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Monthly Archives: December 2014

EEOC and Sherman Howard L.L.C. Conciliate Sexual and Gender Discrimination Charge

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Firm Implemented Remedial Measures When Allegations Came To Light

DENVER – A former assistant in one of the offices of the regional law firm of Sherman & Howard L.L.C. filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Denver Field Office. The charge contained allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

The firm undertook an internal investigation and implemented remedial measures when the allegations came to light. Upon receipt of the charge, the EEOC conducted a separate investigation and determined that a violation of Title VII occurred. The firm cooperated with the EEOC investigation fully. The firm has denied any wrongdoing or liability, but has agreed to an end relief that has been allocated to back pay and compensatory damages at the request of the charging party. The firm has also agreed to continue its recurring sexual harassment training to its workforce.

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

EEOC Sued Blinded Veterans Association for Age Discrimination

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Organization Fired Two Older Employees Because of Age, Federal Agency Charges

WASHINGTON — Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that provides services to blind veterans, violated federal law when it fired two longstanding employees because of their age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The EEOC charges that BVA officials, including a member of the BVA board of directors, repeatedly asked Lazaro Martinez, who was then age 76 and had worked for BVA for 34 years, when he would retire from his position as assistant national field service director at the association’s Mather, Calif., location. Martinez replied that he was not considering retirement. About two months later, BVA announced that it was “reclassifying” certain jobs, including Martinez’s position, and that he needed to compete for one of the newly-created national field service officer positions if he wanted to remain employed by BVA. In order to compete for one of the newly created jobs, BVA imposed on Martinez arbitrary and unrealistic requirements. According to the lawsuit, BVA terminated Martinez because of his age and selected a younger candidate for a national field service officer position.

The EEOC also contends that Suzanne Matthews, who was then 70 years of age, had worked for BVA in Washington, D.C. for approximately 15 years when her supervisor repeatedly asked her, “When are you going to retire?” and “When are you moving to Florida?” Despite her good job performance, BVA abruptly terminated Matthews from her position as an administrative assistant to the national director of field service. After being notified of her termination, Matthews applied for a newly created BVA position for which she was qualified. The lawsuit charges that BVA fired Matthews because of her age and selected an employee for the newly created position who was over 20 years younger than Matthews and who had only three years of experience with BVA.

Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Blinded Veterans Association, Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-02102) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In the lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking an injunction prohibiting BVA from engaging in future age discrimination, lost wages and liquidated damages, as well as other affirmative relief.

“Employers head in the wrong direction if they make employment decisions based on age or try to pressure employees to retire,” said Washington Field Office Acting Director Mindy Weinstein. “Older workers are valuable contributors to the workforce and economy, and the EEOC will take strong action if employers fire people because of their age.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “Targeting older workers under the pretext of a reorganization doesn’t fool anyone – it’s clearly age discrimination, and clearly unlawful.”

The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC prosecutes cases arising out of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, parts of New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

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

EEOC’s St. Louis District Office to Sign Outreach Agreement with Mexican Consulate

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Agreement Will Establish an Ongoing Collaborative Relationship Between the Two Entities

ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Consulate of Mexico for Kansas City on Wednesday, Dec.10, the agency announced today. The signing will take place at the Consulate of Mexico’s office at 1617 Baltimore Avenue at 12:00 p.m. Head Consul Alicia Guadalupe Kerber Palma and the EEOC’s St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr. will sign the agreement.

The agreement will establish an ongoing collaborative relationship between these two entities to provide Mexican nationals with information, guidance and access to education and training resources to help them exercise their workplace rights. This agreement is also a key objective of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, which includes protecting the rights of immigrants, migrant and other vulnerable workers.

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the EEOC and the consulate will launch an educational program aimed at assisting Mexican nationals to become aware of the laws that prohibit employment discrimination, as well as disseminating compliance and educational materials to the consulate’s constituency. The EEOC and the consulate will also conduct two informational forums each calendar year and set up a system for consular contact with Mexican nationals who have returned to Mexico and are owed monetary compensation the EEOC has collected from the responsible employers.

