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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Accomodating Employee Odor Sensitivivity Makes Scents for Employers

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Michigan employer settles ADA claim for $100,000 after allegedly failing to make reasonable accommodations for employee’s odor allergy

Employers should be aware that the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA” or the “Act”) may cover an employee’s sensitivity to odors and related allergies. Failure to accommodate odor sensitivity could result in significant employer liability.

In McBride v. City of Detroit,[1] the plaintiff alleged that her co-worker’s perfume and use of other scented sprays caused the plaintiff’s migraine headaches, nausea, chest tightness, coughing, loss of voice, scratchy throat, and rhinitis. The defendant moved for summary judgment. The main issues in the case were whether the plaintiff’s allergy was an ADA-protected disability and whether the plaintiff’s employer offered a reasonable accommodation.

The court held that the plaintiff produced evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether she had a covered disability. Under the ADA, a disability must substantially limit a major life activity. In other words, the disability must prevent the plaintiff from performing

“a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform” or . . . “significantly restrict[ ] . . . the condition, manner or duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform that same major life activity.”

The court determined that the plaintiff’s explanation of symptoms and an allergist’s note[2] precluded granting summary judgment for the defendant because they evidenced that odor sensitivity “substantially limited” the plaintiff’s breathing, which is a major life activity.

The court also held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the employer offered reasonable accommodations for the plaintiff’s alleged odor sensitivity. An accommodation is “reasonable” under the Act if the plaintiff can show that the accommodation was “objectively reasonable.” Once the plaintiff shows objective reasonableness, the defendant must “show that the accommodation would ‘impose undue hardship’” to avoid liability. In McBride, there were four possible accommodations: (1) the adoption of a policy regarding scents; (2) moving the plaintiff to a different area unaffected by scents; (3) moving the co-worker who wore the perfume; and (4) FMLA leave.

The defendant argued that a “scent-free policy” was unreasonable. However, the court explained that the plaintiff was not requesting a scent-free workplace. The plaintiff alleged that she expressed a desire for the employer to adopt a policy that would “limit the most egregious scents” and educate employees about odor sensitivities. Because the defendant did not offer any other evidence as to why a policy prohibiting only strong scents was unreasonable, the defendant could not be awarded summary judgment.

The court indicated that there were “conflicting assertions” regarding why the employer failed to relocate the plaintiff or her co-worker who wore the offensive perfume. Moreover, while FMLA leave has been held to be a reasonable accommodation, it usually is accompanied by additional leave. Therefore, genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment for the defendant on these accommodation issues as well, and the jury would determine reasonableness.

ADA claims like the plaintiff’s claim in McBride can carry a large price tag. The McBride parties settled for $100,000. In a similar case, a jury awarded a radio DJ a $10.6-million verdict that was later reduced to $814,000 on employment discrimination claims, including one filed under the ADA alleging that a co-worker’s perfume triggered the plaintiff’s allergies.

Employers are advised to take employee odor allergies and sensitivities seriously. While a scent-free policy is probably unnecessary, less restrictive alternatives may be necessary to comply with the ADA. The court in McBride pointed out that the employer may have a duty to “‘initiate an informal, interactive process’” to determine what accommodations are necessary. Employers should avoid blaming the employee for his or her odor sensitivity because courts may view such statements as evidence of the employer’s failure to participate in the interactive process.[3] [1] McBride v. City of Detroit, No. 07-12794, 2008 WL 5062890 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 25, 2008).

[2] The allergist stated that the plaintiff “has a ‘cough and vasomotor [sic] rhinitis primarily triggered [sic] by irritants’ such that ‘exposure to these smells should be eliminated as much as possible.’”

[3] A representative of the employer in McBride said, “If she’s allergic to perfumes and colognes then she [the plaintiff employee] has the problem not the employer.” The Court pointed to statements like this as evidence that the employer did not engage “in a proper interactive process.”
by Cynthia A. Augello

What Is Emotional Distress?

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One component of employment law cases is emotional distress. You usually hear it mentioned when a plaintiff sues a defendant for “loss of wages and emotional distress.”

You may have heard the term “pain and suffering,” especially in terms of personal injury lawsuits involving physical injury. Emotional distress is another way of saying “emotional pain and suffering,” and is based on the plaintiff’s testimony. They’ll testify to how the emotional distress of their situation affected him or her.

Stressed - Mike HoffHowever, emotional distress doesn’t always visibly manifest itself, not like a broken leg or bruises from a car accident. This is why a plaintiff’s testimony is so important.

