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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Cynthia Gilliam Pierre Named Chief Operating Officer of EEOC

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Agency Veteran Returns to Management Post After Service with the Department of Education

WASHINGTON-Jenny R. Yang, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has named Cynthia Gilliam Pierre to be the agency’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), the agency announced. The COO manages all aspects of the Commission’s day-to-day operations.

“In this 50th anniversary year of the founding of the EEOC, we are pleased to have a COO with the breadth of management experience and knowledge of our programs and culture that Cynthia Pierre brings to this important position,” said Chair Yang. “I look forward to working with her as we position the agency for the next 50 years of service to the nation.”

Pierre returns to the agency where she first started her service in 1982 as a program analyst in its Houston district office. She spent 26 years at the EEOC in various positions including director of the EEOC’s Birmingham, Ala., district office and director of Field Management Programs. Most recently, she worked at the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, where she held the positions of Regional Director in Atlanta, and prior to that, Enforcement Director.

“I am delighted to return to the agency where I first started my career and whose mission-fighting employment discrimination-is so vital,” said Pierre. “I have already rekindled relationships with former colleagues and started new ones. I am grateful to Chair Yang for giving me this new opportunity to serve.”

A native of Lawrenceville, Va., Pierre holds a B.A. degree from the University of Pennsylvania; an M.A. from Antioch University; and a Ph.D. in public administration from the George Washington University. She also has completed the Senior Managers in Government Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

EEOC Sues Stack Bros. Mechanical Contractors for Age Discrimination and Retaliation

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Company Fired Employees When They Turned 62 and Punished One for Resisting, Federal Agency Charges

MADISON, Wis. – Stack Bros. Mechanical Contractors, Inc., of Superior, Wis., a major heating and plumbing contractor in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota, violated federal law by firing two employees when they reached age 62 and by retaliating against one of those employees for resisting the company’s plan to discriminate against her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to Julianne Bowman, acting director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, the agency’s investigation revealed that Stack Bros. discriminated against Randy Virta and Karen Kolodzeske by firing them when they turned 62 in February and September 2014, respectively. Stack Bros. also retaliated against Kolodzeske for resisting its plans to fire her, the EEOC said.

Bowman said the EEOC found that both Virta and Kolodzeske repeatedly warned Stack Bros.’ owner that his plan to fire them when they turned 62 was illegal, but the owner refused to relent and, after firing Virta, retaliated against Kolodzeske for her complaints, first by denying her a raise and then by demoting her and cutting her hours and pay while waiting for her to turn 62. Virta and Kolodzeske had worked for Stack Bros. for 16 and 25 years, respectively.

Stack Bros.’ alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against employees and job applicants on the basis of age. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, reinstatement, front pay and liquidated damages for Virta and Kolodzeske, an order barring future discrimination and retaliation, and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Stack Bros. Mechanical Contractors, Inc., (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00060), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison and assigned to U.S. District Judge William M. Conley and Magistrate Judge Stephen L. Crocker.

“The conduct in this case was utterly unacceptable,” Bowman said. “The experience, expertise and wisdom of older workers are essential to our nation’s ability to compete in the global economy and the ability of those workers to continue to be employed without discrimination is critical to their economic well-being and quality of life. When age discrimination invades the workplace, everybody loses. ”

EEOC Trial Attorney Dennis R. McBride, who will litigate the case on the agency’s behalf, said, “If we looked the other way while Stack Bros. fired Mr. Virta and Ms. Kolodzeske merely for turning 62, it would signal that we’re not serious about enforcing federal laws against age discrimination – and that is certainly not the case. The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce the ADEA, and we’ll continue to challenge employers who retaliate against workers who exercise their statutory right to complain about mistreatment.”

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson said, “Employers often speak about how valuable loyalty in the workplace is. But it’s a two-way street. Employees who have been at their jobs for 15 or 25 years — like those in this case — are entitled to expect that their employers will not put them on the street because of their age and in defiance of federal law. When Stack Bros. fired Mr. Virta and Ms. Kolodzeske because of their age, it ruptured the band of loyalty and damaged its own business. The EEOC is here to make matters right.”

According to its website, Stack Bros. is a privately held corporation and is a major heating and plumbing contractor in the Upper Midwest. Another website lists the company’s annual revenue as $5 to $10 million.