The Mexican Consulate in Kansas City provides services to preserve the rights of Mexican nationals residing in Missouri as well as other areas in the Midwest. The EEOC’s St. Louis District Office enforces federal employment discrimination laws and has jurisdiction over Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and 16 counties in southern Illinois.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the agency is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov in both English and Spanish or by calling its toll free number at 1-800-669-4000. The EEOC’s toll-free TTY number is 1-800-669-6820.

When Does Older Workers Not Getting Hired Become Age Discrimination?

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Workers who are trying to find a job in their 50s and 60s are finding it very difficult to find jobs, because many times, companies aren’t willing to hire older workers. And while this is considered age discrimination, one of the protected categories in the Kentucky Civil Rights Act — it’s just as illegal to not hire someone because of age, race, or religion as it is to fire them — it’s very hard to prove.

Older workerIn my years as an employment law attorney, I’ve had maybe one discriminatory refusal to hire a worker because of age. The problem is, it’s virtually impossible to prove age discrimination unless the employer says something stupid during the interview, or told the interviewee that their age was the reason they weren’t being hired.

If there’s a distinct pattern that someone who’s 55 is capable and competent, but is not getting hired, without that proof, we just can’t show that the person is being discriminated against. You need a situation where the employee goes in for an interview, doesn’t get hired, and either the HR person or employer says “we like you but we’re just looking for someone younger.” Even better, if they said this in an email, that’s the written proof you need.

While people can often say and do things they shouldn’t, this is a pretty rare instance. But it’s not unheard of. I once had a case where an employee went on an interview, and said he had a learning disability. He was forthright about the disability in the interview, and stressed that he could still do the job. My client said the employer said he didn’t want to hire my client because of the disability. We pursued it as a discriminatory refusal to hire, but the employer denied saying such a thing, which put the burden of proof back on us.

Refusal to hire cases can be very tricky because of something called disputed intent. This involves the intent of the hiring manager as he or she makes the decision not to hire someone. As the Second Circuit Court has said, “Rarely will there be a smoking gun evidence of discrimination.”

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against because of your age, whether you’ve been fired or not hired, and feel a legal response is your best option, please contact the Cassis Law Office at (502) 736-8100 to see how we can help.

Photo credit: Viewminder (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Justrite Manufacturing Company to Pay $418,000

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TO SETTLE EEOC CLASS INVESTIGATION EEOC Found Employer Discriminated and Retaliated Against Disabled Employees

CHICAGO – Justrite Manufacturing Company, a Mattoon, Ill.-based manufacturer of storage, handling and security products, will pay $418,000 to settle disability discrimination complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The settlement results from a multi-year EEOC investigation which found that Justrite discriminated against disabled employees in that it refused to engage in an interactive dialogue with employees to find reasonable accommodations, denied reasonable accommodations outright, and/or retaliated against those who requested accommodations or complained about discrimination. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The settlement not only provides monetary relief to those who have already been discriminated against, but also ensures the company will take proactive measures to prevent discrimination from occurring in the future. Justrite will conduct ADA training for all of its 130 employees, revise and disseminate its anti-discrimination policies and procedures, including those related to providing reasonable accommodations to employees under the ADA, and provide periodic reporting to the EEOC of complaints against the company and its progress in complying with the ADA.

“The reasonable accommodation process works best when both the worker and the employer engage in a good-faith, collaborative discussion to find a mutually beneficial way for the disabled employee to perform the job,” said John P. Rowe, Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Retaliation against those who seek to begin this discussion would obviously undermine that process. Such conduct is not only illegal under the ADA, but is also destructive to the greater national goal of enabling employees, disabled or not, to take their place as workers as far as their talents and abilities will take them.”

Justrite denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to conciliate the matter with the EEOC and a class or individuals, including the individuals who filed charges.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.

