The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), responsible for regulating against employment discrimination, reported several key cases in July 2013. EEOC’s reports discrimination in multiple forms, including: racial discrimination; sex discrimination; disability discrimination; religious discrimination; and age discrimination. Pro-employer groups continue to assert decreasing employment discrimination; but the ongoing anti-discrimination work of the EEOC and Texas Workforce Commission suggests otherwise.
Racial Discrimination in Texas
The EEOC reported racial discrimination continues to be a problem in American workplaces. This month, the EEOC settled claims against J.B. Hunt, one of the largest transportation companies in the country, for racial discrimination in its use of criminal background checks in hiring. The use of criminal background checks is not itself discriminatory; but the way the company uses criminal background checks may result in racial discrimination.
A strip club settled racial discrimination and retaliation claims by four black strippers allegeding less favorable treatment than white strippers. Illegal discrimination is illegal discrimination, regardless of the position or workplace. This is not the first time strippers have defended their employment rights. Strippers at a different gentleman’s club sued under the FLSA for minimum wage and overtime pay. If you believe you have a racial discrimination claim in Texas then you should contact Texas employment lawyer Adam Kielich.
Disability Discrimination in Texas
Disability discrimination is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Labor Code. The EEOC has made disability discrimination a key focus in its long term enforcement strategy. The EEOC has shown just this month that it means business. This month, the EEOC filed suit against Lifecare Medical Services for refusing an employee a reasonable accommodation to multiple sclerosis. Another suit arose against a management consulting company for failing to accommodate an employee and terminating him for his disability. The EEOC settled a lawsuit against a midwest power grid operator. It fired a woman with postpartum depression who requested leave, available to her under the company’s policy, but was denied approval and fired for lack of attendance.
A $100,000 settlement resolved claims with commercial staffing agency, Staffmark Investments, who fired a woman with a prosthetic leg. Staffmark hired the woman to perform temporary work inspecting televisions. On her second day of work Staffmark removed her from her position fearing somebody would accidentally knock her down. Staffmark promised to find her another job but she never received another position. Staffmark effectively terminated her by providing no additional work.
It is illegal employment discrimination to discriminate against a disabled employee even when the employer does so out of a fear that the employee will be injured or injure herself when that fear is baseless.
EEOC also filed suit this month against MPW Industrial Services, a manufacturer of industrial cleaners and solvents, for discharging an employee with a disability because of the disability through a manufactured reason. MPW hired Todd Semko, who disclosed he had a TENS unit implanted in his lower back to assist with a lower back impairment. The TENS unit applies a low level electrical nerve stimulation.
After hiring Semko, the company nurse told him he could not continue employment because MPW did not have a place to charge his TENS unit. Semko charged his unit at home and the battery held a charge for months, so he did not require MPW to provide a place to charge it. Without obtaining further information about his condition or the TENS unit, MPW fired him.
In this case, MPW allegedly created a reason why Semko’s disability did not fit within the workplace as a basis for discharge. However, Semko did not require an accommodation to his disability nor did workplace conditions prevent Semko from performing his job. Employers engage in illegal discrimination against disabled employees when they create false reasons as a pretext to fire somebody when the underlying reason for the termination was because of the disability.
Sex Discrimination in Texas
The EEOC is also on the warpath to engage employers who are discriminating on the basis of sex or gender, especially when the discrimination occurs in widespread pay discrimination. However, that is not the only basis for sex discrimination that the EEOC is pursuing. This month, the EEOC sued a Chik-Fil-A franchise for refusing to hire a pregnant applicant because she was pregnant. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is prohibited by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Pacific Airport Services settled a sexual harassment lawsuit that alleged a male supervisor sexually harassed his female subordinate customer service associates. Illini Precase agreed to a consent decree that ended a lawsuit alleging the company refused to hire female employees on the basis of their sex. A North Carolina restaurant settled a case alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against a waitress. Extended Stay Hotels was sued on allegations that it paid female employees less than male employees. An Alabama janitorial service faced a lawsuit for retaliating against a female employee for reporting sexual harassment.
Employees sued a small Midwest grocer for refusing to hire women to night stocking jobs on the basis of sex. A Chicago-based healthcare services provider settled a lawsuit alleging three employees suffered sexual harassment by their same-sex supervisor and retaliated against for complaining about the harassment. It’s Just Lunch, a dating website, was sued for refusing to hire men on the basis of their sex. A California restaurant settled a case of sexual harassment, agreeing to provide anti-discrimination training in English and Spanish.
Religious Discrimination in Texas
Employees also continue to experience religious discrimination. United Cellular was sued for refusing to accommodate the religious beliefs of a Seventh Day Adventist. A North Carolina hotel also sued for discriminating against another Seventh Day Adventist similarly as United Cellular. In both cases, the employee informed the employer of the employee’s requirement that he not work on the Sabbath. That meant the employee could not work from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.
Employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate sincere religious beliefs but the duty to accommodate ends where the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship. The undue hardship standard for religious discrimination is far lower than the undue hardship standard for disability discrimination.
Age discrimination in Texas
PJP Health Agency was sued by the EEOC for discriminating against three employees over forty by failing to promote, terminating and retaliating against the employees.
Discrimination is still a problem for Texas employees
Employment discrimination still occurs in Texas and around the country. The cases presented above represent just the cases the EEOC settled or brought to suit this month. That does not include the lengthy backlog of cases in EEOC offices around the country; cases currently in litigation and discrimination complaints at each of the state anti-discrimination agencies. If you believe your employer discriminated against you on an unlawful basis then you should contact an employment attorney right away. In Texas most employment discrimination claims begin by filing a complaint with the EEOC or Texas Workforce Commission. That complaint, or charge, must be filed in a short period of time. If you file the charge incorrectly or too late, then you may lose the opportunity to pursue your claim.