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

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

Kmart Will Pay $102,048 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

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Major Retailer Refused to Hire Applicant Because Kidney Disease Precluded Urine Sample, Federal Agency Charged

BALTIMORE – Kmart Corporation, a leading national retailer, will pay $102,048 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 lawsuit, after Kmart offered Lorenzo Cook a job at its Hyattsville, Md., store, Cook advised the hiring manager that he could not provide a urine sample for the company’s manda­tory pre-employment drug screening due to his kidney disease and dialysis. Cook requested a reason­able accommodation such as a blood test, hair test, or other drug test that did not require a urine sample, the EEOC charged. Kmart refused to provide that alternative test and denied Cook employ­ment because of his disability, according to the suit.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation, including during the application and hiring process, unless it can show it would be an undue hardship. The ADA also prohibits employers from refusing to hire individuals because of their disability.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Kmart Corporation; Sears Holdings Management Corporation, Civil Action No. 13-cv-02576) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing $102,048 in monetary relief to Cook, the two-year consent decree resolving this lawsuit provides substantial equitable relief, including enjoining Kmart from taking adverse employment actions on the basis of disability and failing to provide a reasonable accommo­dation. Kmart is also revising its drug testing policies and forms to specify the availability of reason­able accommodation for applicants or employees in the company’s drug testing processes. The decree also requires Kmart to provide training on the equal employment opportunity laws enforced by the EEOC, and on Kmart’s ADA policy and the provision of reasonable accommodation, including as it relates to the company’s drug testing processes. This training is required for all store managers, store assistant managers and human resources leads in the district where the alleged discrimination occurred. Kmart will also post a notice regarding the resolution of this lawsuit.

“There was a readily available alternative to the urinalysis test in this situation,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “This case demonstrates that the consequences of failing to comply with the ADA can be far more expensive than the actual cost of providing a reason­able accommodation.”

EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “We are pleased that this settlement compensates Mr. Cook for the harm he suffered and contains equitable relief designed to ensure that all employees and applicants with disabilities will receive equal employment opportunities, including reasonable accommodations as required by law.”

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

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.

Cleaning Authority of Plainfield to Pay $15,000 to Resolve EEOC Disability Suit

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House Cleaning Service Subjected Employee to Unlawful Inquiries and Harassment Based on Abnormal Gait, Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO – Mont Brook, Inc., doing business as The Cleaning Authority of Plainfield, will pay $15,000 to a former employee as part of a three-year consent decree resolving a civil rights suit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today.

The EEOC charged that the Plainfield, Ill.-based house cleaning service violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when one of the company’s officers harassed an employee who walks with an abnormal gait due a stroke. According to the agency’s complaint, the officer referred to the employee as “a cripple,” mockingly imitated the way she walks, and told her that she was being a “hysterical basket case” when she objected. The officer also reportedly asked the employee, “Are you crippled?”

The company had argued that since such conduct involved a small number of instances over a two-day period, it was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to be unlawful harassment. However, the court rejected that argument and denied the company’s request to dismiss the case.

The ADA prohibits subjecting an employee to harassment because of her disability. It also prohibits making disability-related inquiries of any employee – whether disabled or not – unless the inquiry is job-related and justified by a business need.

The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Mont Brook, Inc. d/b/a The Cleaning Authority of Plainfield, Civil Action No. 13-cv-6799, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle entered the decree resolving the suit on January 23, 2015. In addition to monetary relief for the former employee, the decree requires that the company provide training to its managers and other employees about the ADA, and imposes record-keeping and reporting requirements for the duration of the decree, among other measures.

“When directed at an individual with a physical disability, ‘cripple’ is a profoundly offensive and degrading epithet,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “Courts and the EEOC have long recognized that the use of unambiguously discriminatory epithets by a manager to a subordinate can quickly create an abusive working environment. All employees have the right to work in an environment free from discriminatory insults and ridicule – and that includes employees with disabilities.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, 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.

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

EEOC Names Robbie Dix Director of Agency’s Federal Appellate Review Programs

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WASHINGTON – Jenny Yang, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), has appointed Robbie Dix III as the EEOC’s Associate Director of Appellate Review Programs, the EEOC announced today.

Dix has served as Acting Director of Appellate Review Programs, a critical component of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO).

