EEOC settled 19 lawsuits, including the largest settlement of $20,500,000 obtained by the Phoenix District and Denver field offices.
During the first month of 2020, EEOC has settled nineteen discrimination lawsuits. However, none of the lawsuits filed in January were publicized. As has been the case in past months, most of the settlements involved charges of disability discrimination (6) and sexual harassment, or sexual harassment and retaliation (5). As communicated, EEOC recovered $22,347,500, including the largest settlement of $20,500,000 obtained by the Phoenix District and Denver field offices against Jackson National Life Insurance. Most of the settlements involved consent decrees ranging from two to four-and-a-half years. There appears to be a trend toward longer consent decrees.
Summary of Settlements by Type
- Norfolk Southern Corporation [1/31/20] entered into a three-year consent decree after the New York District office filed a lawsuit. The company will pay $350,000, and take substantial non-monetary action to settle the age discrimination lawsuit. The company refused to hire qualified individuals over the age of 51 for the position of special agent, a railway security position, based on the belief that they would not work for the company for more than ten years.
BLI Northwest & Successor Harris Pacific Northwest [1/30/20] entered into a three-year consent decree after pre-litigation conciliation failed with the Seattle field office, and will pay $100,000 to resolve the allegations of disability discrimination. The complainant was a pipefitter by trade and also is a certified rigger. She was dispatched by her union to a project when she informed her supervisor that she had epilepsy. He, along with another supervisor, concluded that she could not safely work at heights, and terminated her employment. Complainant’s condition was controlled by medication, and she had not requested any accommodations or medical restrictions.
M&T Bank [1/22/20] entered into a three-year consent decree to resolve a lawsuit filed by the Baltimore field office, and will pay $100,000 to resolve a disability lawsuit. An M&T manager advised a vice president that she needed surgery for a pregnancy-related disability. Her leave was approved; however, she was informed that her position would be filled unless she was medically cleared to return to work within ten days. When she was able to return, months after giving birth and receiving medical clearance, she was required to apply for vacancies instead of being granted the reasonable accommodation of a job reassignment.
Imperial Trading [1/20/20] entered into a three-year consent decree with the Houston District office and will pay $140,000 for subjecting workers to illegal pre-employment medical injuries, and for failing to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. The company would discharge employees if they became disabled, and would not consider them for rehire unless they proved they were "100% healed" and/or could provide a no-restrictions release upon their return.
Heritage Charity Auction & Awards, Inc. [1/9/20] entered into a two-year consent decree with the Atlanta District office. The company agreed to pay $19,000 to a custom framer who was fired after she disclosed that she had mental disabilities, and requested an accommodation.
Hawaii Medical Service Association [1/7/20] entered into a three-year consent decree with the Honolulu local office, and will pay $180,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit. The company did not allow intermittent leave as a possible accommodation for employees with disabilities in its customer relations department. They also failed to engage in the interactive process with its employees to determine if there were other accommodations available to them.
- Cutter Mazda of Honolulu [1/6/20] entered into a pre-litigation two-year Consent to Settlement and Proposed Order with the Honolulu local office and will pay $42,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit. The dealership failed to hire a deaf applicant due to his disability.
- Fidelity Home Energy, Inc. and its successor NorCal Home Systems, Inc. [1/15/20] entered into a three-year consent decree with the San Francisco District office, and will provide $350,000 in damages to a former employee. The company will also hire an EEO consultant to revise policies and procedures, investigate employee complaints, and train managers. Within the first week as a telemarketing supervisor, the former employee learned that all potential customers perceived to be Middle Eastern or Indian were to be rejected for sales appointments.
Rainbow USA, Inc. [1/10/20] entered into a pre-litigation consent decree with the New Orleans field office, and will pay $11,000 in back pay to a junior assistant store manager, who was indefinitely suspended in her first trimester of pregnancy, and was then fired two days later, after the company learned of her pregnancy-related restrictions.
