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Quality Solutions, LLC,  pays $22,500 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“).  According to published accounts, Kayla Medeiros sought a temporary job assignment through Quality Solutions.  The company called Medeiros for a job opening but when Medeiros responded to Quality Solutions indicating her interest in taking the job, a company manager told her that he could not send her for the assignment because she was pregnant. You cannot make a hiring decision based on someone’s pregnancy.  The manager indicated that the job was in a warehouse where Medeiros could get hurt.  Any employee could get hurt in a warehouse, so you can’t just single out a pregnant woman.  The type of thinking that this manager exhibited is twenty years behind the times.  Managers need to get with the program and update their thinking.  The laws around the country regarding pregnancy discrimination are strong and wide ranging.

That type of conduct violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is a part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act’s prohibit employers from subjecting women to discrimination due to pregnancy.  In Illinois this type of conduct would also allow a person to file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR“).  It would be a good idea for corporations around the country to pay extra attention to the laws regarding discrimination.  As you can see from this settlement, not only does the company get bad publicity, but also they had to pay money.  Take the high road and treat all applicants equally.

If an applicant provides a doctors note stating she can’t do certain jobs because of her pregnancy that is one thing.  In that case, a reasonable accommodation must be made, if available.  However, in this case, the applicant did not ask for any accommodation.  She didn’t say she couldn’t do the job she applied for.  The company can’t on its’ own determine she can’t do a specific job solely because she is pregnant.  As more and more woman join the workforce and do so as single parents and as pregnant applications, companies will need to accommodate them and follow the law.  Companies that don’t follow the law, will be and should be held accountable.

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So what is the IPAA?   Well, under the IPAA pregnant employers have a heightened duty to all Illinois employees and perspective employees to accommodate job applicants, and employees–or else they are engaging in pregnancy discrimination.  This includes applicants and employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.  The IPAA is very sweeping and also includes probationary employees and part-time employees.   This makes it one of the more sweeping and inclusive laws ever passed.  Because of this law, it is now a civil rights violation for an employer in Illinois to not make a reasonable accommodation for any medical or common condition of a job applicant or employee related to pregnancy or childbirth–and to deny employment opportunities or benefits to or take adverse action against an otherwise qualified job applicant or employee if the denial or adverse action is based on the need of the employer to make a reasonable accommodation to the known medical or common conditions related to the pregnancy or childbirth.  Additionally, it is a violation to require a job applicant or employee to accept an accommodation when she did not request and chooses not to accept one or to require a job applicant or employee to take leave under any leave law or policy of the employer if another reasonable accommodation can be provided, or refuse to reinstate an employee affected by pregnancy, childbirth or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth to her original job or an equivalent position with equivalent pay and benefits upon her signifying her intent to return or when her need for reasonable accommodation ceases.

The IPAA also includes a laundry list of possible accommodations of pregnant employees.  The list includes longer bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, assistance with manual labor, private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk and break feeding and on and on.  If any of this is violated the employee or job applicant can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR“).  Available damages include attorney fees and costs, actual wage damage, back pay, reinstatement, lost benefits, pre-judgment interest and other relief a judge deems necessary to make the woman whole.

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Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. pays $582,000 to eight former employees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.  The sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) after initial settlement talks broke down.

According to published accounts Suffolk Laundry’s manager physically and verbally sexually harassed multiple women who worked at the facility. Over the course of several years, the manager regularly touched them on their buttocks, hips, and backs, forcibly kissed them and made comments about their appearance and body parts. You may not make sexual comments about about an employee and you can never touch an employee in a sexual manner.

“This resolution represents yet another example of EEOC’s efforts to end discriminatory workplace practices against vulnerable workers who often live in the shadows of the economy,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez.

 

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Tepro, Inc., pays $600,000 to settle a class action age discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“).  According to published accounts, Tepro discriminated against a class of  25 employees when it subjected the individuals to layoff because of their age.  You are not allowed to put in place a policy which singles out employees over the age of 40 and in which the policy has a discriminatory affect.  In this case, Tepro reclassified employees in the protected age group, age 40 and over, from “Tech II” to “Tech III” positions -through the use of misrepresentations, coercion, or threats – and that this reclassification resulted in the reclassified employees losing their seniority dates and ultimately being laid off.  Many times companies put in place strategic and well-thought out plans to single out older employees under the guise of legitimate layoffs.  That seems to be the case here.  In addition to paying this large amount in the form of a settlement, the company also  has to follow the additional rules issued by the Judge in this case, which include:

enjoins Tepro from laying off employees because of their age in the future;

requires that Tepro develop a new layoff policy;

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Beverage Distributors Company pays $160,000 to settle an Americans With Disabilities (“ADA“) discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“).  According to documents which have been made public, Michael Sungaila, who is legally blind, worked for Beverage for over four years as a driver’s helper.  At some point the company decided to eliminate his position and instead use contract laborers.  At that point Sungaila applied for a position as a night warehouse associate. Beverage offered Sungaila the position subject to a pre-employment medical examination. However, after the examination, Beverage withdrew the job offer to Sungaila due to his poor eyesight.  The job required loading cases of liquor and kegs of beer into the back of trucks. The lawsuit alleged Sungaila could safely perform the job.