“This is a significant step forward,” said Yang. “The Appellate Review Programs is a critical and essential component to the Commission’s overall enforcement of civil rights laws. Robbie’s wealth of experience and steadfast commitment to a vigorous enforcement of those laws is invaluable; he is perfectly suited to lead the Appellate Review Programs.”

Dix said, “I am deeply honored by the opportunity Chair Yang has afforded me. I thank her for entrusting me with the responsibility to direct the adjudicatory aspect of the Commission’s pursuit of equal employment opportunity in the federal government. While tremendous progress has been made, I look forward to implementing the Commission’s vision of a timely, efficacious, and outstanding appellate program.”

During his tenure at EEOC, Dix has served in a wide array of leadership positions, including Acting Director of the Appellate Review Programs, Director of the Review Division, Acting Director, Office of Equal Employment Opportunity; Acting Director, Office of Review and Appeals and Senior Trial Attorney, Systemic Programs, Office of General Counsel. He also was appointed by former EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien to serve on the Strategic Enforcement Plan Work Group, which established the priorities which were ultimately approved by the Commission.

OFO Director Carlton Hadden said, “I am grateful that Robbie Dix will lead our work in the Appellate Review Programs. He is a visionary leader who will be a key player in moving the federal government forward to achieving a real model EEO status.”

OFO provides leadership and guidance to federal agencies on the federal government’s equal employment opportunity (EEO programs); develops and implements Commission-approved affirmative employment policies; assures federal agency compliance with Commission regulations which establish systems for the fair adjudication of discrimination complaints; and administers the appeals process for the federal sector. As well, it provides guidance and leadership for all other Commission activities to effect government-wide EEO processes and programs.

The Appellate Review Programs is a major component of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations.

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

Ruby Tuesday Sued by EEOC for Sex Discrimination

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Chain Restricted Coveted Resort Assignments to Females-Only, Federal Agency Charges

EUGENE, Ore. – International restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday, Inc. discriminated against male employees for temporary assignments to a Utah resort, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in the spring of 2013 Ruby Tuesday posted an internal announcement within a 10-state region for temporary summer positions in Park City, Utah with company-provided housing for those selected. Andrew Herrera, a Ruby Tuesday employee since 2005 in Corvallis, Ore., wanted to apply because of the chance to earn more money in the busy summer resort town. However, the announcement stated that only females would be considered and Ruby Tuesday in fact selected only women for those summer jobs, supposedly from fears about housing employees of both genders together. Ruby Tuesday’s gender-specific internal posting excluded Herrera and at least one other male employee from consideration for the temporary assignment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from giving more advantageous terms and conditions of employment to one group of individuals based on gender. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon (Case No. 15-CV-109) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages on behalf of Herrera and class members, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices throughout the 10-state region, and other injunctive relief.

“It’s rare to see an explicit example of sex discrimination like Ruby Tuesday’s internal job announcement,” noted EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “This suit is a cautionary tale to employers that sex-based employment decisions are rarely justified, and are not consistent with good business judgment.”

Seattle Field Office Director Nancy Sienko said, “Mr. Herrera was a longtime employee of Ruby Tuesday who had regularly trained new hires at the Corvallis restaurant. He was shocked and angered that Ruby Tuesday would categorically exclude him and other male employees from a lucrative summer assignment based purely on stereotypes about his gender. The company could have addressed any real privacy concerns by providing separate housing units for each gender in Park City, but chose an unlawful option instead.”

According www.rubytuesday.com, Ruby Tuesday is a publicly traded company operating over 800 restaurants nationally and in 15 different foreign countries, with an estimated 34,000 employees. In 2013, the company reported gross revenue of $1.251 billion. The internal announcement was posted to a 10-state region that included Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, and Utah.

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

Mims Distributing Company to Pay $50,000 Lawsuit to Settle EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

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Beer Distributor Unlawfully Refused to Hire Rastafarian Because He Refused to Cut His Hair, Federal Agency Charged

RALEIGH, N.C. – Mims Distributing Company, Inc. will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Mims operates a beer distribution business in Raleigh.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Christopher Alston is a practicing Rastafarian. As a Rastafarian, he cannot cut his hair and, in accordance with these religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since at least 2009. Alston applied for a job as a delivery driver with Mims in May 2014. At that time, the company informed Alston that he would have to cut his hair if he wanted the position. Alston told Mims he could not cut his hair because of his religious beliefs. The company ultimately refused to hire Alston because he would not comply, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs as long as doing so would not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit on Sept. 25, 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Mims Distributing Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-00538) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Mims to adopt a formal religious accommodation policy and to conduct an annual training program on the requirements of Title VII and its prohibition against religious discrimination. Mims will also post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at its Raleigh facility.