There can be physical signs of emotional distress, including loss of sleep, weight gain, depression, weight loss, panic attacks, and anxiety attacks. The plaintiff may even have prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication, or undergo psychology counseling. However, these are not necessary to prove emotional distress. Medical proof or expert testimony from a doctor is not needed.

Emotional distress is hard to nail down because it is so amorphous and unseen. It’s based on the plaintiff’s testimony alone. Friends and family can testify, as well as the plaintiff’s spouse, all explaining how they witnessed the plaintiff’s emotional distress over time.

Emotional distress is not a substitute for punitive damages, and it’s not a way to get a jury to pad a monetary reward for the plaintiff. In Kentucky, lawsuits filed under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act cannot receive punitive damages (although you can for suits filed under the Federal Civil Rights Act). Emotional distress is only used to demonstrate how the plaintiff was negatively affected by the defendant’s behavior.

If you have suffered emotional distress as a result of workplace harassment or an illegal firing, please contact the Cassis Law Office at (502) 736-8100.

 

Photo credit: Mike Hoff (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Seed and Fertilizer Providers to Pay $187,500 for Genetic Information and Disability Discrimination

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Class of Job Applicants Was Subjected to Illegal Medical Exams and Family Medical History Inquiries, EEOC Charged

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Three Southern California seed and fertilizer providers – All Star Seed, Inc., La Valle Sabbia and Abatti – will pay $187,500 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a class of job applicants who were subjected to illegal medical and genetic information inquiries, the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC contended that the El Centro, Calif.-based agricultural companies (which operated as a single employer) required job applicants to undergo physical exams and fill out health questionnaires as a condition of employment that violates federal laws. The EEOC charged that the questionnaires contained improper inquiries about the applicants’ medical conditions and family medical histories, also known as genetic information.

At least one applicant was denied hire as a result, the EEOC said. In 2010, a temporary worker applied for a full-time permanent dispatcher position in Long Beach, Calif. The applicant was allegedly informed that he would be considered for hire after taking a physical examination and drug test. The individual continued to work as a temporary worker in the dispatcher position pending those results. The medical examination solicited disability-related information and family medical history unrelated to the job. As a result, the applicant was required to disclose a prior medical condition, one shared by others in his family. The applicant was thereafter denied hire due to his perceived disability even though the prior condition had no correlation to the work he was already successfully performing.

At least three additional class members underwent similar inquiries, despite ultimately being hired. The EEOC further alleged that the companies failed to adequately maintain the confidentiality of the medical and genetic information, permitting such information to be unlawfully commingled with non-confidential personnel files.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA). The EEOC filed suit against the companies in 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California [EEOC v. All Star Seed dba Eight Star Commodities, Green Touch Fertilizer, and Allstar Seed Company; La Valle Sabbia, Inc. dba Eight Star Equipment and Eight Star Logistics; and Abatti dba Abatti Companies; Case No. CV13-07196 JAK (AJWx)] after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The parties entered into a four-year consent decree to resolve the suit, prohibiting the companies from: subjecting job applicants and employees to pre-offer medical examinations; making inquiries into medical conditions that are not job-related; inquiring about genetic information; and failing to maintain the confidentiality of medical information by applicants and employees. The four affected individuals will receive the majority of the monetary relief obtained, and a smaller class fund will be established for unidentified class members at the discretion of the EEOC.

The companies also agreed to ensure that the companies’ policies and procedures are revised to comply with the ADA and GINA, and that the policies are available in both English and Spanish. The companies’ further agreed to provide bi-annual training to all of the companies’ managers, supervisors and leads with respect to the policies, procedures and legal responsibilities and requirements under the ADA and GINA. Managers and supervisors will also be held accountable in their performance evaluations for any failure to comply with anti-discrimination policies.

“The law with respect to genetic information is relatively new, and this is one of the first cases resolved in litigation by the EEOC in this district,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “We commend All Star Seed, La Valle Sabbia and Abatti for making the necessary changes to comply with the federal anti-discrimination laws on both genetic information and disability. Employers need to familiarize themselves on the prohibitions with respect to pre-employment inquiries and maintaining the confidentiality of medical information.”

Marla Stern-Knowlton, director of the EEOC’s San Diego Local Office, added, “There are strict guidelines prohibiting inquiries into a job applicant’s medical condition and disability prior to hire. Even after hire, employers should avoid asking questions about an applicant’s medical condition if it is not job-related. With respect to genetic information – or family medical history – the law is even more restrictive in that most employers may never ask or acquire genetic information from applicants or employees.”