- Maurizio Trattoria Italiana LLC [1/7/20] entered into a four-and-a-half year consent decree with the San Diego local office, and will pay $18,000 to a female employee who, when informing the restaurant of her pregnancy, had her hours reduced resulting in substantially less pay. They also refused to return her to her server position after she gave birth, instead, firing her.
Jacksonville Plumbers and Pipefitters Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust in Northern Florida [1/20/20] entered into a four-year consent decree with the Tampa field office, and will pay $207,500 in monetary relief to black applicants denied apprenticeship positions. They will also hire a consultant to review and revise its selection process, and to train employees on this new process.
- Falcon Foundry Company [1/7/20] signed a multi-year conciliation agreement and will provide substantial monetary relief (amount not disclosed) to identified victims who were subjected to race discrimination and racial harassment. The charge was filed by the Youngstown Branch of the NAACP with the EEOC Cleveland field office. The investigation revealed that one of the company's top officials made derogatory racial comments, and had a noose hanging in the facility. EEOC also alleged that minority employees were disciplined for violating policies while white employees were not disciplined for violating the same policies.
Race, National Origin, Sex and Retaliation
- Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Jackson National Life Distributors, LLC, and Jackson National Life Insurance Company of New York [1/9/20] entered into a four-year consent decree, and will pay $20,500,000 in damages, attorney's fees, and costs to 21 former employees. This is in effort to settle claims in a race, national origin, and sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. EEOC alleged that Jackson tolerated a work environment hostile to female and African American employees in their Denver and Nashville offices. African-American employees were referred to as "lazy," had stress balls thrown at them, and had to endure racially demeaning cartoons. This is the largest monetary settlement ever reached in the Phoenix District and Denver Field offices.
- Riddle Painting & Coatings, Inc. [1/22/20] entered into a consent decree, and will pay $50,000 to settle sexual harassment allegations. Two employees state that they were subjected to a racially hostile work environment. The Phoenix District office alleged that the harassment made working conditions so difficult, that one employee was forced to resign.
Swami Pancake, LLC [1/23/20] entered into a consent decree with the Miami District office, and will pay $70,000 to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit. The Miami IHOP franchise owner and manager allegedly sexually harassed female employees with unwelcome touching, stalking, and sexual comments. Female servers were repeatedly asked to go out to dinner, and were groped in a back-storage room. They ultimately suffered negative changes in their work schedule for rejecting these advances.
- JCFB, Inc./Carmel Restaurants [1/9/20] entered into a three-year consent decree with the San Jose local office, and agreed to pay $175,000 to two former employees. A male line cook suffered repeated inappropriate grabbing of his private parts by the kitchen manager, cook, and chef. A female dishwasher also endured daily sexual comments and the occasional unwanted physical touching by the same kitchen manager. Owners of the restaurant dismissed the chef's behavior, even after he yelled at, and physically hit the line cook, forcing him to quit.
Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
Element Plastics Mfg., LLC [1/28/20] entered into a consent decree and will pay $35,000 to settle a sex harassment lawsuit. The Houston EEOC office alleged that the company subjected a female employee to a hostile work environment, and then fired her in retaliation for complaining. The employee was subjected to sexually harassing comments, unwelcome touching, and other sexual, hostile conduct.
Safie Special Foods Company, Inc. [1/21/20] entered into a four-year consent decree with the Detroit field office, and will pay $125,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that two female production workers, including one temporary, were targets of sexual advances and comments by the lead processing employee, who is also the Safie manager's husband. Complaints were made to the shift supervisor who notified higher-level management. The allegations were corroborated by another male temporary employee. After receiving complaints from the temporary employee, the company fired the shift supervisor, the male temporary employee, and both victims. Only after receiving the discrimination charge did Safie terminate the lead food processor.
- BCD Restaurants, LLC (Greensboro, NC Zaxby’s franchisee) [1/15/20] entered into a three-year consent decree with the Charlotte District office, and will pay $30,000 to a female employee who was subjected to a hostile work environment, resulting in her termination just days after complaining. The general manager made sexually inappropriate comments and requests for sex with the nineteen-year-old cashier on an almost daily basis.