“Employers are required by federal law to make exceptions to their dress and grooming policies in order to accommodate a job applicant’s sincerely held religious beliefs – unless doing so would pose an undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s continued commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”

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

Jury in EEOC Suit Says Old Dominion Freight Line Must Pay Former Driver $119,612 for Disability Bias

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Trucking Company Fired Pickup and Delivery Driver Who Self-Reported Alcohol Abuse, Federal Agency Charged

FORT SMITH, Ark. — A federal jury has found that Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., a trucking company headquartered in Thomasville, N.C., violated federal disability discrimination law when it denied a reasonable accommodation to a truck driver who self-reported alcohol abuse and then fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the former driver self-reported an alcohol problem under the company’s “Open Door Policy” seeking assistance from Old Dominion. The driver and local management were unaware that the company maintained an unwritten policy of not allowing drivers who self-report alcohol abuse to return to driving. Although Old Dominion would never return the driver to a driving position, the company asserted that it accommodated the driver by offering him a part-time dock position at half the pay and no health benefits. Old Dominion later charged the driver with job abandonment and terminated him in June 2009.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No.2:11-CV-02153 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas) against Old Dominion on Aug. 16, 2011 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The jury returned a verdict on Thursday afternoon for the EEOC and awarded the former truck driver $119,612 in back pay.

“The EEOC has always maintained that Old Dominion had a right to ensure that its drivers comply with DOT Regulations so as not to endanger the public,” said General Counsel David Lopez. “At the same time, the ADA requires that Old Dominion make an individualized determination as to whether the driver could return to driving and provide a reasonable accommodation of leave to its drivers for them to obtain treatment. To maintain a blanket policy that any driver who self-reports alcohol abuse could never return to driving — with no individualized assessment to determine if the driver could safely be returned to driving — violates the ADA.”

EEOC Lead Trial Attorney Pamela Dixon and Trial Attorney Markeisha Savage, who tried the case, jointly said, “We are extremely pleased the jury reached the conclusion that Old Dominion could ensure that its drivers comply with DOT safety requirements and at the same time comply with the ADA. Old Dominion’s unwritten policy of never returning drivers to driving who self-report alcohol abuse actually endangered the public, because testimony by both a current and former driver indicated they would be reluctant to report a problem because of company policy.”

Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams said, “There is always a lesson learned from trials. This case demonstrates the importance of employers training their management officials on the company’s obligations, including reasonable accommodation, under the ADA. In this case, a nationwide trucking company with thousands of drivers failed to train its employers on a key requirement under the ADA — reasonable accommodation.”

According to its website, Old Dominion Freight Line employs more than 15,000 people globally with service centers throughout the United States.

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

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

What You Should Know about EEOC and the Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers

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Recent events, including the filing of two EEOC lawsuits on behalf of transgender employees and an amicus brief in the 7th Circuit related to coverage of sexual orientation, have triggered increased interest about protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals under federal employment-discrimination laws. The information below highlights what you should know about the EEOC’s enforcement efforts in this area.

Overview

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. These federal laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who oppose discriminatory employment practices – for example, by reporting incidents of sexual harassment to their supervisor or human resources department – or against those who file EEOC charges or cooperate with an EEOC investigation. Also, where these federal laws apply, they protect all workers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Employers and employees often have questions about whether discrimination related to LGBT status is prohibited under the laws the EEOC enforces. The Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), adopted by a bipartisan vote in December of 2012, lists “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, as they may apply” as an enforcement priority for FY2013-2016. This enforcement priority is consistent with positions the Commission has taken in recent years regarding the intersection of LGBT-related discrimination and Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination.