One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Wal-Mart Stores East Will Pay $72,500 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

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Retailer Refused to Reasonably Accommodate Applicant With End-Stage Renal Disease, Federal Agency Charged

BALTIMORE – Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., will pay $72,500 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, an assistant store manager at the Walmart store in Cockeysville, Md., offered Laura Jones a job as an evening sales associate, contingent on Jones passing a urinalysis test for illegal drugs. After Jones advised that she cannot produce urine because she has end-stage renal disease, the assistant store manager told her to ask the designated drug testing company about alternate tests, the EEOC said. According to the complaint, Jones went to the drug testing facility the same day and learned that the facility could do other drug tests if the employer requested it. Jones relayed this information to the Walmart assistant store manager, but management refused to order an alternative drug test. Jones’s application was closed for failing to take a urinalysis within 24 hours.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-00862-JKB) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-liti­gation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing $72,500 in monetary relief to Jones, the 30-month consent decree resolving this lawsuit provides substantial equitable relief, including enjoining Wal-Mart from taking any future adverse employment actions on the basis of disability and failing to provide reasonable accommodations. Wal-Mart will revise its applicant drug screen form to advise applicants that alternate drug screens will be available as a reasonable accommodation for applicants to whom a conditional offer of employment has been made in the Cockeysville store whose physical condition prevents them from producing urine and how to request a reasonable accommodation. Wal-Mart East shall provide training on the ADA and the revised drug screen form to its market and regional human resources directors, as well as to people with hiring responsibility at the Cockeysville store. The company will also furnish other remedial and preventive measures. Wal-Mart East will also post a notice regarding the resolution of this lawsuit.

“This is the fourth EEOC lawsuit alleging the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation and refused to hire a qualified applicant when the solution-to provide a blood drug test during the drug screening process-was simple,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “We are pleased that Wal-Mart East is providing targeted training and disseminating a memorandum on its drug screen policy, and hope that this settlement encourages all employers to review their hiring and post-offer drug screening procedures to ensure that qualified applicants are provided with needed reasonable accommodations.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, “Most reasonable accommodations required under the ADA are free or inexpensive, such as this case, where the accommodation needed was an easy fix-the employer just has to offer alternative tests, such as a blood test, for applicants who need it for medical reasons.”

Other EEOC lawsuits involving this issue are: EEOC v. Kmart Corporation; Sears Holdings Management Corporation; Sears Holding Corporation, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Civil Action No. 13-cv-02576), EEOC v. Fort Worth Center of Rehabilitation, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-1736), which settled for $30,000 and equitable relief, and EEOC v. G2 Secure Staff, LLC, (Civil Action No. 5:11-cv-475), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District for North Carolina, which settled for $30,000 and equitable relief.

Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., of Bentonville, Ark., operates Wal-Mart’s retail stores in the Eastern United States.

The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov

Former College Athlete Claiming Temporary Employee Status Sues NCAA Because She Wasn’t Paid Minimum Wage

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A former soccer player from the University of Houston, Samantha Sackos, has filed a putative class action in the Southern District of Indiana against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and all NCAA Division I schools, asserting that student athletes are temporary employees owed minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). On behalf of all Division I athletes, Ms. Sackos seeks compensatory damages, interest, and an injunction of the NCAA’s and Division I schools’ policies that do not require the payment of minimum wage to student athletes. The complaint claims the scholarships some student athletes receive do not count as compensation because they are not taxable income under federal law and cannot be spent on anything other than tuition expenses. The suit likens student athletes to work-study participants who sell programs, man concession booths, or usher at athletic events and are paid, on average, greater than the minimum wage.

Student athletes’ potential status as employees took the spotlight earlier this year when the NLRB handed down a regional ruling that Northwestern University football players were employees within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act and could therefore unionize. The NCAA and Northwestern have appealed that decision. Meanwhile, the NCAA is also appealing a bench trial ruling that the NCAA violated antitrust law by prohibiting college athletes from being paid for the use of their names, images, and likenesses.

If the suit comes out in Ms. Sackos’s favor, it will leave schools across the country on the hook for significant amounts of back pay to current and former athletes and will open the door for athletes’ claims for overtime compensation. College sports comprise a multi-billion dollar industry, so if the court identifies student athletes as temporary employees, the debate is unlikely to end at the FLSA’s application.
-Anne Averitt

Waiting with Their Wings to Fight Workplace Sex Discrimination

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Flight Attendants Were Instrumental in the Early Enforcement of Title VII’s Prohibition of Sex Discrimination, Panel Explains at 50thAnniversary Event in Chicago

CHICAGO – Flight attendants were one of the first organized groups to challenge systemic-and routine-sex discrimination following the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a panel of original plaintiffs and other experts explained at an event commemorating the 50th anniver­sary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 held Thursday, October 23rd.