What You Should Know: EEOC and Employment Opportunities for Disabled Veterans

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Background: Over the past decade, three million veterans have returned from military service and another one million are expected to return to civilian life over the course of the next five years. The particular challenges faced by veterans with disabilities in obtaining employment has been the subject of increased attention in recent months, as large numbers of veterans return from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-five percent of veterans of recent conflicts report having service-connected disabilities, as opposed to only 13 percent of all veterans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to a recent report this fall from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for veterans hovers around 10 percent, which is more than three percentage points higher than the overall unemployment rate.

Through our private sector enforcement and litigation efforts, our policy and outreach work, and through our federal sector hearings, appeals, and coordination work, EEOC employees perform important services to veterans, ensuring that their rights to equal employment opportunity are upheld.

Below is a summary of what EEOC is doing for Veterans:

•The EEOC held a public meeting on Nov. 16, 2011 entitled “Overcoming Barriers to the Employment of Veterans with Disabilities.” In that meeting, the Commission heard testimony from a panel of experts on the unique needs of veterans with disabilities transitioning to civilian employment.
•The EEOC issued two revised publications addressing veterans with disabilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The revised guides, for employers and veterans, reflect changes to the law stemming from the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which make it easier for veterans with a wide range of impairments – including those that are often not well understood, such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — to get needed reasonable accommodations that will enable them to work successfully.
•Based on preliminary tallies, EEOC personnel conducted outreach to veterans and service members at a total of 120 events that reached over 8,600 people over the course of FY 2013. This outreach can make an enormous difference in veterans’ civilian work experience by familiarizing them with the rights the ADA affords people with disabilities in the workplace.

These are only highlights of EEOC’s work in this area. We remain committed to removing barriers to employment for veterans with disabilities.

“We want veterans with disabilities to know that the EEOC has resources to assist them as they transition to, or move within the civilian workforce,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.”

Swissport Fueling to Pay $250,000 to Settle EEOC Race and National Origin Harassment Lawsuit

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African Fuelers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Were Repeatedly Called ‘Monkeys’ By a Phoenix Swissport Manager, Federal Agency Charged

PHOENIX – Swissport Fueling, Inc., which fuels aircraft at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, will pay $250,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit for race and national origin harassment filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC’s lawsuit was brought to obtain relief for fuelers who were from various African nations, including Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone. The lawsuit alleges that a Swissport manager routinely called the African fuelers “monkeys.” According to the allegations, a Swissport manager called the fuelers “monkeys” in a number of degrading ways:
•A Swissport manager called the fuelers “monkeys” in anger, such as “What are you doing here, monkeys?”
•A manager called at least one fueler “monkey” as a replacement for his name.
•A manager ridiculed the culture of the fuelers by making derogatory statements about the fuelers’ lunches, describing the fuelers’ food as “monkey soup.”
•A manager made demeaning references to slavery to the fuelers. For example, a manager told them, for example, “You guys are lucky I pay you because way back then, you did not get paid”; “You are lucky to be paid. A long time ago blacks were doing this for free”; “At one time, you people would not be paid”; and “Blacks work for free.”

According to the allegations, the African fuelers reported the harassment verbally and in writing, including by signing a written petition and delivering it to the office of Swissport’s general manager at the Phoenix facility to try to stop the harassment. The EEOC says that despite the fuelers’ complaints, the abuse continued.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Swissport Fueling, Inc. (2:10-CV-02101-GMS), in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the paying $250,000 to the African fuelers who allege they were subjected to the hostile work environment, Swissport also must provide training on harassment based upon race, national origin, and color to managers, supervisors, and human resource employees. Swissport is also required to implement policies prohibiting harassment based upon race, national origin, and color, and post a notice that harassment of Swissport’s employees is unlawful and will not be tolerated.