In 2012, the EEOC held that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination because of sex and therefore is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See Macy v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012). The Commission has also found that discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals based on sex-stereotypes, such as the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men, is discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII. See Veretto v. United States Postal Service, EEOC DOC 0120110873 (July 1, 2011) (accepting Title VII sex discrimination claim alleging that supervisor harassment was motivated by sexual stereotype that men should only marry women); Castello v. United States Postal Service, EEOC DOC 0520110649 (December 20, 2011) (accepting Title VII sex discrimination claim alleging that supervisor harassment was motivated by sexual stereotype that having relationships with men is an essential part of being a woman); Complainant v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., EEOC DOC 0120110576 (August 20, 2014) (reaffirming prior findings that federal employees discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation can establish violations of Title VII based on the sex stereotyping theory).

Consistent with these Commission rulings (and case law from the Supreme Court and other courts), the Commission has instructed our investigators and attorneys that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender is a violation of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination in employment. Therefore, the EEOC’s district, field, and area offices have been instructed to take and investigate (where appropriate) charges from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against because of transgender status (or because of gender identity or a gender transition).

In addition, investigators and attorneys were instructed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals also may bring valid Title VII sex discrimination claims, and that the EEOC should accept charges alleging sexual-orientation-related discrimination. These allegations might include, for example, claims of sexual harassment or other kinds of sex discrimination,such asadverse actions taken because of the person’s failure to conform to sex-stereotypes (such as those listed above).

Charge Data

In January 2013, the EEOC began tracking information on charges filed alleging discrimination related to gender identity and/or sexual orientation. In the final three quarters of FY 2013 (January through September), EEOC received 667 charges raising allegations of sex discrimination related to sexual orientation and 161 charges alleging sex discrimination based on gender identity/transgender status. In the first three quarters of FY 2014, the EEOC had received 663 charges alleging sex discrimination related to sexual orientationand140 charges alleging sex discrimination on the basis gender identity/transgender status.

The chart below shows charges resolved between January 2013 and June 30, 2014 that included an allegation of sex discrimination related to gender identity or sexual orientation:

FY2013

FY2014 through 3rd Q

Total

Sex – Gender Identity / Transgender

Sex – Sexual Orientation

Total

Sex – Gender Identity / Transgender

Sex – Sexual Orientation

Total Receipts
801 160 667 784 140 663

Pending
173 45 133 386 74 319

Resolved
628 115 534 398 66 344

Settlements
62 9 55 38 10 30

Withdrawal w/Benefits
33 6 28 22 22

Reasonable Cause
16 7 9 1 1 1

% Reasonable Cause
2.5% 6.1% 1.7% 0.3% 1.5% 0.3%

Successful Conciliation
10 3 7

Unsuccessful Conciliation
6 4 2 1 1 1

Merit Resolutions
111 22 92 61 11 53

% Merit Resolutions
17.7% 19.1% 17.2% 15.3% 16.7% 15.4%

No Reasonable Cause
420 78 357 251 33 223

Administrative Closures
97 15 85 86 22 68

Monetary Benefits
$1,874,148 $421,701 $1,561,671 $884,659 $149,933 $747,225

Note: Charges may have multiple allegations so totals will not tally with breakdowns of specific bases or issues.

Further information on our charge receipts and resolutions under Title VII can be found here.

Litigation Activity

The Commission has begun to file LGBT-related lawsuits under Title VII challenging alleged sex discrimination. Most recently the Commission filed two lawsuits involving sex discrimination against transgender individuals:
•EEOC v. Lakeland Eye Clinic, P.A. (M.D. Fla. Civ. No. 8:14-cv-2421-T35 AEP filed Sept. 25, 2014). The EEOC sued Lakeland Eye Clinic, a Florida-based organization of health care professionals, alleging that it discriminated based on sex in violation of Title VII by firing an employee because she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes. The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges the employee performed her duties satisfactorily throughout her employment. However, after she began to present as a woman and informed the clinic she was transgender, Lakeland fired her.
•EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. (E.D. Mich. Civ. No. 2:14-cv-13710-SFC-DRG filed Sept. 25, 2014). The EEOC sued Detroit-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc., alleging that it discriminated based on sex in violation of Title VII by firing a Garden City, Mich., funeral director/embalmer because she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes. The lawsuit alleges that an individual had been employed by Harris as a funeral Director/Embalmer since October 2007 and had always adequately performed the duties of that position. In 2013, the worker gave Harris a letter explaining she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female, and would soon start to present (e.g., dress) in appropriate business attire at work, consistent with her gender identity as a woman. Two weeks later, Harris’s owner fired the transgender employee, telling her that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable.

Additionally the Commission has filed several amicus briefs and successfully conciliated charges involving these issues.