The event, The Civil Rights Act @ 50: The Pioneering Role of Flight Attendants in Fighting Sex Discrimination was co-sponsored by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Institute for Law and the Workplace (Workplace Institute); and the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law (ABA Committee). A video of the event is available online.

EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang delivered opening remarks, and EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic moderated a panel that included key plaintiffs in early Title VII cases challenging airline industry practices that discriminated against women. Panelists included Mary Celeste Lansdale Brodigan, plaintiff in Lansdale v. United Air Lines, Inc.; Mary Pat Laffey-Inman,plaintiff in Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc.; Patricia Friend,former international president, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO; Sonia Fuentes, former attorney, Office of General Counsel, EEOC; Kathleen Barry, author, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants; and Mary Rose Strubbe, professor of law and assistant director of the Workplace Institute. Ms. Fuentes was also EEOC’s first woman in the Office of General Counsel and was deeply involved in the Commission’s earliest efforts to enforce Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination. Additionally, the audience saw an excerpt from the Association of Flight Attendants’ documentary “Turbulent Romance: The History of AFA.

Flight attendants’ fight for equal treatment began in the 1960s, with lawsuits such as Mary Celeste (Lansdale) Brodigan’s challenge to United’s policy of discharging female, but not male, employees upon marriage, which was subsequently overturned in court. Similarly, Mary Pat Laffey-Inman brought a case under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act, resulting in findings that Northwest treated male and female flight attendants differently in areas of hiring, pay, promotions, benefits, and weight monitoring.

“To give life to Title VII, it takes the commitment and tenaciousness of individuals willing to challenge injustice and go forward, often for many years, to vindicate their rights,” Commissioner Lipnic reflected. “These women, through their legal actions, made workplaces better for all Americans, women and men. They are a testament to the enduring power of the Civil Rights Act.”

Chair Yang said, “Flight attendants’ civil rights strides also extended beyond Title VII and the airline industry, as they prevailed in striking down arbitrary age restrictions for women in the workplace and began to change views about women’s roles at home and in our society.”

Chair Yang and other program participants noted, however, that despite our progress, the nation has not yet fulfilled the promise of Title VII’s prohibitions against sex discrimination. The EEOC continues to see charges alleging unequal pay on the basis of sex, sex stereotyping, sexual harassment, and pregnancy discrimination. To learn more about EEOC’s efforts to combat workplace sex discrimination, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sex.cfm.

The Workplace Institute is a national center of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago- Kent School of Law for “research, training, dialogue and reflection on the law that governs the workplace.”

The ABA Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity Law within the section of Labor and Employment “concentrates on all aspects of equal employment opportunity under federal and state law in both private and public employment.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.

EEOC Sues Saginaw Restaurant for Pregnancy Discrimination

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Crooked Creek Bar & Grille Refused to Hire Applicant Because She Was Expecting, Federal Agency Charges

DETROIT – Crooked Creek Investment Company, doing business as Crooked Creek & Creekside Bar & Grille in Saginaw, Mich., violated federal law when it refused to hire an applicant as a food server because she was pregnant, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the job seeker had prior experience working in a restaurant. She applied for a vacant food server position in February 2013. Her first interview with Crooked Creek went well and she was asked to return for a second interview. When she revealed her pregnancy during the second interview, however, Crooked Creek refused to consider her further for the job, the EEOC said.

Refusing to consider a woman for a job because she is pregnant violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit against Crooked Creek in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, (EEOC v. Crooked Creek Investment Co., d/b/a Crooked Creek & Creekside Bar & Grille, Case No. 2:14-cv-14239) after first attempting to settle the matter through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the applicant along with injunctive relief intended to prevent further instances of pregnancy discrimination.

“Women should not be forced to remove themselves from the labor market simply because they are pregnant,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Omar Weaver. “The EEOC will vigorously enforce a pregnant woman’s right to be fairly considered for a job.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

Can I Sue If My Apartment Landlord or Maintenance Worker is Sexually Harassing Me?

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While not strictly an employment law question, we have been asked whether a tenant can sue his or her landlord for sexual harassment.

Apartment ComplexThe law is very specific in regards to who can sue who for what, at least when it comes to workplace harassment. As we’ve discussed, contractors are not legally given the same kind of protection as regular employees. They are not allowed to sue an employer for sexual harassment, even if they’re harassed by an employee or a manager. The issue is because the contractor does not actually work for the employer.