“It is against federal civil rights laws for an employer to single out any group, including the immigrant community, by subjecting it to a hostile work environment based upon its national origin, race, and color,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “Employers have a responsibility to take prompt, corrective action when they learn of such abuse. The action taken must remedy the harassment that already has occurred, stop the misconduct and prevent future abuse.”

EEOC’s Phoenix District Director Rayford Irvin said, “The EEOC will not tolerate harassment based upon race, national origin, and color. The word “monkey,” which historically has been used as a highly demeaning racial slur, is especially unacceptable.”

According to its website, Swissport provides fueling services at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, where it employs 160 people and has handled over 407 million gallons of fuel. Swissport’s customers include Southwest Airlines, US Airways, AeroMexico, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, United Airlines, FedEx and DHL.

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

New Koosharem and Real Time Staffing to Pay $580,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Discrimination Suit

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Companies Failed to Refer Applicants Based on Their Race/National Origin, Federal Agency Charged

MEMPHIS – Staffing companies New Koosharem Corporation and Real Time Staffing Corporation will pay $580,000 as part of the settlement of a class race and national origin discrim­ination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC had charged that New Koosharem and Real Time Staffing discriminated against four applicants and a class of African-American and non-Hispanic applicants by failing to place and or refer those applicants for job placement in the company’s Memphis facilities.

The EEOC brought the lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race and national origin. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutory conciliation process. The original case, (EEOC v. Koosharem Corporation, Civil Action No. 2:13-CV-02761), was filed on Sept. 30, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division. The EEOC filed an amended complaint on November 17, 2014, (EEOC v. New Koosharem Corporation and Real Time Staffing Corporation).

Besides requiring the companies to pay $580,000 in damages and back pay to the class members, the three-year consent decree resolving the case:
•enjoins New Koosharem and Real Time Staffing from discriminating against applicants and temporary workers because of race and national origin in the future;
•requires the companies to provide four hours of training annually on race, retaliation, and national origin discrimination to all managerial employees in its six facilities in Tennessee and the Northern District of Mississippi;
•requires the defendants’ regional vice president or an officer to appear prior to the training in person or via video to announce the defendants’ non-discrimination policy and the consequences for violating the policy;
•requires that New Koosharem and Real Time Staffing revise the application process for walk-in applicants;
•requires the companies’ director of internal compliance to conduct an internal audit every six months to determine whether the defendants refer or place applicants in the order that the applicants sign the log sheets and to submit reports to EEOC after the audit;
•allows the EEOC to monitor and review compliance with the decree; and
•requires the defendants to post notice of this resolution.

“The Commission remains committed to enforcing the laws against race and national origin discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. “Ensuring that the job market is open for all applicants, regardless of their race and national origin, is a priority for the EEOC.”

Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, added, “We are pleased that New Koosharem and Real Time Staffing chose not to engage in protracted litigation. Instead, they focused on making significant changes in the workplace for walk-in applicants and agreed to specific measures such as training, reporting, and monitoring to ensure that all applicants, irrespective of race and national origin, will be treated equally during the hiring process.”

One of the EEOC’s six priorities identified in its Strategic Enforcement Plan is eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, and particularly class-based intentional recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic, and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities.

The EEOC’s Memphis District Office has jurisdiction over Tennessee, Arkansas, and the Northern District of Mississippi.

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

EEOC Files Contempt Action Against Charlotte Security Provider Metro Special Police

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Security Provider Failed to Make Payments Agreed Upon in Litigation Settlement, Federal Agency Charges

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has filed a contempt action against Metro Special Police & Security Services, Inc., a Charlotte-based provider of private security and public safety services. The contempt action charges that Metro Special Police breached of the terms of an agreement it entered into with the EEOC to resolve a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

On Jan. 22, 2013, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Metro Special Police (EEOC v. Metro Special Police & Security Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:13-CV-39, U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina), charging that the company subjected Officers James Pedersen, Eric Steele, Daniel Griffis and a class of similarly situated male employees to sexual harassment by a male captain and a male lieutenant employed by the company. The EEOC said that the male employees were subjected to a variety of misconduct, including by the captain. The misconduct included making offensive sexual comments to his male subordinate employees; soliciting nude pictures from them; asking a male employee to undress in front of him; and soliciting male employees for sex. The captain and lieutenant also allegedly forced male employees to accompany them to a gay strip club while on duty. The complaint further charged that the captain touched the chests and genitals of some of the male employees and offered promotions to certain male employees in exchange for sex.