Federal-Sector Enforcement

In the Federal Sector, EEOC has been implementing the SEP priority with regard to the coverage of LGBT individuals in a variety of ways:
•Tracking gender identity and sexual orientation appeals in the federal sector.
•Issuing federal sector decisions finding that gender identity-related complaints and sexual orientation discrimination-related complaints can be brought under Title VII through the federal sector EEO complaint process.
•Establishing an LGBT workgroup to further the EEOC’s adjudicatory and oversight responsibilities, with the goal of issuing an LGBT federal sector report.
•Issuing guidance, including instructions for processing complaints of discrimination by LGBT federal employees and applicants available on EEOC’s public web site.
•Providing technical assistance to federal agencies in the development of gender transition policies and plans.

Training and Outreach

Finally, EEOC staff are addressing LGBT legal developments in numerous outreach and training presentations to the public. During the first three quarters of FY 2014, field office staff conducted over 350 events where LGBT sex-discrimination issues were among the topics discussed. These events reached a wide variety of audiences, including employee advocacy groups, small employer groups, students and staff at colleges and universities, staff and managers at federal agencies and human resource professionals. To assist in this outreach the EEOC developed a brochure, Gender Stereotyping: Preventing Employment Discrimination of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender Employees.

What You Should Know: The EEOC, Conciliation, and Litigation

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There has been recent interest in EEOC’s conciliation and litigation. The following information is intended to help explain the EEOC process.

At the end of an investigation, the EEOC makes a determination on the merits of the charge. If the EEOC concludes that the information obtained in the investigation does not establish a violation of the law, the person who filed the charge of discrimination will be issued a letter called a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights.” This informs the person that he or she have the right to file a lawsuit in federal or state court within 90 days from the date of receipt of the letter. The employer also receives a copy of this document.

If the EEOC determines there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination has occurred, both parties will be issued a “Letter of Determination” telling them that there is reason to believe that discrimination occurred. The Letter of Determination invites the parties to join the agency in seeking to settle the charge through an informal and confidential process known as conciliation. Conciliation is a voluntary process, and the parties must agree to the resolution – neither the EEOC nor the employer can be forced to accept particular terms. The EEOC is required by Title VII to attempt to resolve findings of discrimination on charges through conciliation. The EEOC strongly encourages the parties to take advantage of this opportunity to resolve the charge informally and before the EEOC considers the matter for litigation. Conciliation is an efficient, effective, and inexpensive method of resolving employment discrimination charges.

The EEOC takes its conciliation obligations seriously. In fiscal year 2014, the EEOC successfully conciliated 1,031 cases. In fact, the EEOC improved its rate of successful conciliations from 27% in fiscal year 2010 to 38% in fiscal year 2014. The successful conciliation rate for systemic cases in fiscal year 2014 is even better — with 47% of systemic investigations being resolved. This means that more and more often employers are coming to the table after an investigation and resolving more complaints with conciliation agreements, without the need for protracted litigation. It is important to note that even before conciliation efforts take place, over 14,000 charges are settled with EEOC or through private settlements each year.

More information for employers about the EEOC’s mediation program and conciliation process can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/employers/resolving.cfm.

If conciliation fails, the EEOC must decide whether to sue the employer in court. In fiscal year 2014, conciliation failed in 1,714 charges. When deciding whether to file a lawsuit, the EEOC considers several factors, including the seriousness of the violation, the type of legal issues in the case, the wider impact the lawsuit could have on the agency’s efforts to combat workplace discrimination, and the resources available to litigate the case effectively. Filing lawsuits is a last resort – the EEOC files suit in less than 8 percent of the cases where it believes discrimination occurred and conciliation was unsuccessful.

In fiscal year 2014, the agency filed 133 lawsuits against employers accusing them of unlawful employment discrimination, including 105 on behalf of particular individuals and 28 on behalf of groups or classes of employees. In that same time period, EEOC’s legal staff resolved 136 of the lawsuits filed that year and previous years, for a total monetary recovery of $22.5 million. At the end of fiscal year 2014, the EEOC had 228 cases on its active docket, of which 57 (25 percent) involved challenges to class-wide or systemic discrimination. By any measure, the EEOC has compiled a remarkable record in court. It achieved a favorable resolution in approximately 90 percent of all district court resolutions.