Reith had excelled at very similar and even more demanding work with her previous employer with a modest accommodation. Had management at Sentry given Reith the opportunity to prove herself, they would have been rewarded with a very skilled and loyal employee.”
“According to a 2009 study by the Job Accommodation Network,” added Seattle Field Director Luis Lucero,“ 56 percent of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only about $600. The study also shows that most employers report financial benefits from providing accommodations due to a reduction in the cost of training new employees, a reduction in the cost of insurance, and an increase in worker productivity. With so much to gain, it is well worth it for an employer to comply with the ADA and consider if there is an accommodation that will allow an applicant or employee with a disability to get the job done.”