In settlement of the EEOC’s lawsuit, the company entered into a five-year consent decree which was signed and entered by U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. on June 13, 2014. The decree required the company to pay $155,000 in relief to Pedersen, Steele, Griffis and other male employees who had been subjected to the sexual harassment to varying degrees. The decree also required that Metro Special Police provide significant non-monetary relief. For example, the company was enjoined from further discriminating on the basis of sex and was required to revise its sexual harassment policy. Metro Special Police was also required to distribute its revised sexual harassment policy to all employees and to conduct annual training on sexual harassment and retaliation. The company must also report all complaints of sexual harassment to the EEOC throughout the decree’s five-year term.

The company was to make monetary payments to the victims of the sexual harassment beginning on Aug. 13, 2014. Today, the EEOC filed a motion asking the court to require Metro Special Police to show cause why it should not be held in contempt for failure to make the August payments. The company will have an opportunity to respond to the EEOC’s motion prior to a hearing by the court.

“When the EEOC agrees with an employer to resolve a case, whether through litigation or its conciliation process, the agency fully expects the employer to comply with the agreement,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney in the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The defendant in this case repeatedly ignored the EEOC’s attempts to get it to comply with its agreement, and therefore the agency had no choice but to file this motion for contempt.”

If Metro is found guilty of contempt, the court can enter such sanctions as it deems just and proper, including imposing a daily fine on the owners of the company until such time as the settlement payment has been made.

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

Maxim Healthcare Services Will Pay $75,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

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Staffing Agency Refused to Hire Qualified Applicant because He Is HIV-Positive, Federal Agency Said

PITTSBURGH — Maxim Healthcare Services, Inc., a nationwide staffing service for nurses and other health care professionals, will pay $75,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to resolve a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

According to the lawsuit, Maxim Healthcare Services in Pittsburgh refused to hire a candidate for an assignment because that individual was HIV-positive. The position involved sitting with patients at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility. Maxim Healthcare made a conditional job offer to the candidate, who is identified in the lawsuit under a pseudonym, that was contingent on completion of a health status certification. The EEOC charged that Maxim later refused to hire the candidate after receiving his medical evaluation which reflected his HIV-positive status but nonetheless provided that he was medically cleared to work. The EEOC did not allege any participation by the VA in Maxim’s decision to refuse to assign the candidate because of his HIV-positive status.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Maxim Healthcare Services Inc., d/b/a Maxim Staffing Solutions, Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-00338-MRH) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $75,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit permanently enjoins Maxim from engaging in disability discrimination or retaliation. Maxim will create, enforce and disseminate a policy prohibiting disability discrimination, harassment and retaliation and implement a complaint procedure designed to encourage employees to come forward with complaints regarding violations of its policy against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The staffing agency will provide training on the ADA and revise its “Health Status Statement Form” to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of medical information. Maxim will also report to the EEOC regarding its compliance with the consent decree and post a notice about the settlement.

Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “The ADA prohibits employers, including those in the health care field, from refusing to hire qualified individuals based on their disability, including HIV status. This settlement, including the comprehensive training and monitoring provisions, is designed to ensure that current employees and future applicants will not be denied employment opportunities based on disability.”

Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, “President Barack Obama has charged federal agencies to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which includes addressing and preventing employment-related discrimination against people living with HIV. This case is an example of EEOC’s vigorous enforcement and litigation efforts to ensure that qualified individuals can still support themselves and earn a living notwithstanding their HIV status.”

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

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