Private citizens face these same issue as well, even when interacting with an employee at a workplace. For example, even if a car salesperson harasses a customer, the customer has no legal recourse.

And if an apartment landlord or maintenance person harasses a tenant, the tenant has no real recourse either.

That’s because a landlord-tenant relationship falls under the same issues as contractors and private citizens. While the tenant and landlord or apartment management company have a business relationship, they don’t have an employer/employee relationship. This holds true for all employees of the apartment building or complex, such as maintenance workers or groundskeepers.

However, if a tenant was late with his or her rent and the apartment manager offered free rent in exchange for sexual favors, that’s actually illegal. It’s considered solicitation or prostitution. It still wouldn’t be considered sexual harassment, but there are grounds for other legal pursuits.

Only certain relationships are covered under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. And even then, there may be certain criteria that must be met. Contractor-Employer, Private Citizen-Employee, and Landlord-Tenant relationships are not protected under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. If you experience harassment under any of those kinds of relationships, there’s nothing that can be done legally.

(That doesn’t stop you from telling your friends and family about it though.)

If you have experienced workplace harassment of any other kind, or believe you are being sexually harassed by a co-worker or boss, please contact the Cassis Law Office at (502) 736-8100.

 

Photo credit: Greg Goebel (Flickr, Creative Commons)

EEOC and Chicago-Area Marshmallow Maker Reach Accord in Disability Suit

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Doumak Agrees to Modify Leave Policies at Manufacturing Facilities

CHICAGO – Doumak, Inc., a longtime Chicago-area marshmallow manufacturer, has agreed to change its leave policies to resolve a disability discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that the company had capped the duration of leaves of absence at its Elk Grove Village and Bensenville, Ill., manufacturing facilities, without making appropriate exceptions for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities. This can include making exceptions to leave policies to allow an individual with a disability to successfully return to work and perform his or her job. More information about leave as a reasonable accommodation is available in question-and-answer format on the EEOC’s website.

The EEOC filed suit under the ADA on Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (EEOC v. Doumak, Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-7492) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Teamsters Local 703 was also joined as a party to the action for relief purposes, since the leave policies in question were codified in collective bargaining agreements between Doumak and the union.

Doumak and the union agreed to resolve the suit without further litigation, and a consent decree was entered on Nov. 4 by U.S. District Judge Manish Shah. Under the decree, Doumak and the Union will not enforce the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements in any manner that would deny a qualified individual with a disability additional leave when it is needed as a reasonable accommodation. Doumak will also negotiate with the union to amend the relevant provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. The company will pay a total of $85,000 to five individuals who the EEOC said were affected by the prior policies, and it will conduct training about the ADA for current employees.

“Federal law requires employers to be reasonable and flexible in applying their workplace policies to people with disabilities,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “We are pleased that Doumak and the union will be taking steps that will enable more individuals with disabilities to continue to earn a living. Ultimately, that benefits everybody.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

According to Doumak’s website, the company’s founder, Alex Doumakes, “invented and patented the extrusion process of manufacturing marshmallows,” and the company has been manufacturing a range of marshmallow products in the Chicago area since 1961.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

Randall Ford to Pay $128,750 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

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Company Failed to Accommodate Manager and Then Fired Him Due to Back Surgery, Agency Charged

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Car dealership Randall Ford in Fort Smith, Ark., will pay $128,750 as part of the settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit challenged Randall Ford’s treatment of a used-car manager when the company refused to accommodate his disability following surgery on his spine. Among other things, the manager had asked permission to make greater use of a cart that he and other employees already used from time to time. Instead of making such accommodations, Randall Ford fired the manager a few days later.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is unlawful to deny a qualified individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation, and it is also unlawful to fire such a person because he needs an accommodation. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC. v. Randall Ford, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:13-CV-02206) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The former employee joined in the EEOC’s suit and was represented by Joe D. Byars of Fort Smith.

In addition to requiring the company to pay $128,750 in damages and back pay to the former manager, the consent decree resolving the case mandates that Randall Ford revise its ADA policy to provide a clear avenue for employees to request a reasonable accommodation. Additionally, Randall Ford will distribute its revised policy to all employees, post notice of this resolution, and provide disability training to all of its employees.

“The EEOC is committed to enforcing the laws against disability discrimination on the job,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of Mississippi. “Ensuring that individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace is central to the ADA and is a priority for the EEOC.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.