In 2014, nearly 89,000 charges were filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). And, while the total number of charges has been trending downward slightly for the last few years--after a peak of nearly 100,000 charges in 2013-- odds are the that total filings in 2015 will be in the same neighborhood as 2014.
So as the year comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the important harassment and discrimination cases from 2015. But since you don’t have time to review them all, we wanted to put together a roundup of some of the more notable cases.
We’ve also pulled together some resources to help make sure you know what to do to prevent your business from ending up on the wrong side of the EEOC.
The EEOC enforces employment statutes across a broad range of issues, from disabilities, pregnancy, retaliation and race-related issues to religious discrimination. These cases represent a good cross section of the the EEOC’s enforcement activities.
Female field workers of a New York utility company filed complaints with the EEOC about harassment and a hostile work environment. Among a long list of grievances, they claimed they were denied proper training and promotional opportunities, along with the same types of tools and gear that men received. They also alleged they were disciplined and evaluated differently than men doing the same jobs and were denied overtime, despite being eligible.
The utility agreed to a joint settlement of $3.8 million to resolve the allegations of “ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination.”
The EEOC found that a major national retailer was violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by using a variety of employment assessments that were disproportionately screening out qualified applicants for exempt-level professional positions based on sex and race. The retailer had also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its hiring process by using an assessment that was determined to be a pre-employment medical examination, and it failed to keep adequate records about its hiring procedures.
As part of a settlement, the retailer paid a $2.8 million fine. It also agreed to a variety of conditions, including stopping use of certain assessments, improving monitoring and keeping better data for assessments it uses for exempt-level professional positions, and providing yearly training to everyone responsible for exempt assessments.
A manufacturing facility for a restaurant had to pay the EEOC a $22,000 fine, as well as revise policies to include religious accommodation and yearly training for all employees, for a complaint related to firing a worker whose religious beliefs prohibited Sabbath work.
A company manager had offered the worker a position starting on a Friday afternoon and then revoked the job offer when he found out the worker wasn’t available on his Sabbath, which violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
A major rental car company agreed to settle charges related to age discrimination for $425,000. The charges alleged that they company ignored the superior qualifications of 10 management trainee candidates who were over 40 years old in favor of younger candidates. The company denies any wrongdoing, but chose to settle to avoid the costs of proceedings. As part of the settlement, the company also has to provide its entire staff with EEO training and keep proper records.
A multi-state oil drilling company faced a host of charges from the EEOC related to the treatment of minority employees on its drilling rigs. Minorities were allegedly regularly physically and verbally harassed and subject to intimidation by other employees. They were also systematically kept in lower-level positions and retaliated against when they filed complaints.
The company was fined $14.5 million and is still working through resolution for several other cases.
Despite the fact that her job performance was up to standards, a director in an eye clinic was fired when she made it known she was transgender and started dressing and presenting differently. Firing someone for non-conformance with gender stereotypes is not allowed under civil rights laws—it’s gender discrimination. The clinic paid a $150,000 fine and agreed to revise its policies to prohibit discrimination as well as provide training to managers and employees.
A car dealership had to pay a former manager who suffers from multiple sclerosis $250,000 in back pay and damages for denying him a partnership and subjecting him to a hostile work environment. The manager was harassed about his condition after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and a promised partnership never materialized.
Eight female immigrant employees of a laundry service received a $582,000 settlement for several years of physical and verbal sexual harassment from a manager. The women, who did not speak English, were helped by a third-party justice organization which educated them about their rights and helped them navigate the litigation process. As part of the settlement, the laundry service had to adopt new procedures and provide managers and staff training on sexual harassment prevention.
When it comes to complying with EEOC, companies have a lot of responsibilities. And if there’s one theme that’s common across all of these cases, it’s that settlements involve some form of harassment and discrimination prevention training and policy changes related to the case.
The fact is that many employees and managers simply aren’t aware of what’s allowed or not allowed under the law. That’s why training and education for preventing workplace harassment and discrimination is so important. Here are some resources about preventing EEO claims you may find helpful:
Request a demo of our Discrimination in the Workplace/EEO course
Watch our webinar about preventing EEO claims.
Download our guide for preventing sexual harassment.
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