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A federal judge ordered Workplace Staffing Solutions, LLC. to pay $179,000 as a result of losing a gender discrimination lawsuit.  The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“) after settlement talks broke down.  Taking a discrimination case to trail is always a risk and in this case the company lost.  It is usually better to try and settle cases before risking a trial.  According to the complaint filed in federal court by the EEOC, the company failed to hire six women for the position of residential temporary trashcan collector (“RTCC”) positions.

The details of the complaint filed by the EEOC are as follows.   In September 2012, Workplace Staffing prevented qualified females, including Jonika Walton, from applying for an open RTCC position. Walton was told by a company representative the position was a “male-only” job. I know that is hard to believe that the company was make such a ridiculous claim.  Those types of statements will cause your company to lose a discrimination case in all instances.  The court also found that Workplace Staffing denied at least five other qualified women the opportunity to apply for such positions because of their gender. Workplace Staffing told one woman it had only “industrial jobs that are usually for men,” while another was told that the RTCC job was “more of a job for a guy.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers to refuse to hire any individual because of their gender.  Men and women must be given the same opportunities and cannot be treated different.  In addition, in Illinois a person who is the victim of discrimination could also file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR“).  Damages available to a person who is the victim of discrimination include actual lost wages, future lost wages, attorney fees, court costs, damage for emotional distress and the person could get their job back.

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Z Foods, Inc., pays $1,470,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.  The multi-count discrimination lawsuit was first filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“).    According to recently published documents Z Foods allowed male supervisors to sexually harass a class of female employees and fired male and female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment.   In particular  two supervisors for Z Foods subjected multiple female farmworkers to ongoing sexual harassment. The sexual harassment took the form of conditioning promotions and employment on sexual favors, which is called quid quo pro harassment.  It occurs when a female is required to engage in sex in order to keep her job or get a promotion.  Also the sexual harassment included sexual advances, stalking female employees and unwanted physical touching.

Male employees, who witnessed the egregious sexual harassment, complained about the abuse alongside their female employees. These employees were retaliated against and discharged soon after their complaint.  It is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to take a negative job action against anyone who complaints about discrimination or supports the claim of discrimination that is taking place against another employee.  In this case, the male employees came forward and told the truth about what was taking place and the harassment they witnessed.  This company chose to try and sweep the issue under the rug.  The company should have taken the complaints of sexual harassment seriously especially after witnesses came forward.  This just shows you that not taking a sexual harassment complaint seriously can result in a huge settlement against your company.  Not only doe this company have to pay a large amount of money, but now they have all of this negative publicity.  It is always preferable to take immediate action and not try and hide the facts.

My office has seen a rise in sexual harassment and retaliation cases in Illinois.  Because the economy is not doing great, many people are afraid to come forward and complaint about discrimination in the workplace.  This causes companies to think they can get away with treating workers poorly.  This case is a classic example of that.  In the end if you are the victim of sexual harassment the best thing to do is come forward and tell the truth.   Chances are other employees will also tell the truth and you could prevail.  Don’t let the company bully you into staying silent.  Remember this case.

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The Reserve Casino Hotel pays $250,000 to settle an age and sex discrimination lawsuit.  The discrimination lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“), after settlement talks initially broke down  The problem started when the Hotel decided to hire younger workers with lower qualifications.  Additionally the hotel hired male employers who were not as qualified as female applicants.  The hotel refused to hire four older women applicants in the positions of slot attendant and cocktail server. Out of the 14 applicants for the slot attendant position, only the three oldest female applicants were not hired.   Many times in cases like this, statistics can be utilized to show a disparity in the hiring of older or younger workers.   This case is a blatant example of a company engaging in discriminatory conduct.  Look at how much money this cost the company, not to mention the bad publicity.

In a troubling piece of evidence it seems the casino managers took photos of employees on the casino floor.  Can you imagine how creepy that is?  To have people taking pictures of employees so they can sort employees based on age and looks.  The photos were later used to screen out older, less attractive employees–wow!  Talk about humiliating conduct.  I can’t believe a company in this day and age would engage in this type of behavior.  This has to be one of the worse examples I have seen recently.  This type of activity is not only troubling but illegal under federal law.  The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age.   And Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex which is referred to as gender discrimination.

In addition paying monetary damages to the four women, the consent decree settling the suit requires hotel to conduct semi-annual anti-discrimination training for its employees, managers, supervisors and human resources employees. The hotel will also revise and distribute its anti-discrimination policies and report to EEOC if there are any complaints of age or gender discrimination. The court approved the settlement and will retain jurisdiction for purposes of compliance for three and one-half years.   You can see how serious this is and what can happen when companies refuse to follow the discrimination laws.

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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.