The jury initially awarded Sungaila $132,347 in back pay, but found that his damages should be reduced because the jury believed that Sungaila could have mitigated his damages by finding a comparable position.  When a person loses his or her job, they have a duty to try and find employment and therefore offset any lost wage damage they may incur.  However the Judge in this case vacated the jury’s finding that Sungaila could have mitigated his damages, finding that Beverage failed to prove there were any available comparable jobs that Sungaila could have performed. Instead the Judge ordered Beverage to pay Sungaila his entire back pay and interest on the award and compensate Sungaila for any tax consequence he would suffer due to being paid the judgment in one year. The parties agreed that this relief totaled $186,295.

It is regrettable that the company did not allow Sungaila to work in the job he applied for and was qualified for.  This case illustrates how much money it can cost a company when they engage in discrimination.

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Suffolk Laundry Services, Inc. pays $582,000 to eight former employees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.  The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) after settlement talks failed. According to published accounts, a manager at the company physically and verbally sexually harassed multiple women who worked for the company . The manager regularly touched the women on their buttocks, hips, and backs, forcibly kissed them and made comments about their appearance and body parts over the course of years.

There is strict liability on a company when a member of management engages in sexual harassment.  It is very important for companies to properly train and supervise all employees, but especially managers.  This case shows the extent of the financial damage a sexual harassment case can cause a company.  All too often companies forget to train managers about the liability that their actions will cause the company.  And employees should also be told that if they suspect they are the victim of sexual harassment or other forms of discrimination, they should report the conduct at once.  Employees have both state law and federal law protections.

“This resolution represents yet another example of EEOC’s efforts to end discriminatory workplace practices against vulnerable workers who often live in the shadows of the economy,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez.

 

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Windmill Farms Nurseries, Inc., pays $40,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“). The EEOC charged the company with subjecting a female employee, Sheila Aguilar, to sexual harassment and retaliation by her immediate supervisor Alvaro DeSantiago.

According to published accounts, DeSantiago sexually harassed female employees who worked as planters at the nursery under his direct supervision. The EEOC claims that the harasser sexually propositioned Aguilar and offered favors if she agreed to be his girlfriend. The supervisor allegedly fired Aguilar less than a month after she rejected his sexual advances.

“It is critical for employers to take diligent steps to prevent and adequately address sexual harassment,” said EEOC Tampa Director Georgia Marchbanks.

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So one of the websites that I love to utilize to attract good clients is LegalMatch. It is a website that allows people who have a legal claim to post cases and find lawyers who concentrate on such cases. This saves the client time and allows me to get in contact with clients who are in need of legal advice and representation. For the clients, this allows them to view the lawyers profile and make a determination as to whether it looks like a good initial fit. Because there are so many websites that claim to match clients and attorneys it is important to utilize only the best. In my opinion, LegalMatch is the best at doing this. The client can select the practice area, for example, Sexual Harassment and only those attorneys that practice in that field will get the email from the potential client. This saves both parties time, which is the same as saving money.

Another great advantage that LegalMatch provides is the ability to read articles that attorney have written about legal issues. So you can get a feel for what the attorney has as far as knowledge in the area of the law that relates to your case. If a person does an Internet search for say Sexual Harassment attorney Chicago, so many results will come back that it can be overwhelming. LegalMatch allows the person to eliminate the need to look at every attorneys website and focus on those attorneys who are aligned with LegalMatch and handles those cases. LegalMatch also ranks the attorneys based on client reviews, which gives a person the ability to see how the attorney has performed in the past with the same type of case. All of these are good reasons to check out LegalMatch the next time you have a legal issue. I have been using it for 8 years and concentrate in employment discrimination cases.

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Hot Wheel City pays $20,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. The multi-count lawsuit was first filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“). Published accounts indicate that Hot Wheel City subjected a female employee to a sexually hostile work environment at the hands of a male co-worker. The female employee reported the sexual harassment and was thereafter fired in retaliation for complaining. If a person reports sexual harassment is then has a negative job action taken against her, it is retaliation under the law.

Many times companies fire the person who complains instead of taking the matter in a serious fashion. In this case the company was very obvious about what it did and that was an illegal move.

“Hot Wheel City has committed to making significant changes that should be beneficial to current and future employees as well as the company.” said EEOC attorney Nedra Campbell

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Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center (“CBHC”), pays $309,000 to a former employee to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“) lawsuit. According to published accounts the company refused to provide a reasonable accommo­dation to employee Pamela Perry and then retaliated against her by refusing to rehire her after she was laid off. As a result of this, the EEOC filed a lawsuit based on violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA“), which prohibits employers from refusing to provide applicants and employees with reasonable accommodations unless it causes the employer an undue hardship.

Perry requested permission to wear athletic shoes to work in June 2002 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disability which caused numbness, pain and tingling in her feet. CBHC allowed Perry to wear athletic shoes for a few years, but later disciplined her for wearing the shoes. When Perry’s symptoms worsened, she requested additional reasonable accommodations, which CBHC denied. Two days after Perry wrote a letter to CBHC complaining about its refusal to accommodate her, she was laid off. The EEOC also alleged that CBHC then retaliated against Perry by refusing to hire her when she applied for a vacant position she had performed for a majority of her 23 years of employment. This type of conduct is really troubling and I can’t understand what the company was thinking. You can see how much money a dumb decision like this costs.

“We are pleased that this decree provides full relief to Ms. Perry and will also prevent this type of discrimination in the future against other employees at CBHC.” said EEOC attorney Andrea G. Baran