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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.

Workplace Harassment Still a Major Problem Experts Tell EEOC at Meeting

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EEOC Chair Announces Task Force to Develop Strategies to Prevent and Correct Harassment

WASHINGTON-Workplace harassment is alleged in approximately 30 percent of all charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang, who presided over the first commission meeting of her tenure today. Newly sworn in Commissioner Charlotte Burrows was present at the meeting, bringing the EEOC back to full strength of five commissioners.

“The EEOC is working to leverage our resources to have a greater impact on the persistent problem of workplace harassment,” said Yang. “By identifying underlying problems in workplaces and industries where we see recurring patterns of harassment, we are developing strategies that focus on targeted outreach and education as well as systemic enforcement to promote broader voluntary compliance.”

In the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement plan for FY2013-2016, the Commission recognized that an outreach campaign aimed at both educating employers and employees is an important strategy to deter future violations. “Preventing harassment from occurring in the first place is far preferable to remedying its consequences,” Yang said.

To achieve these goals, Yang announced that she is establishing a task force, co-chaired by Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic, to convene experts from the employer community, workers’ advocates, human resources experts, academics, and others in a broader effort to identify effective strategies that work to prevent and remedy harassment in the workplace. “Through this task force we hope to better reach workers to ensure they know their rights and to better reach employers to promote best practices,” Yang said.

The serious impact that harassment can have on employees was brought poignantly to life by the testimony of Sean Ratliff, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s Denver field office who litigated a major harassment case against Dart Energy, an oil company; and Laudente Montoya, one of the individuals affected by the harassment.

Ratliff described a workplace where derogatory and demeaning ethnic and racial slurs were directed against African American, Hispanic and Native American employees. Complaints about the harassment to a supervisor were ignored. At times, the harassment took the form of dangerous “games” played on the minority workers, such as asking one Hispanic employee to put his hand down a hole where there was a drill going, or trying to shake an African American employee off of a two story rig.

Montoya, who lost his job shortly after complaining of the harassment, told the Commission, “Working that job was one of the worst times in my life. It became so that I could hardly bring myself to go to work in the morning. I even saw my doctor about it.”

The lawsuit ended with a settlement, which included numerous and specific training and posting requirements about equal employment and the right to work free from harassment. Additionally, the 17 men affected were awarded $1.2 million.

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President of the National Women’s Law Center, told the Commission that while one in four women face harassment in the workplace, many are loath to report it. “Workers in low-wage jobs often have little bargaining power and can least afford to risk their livelihoods by reporting harassment,” she said. “And women who have succeeded in breaking into higher-paid, nontraditional jobs have already overcome many hurdles, including cultural biases against their participation in nontraditional fields. Because of the significant barriers to entry, women who suffer harassment in nontraditional jobs may be especially unlikely to report harassment for fear of retaliation.”

Individuals with disabilities are also subjected to harassment, Jane Kow, Principal of HR Law Consultants said. Kow underscored “the need for training of managers, supervisors, and co-workers alike about the repercussions when mistreating employees with disabilities, as well as the company’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations.” Kow also discussed the impact of social media. “The ease and speed of posting or responding to the proliferation of messages and images on social media has spawned employee complaints of harassment, defamation, violation of a right to privacy and a host of other claims,” said Kow. “None of this was even imaginable in 1964 when Title VII was enacted.”

Many speakers agreed that the best way to combat harassment of all types was though awareness and training at all levels of employment and management. Patricia Wise, a partner with Niehaus Wise & Kalas Ltd, a law firm representing employers, and also active in the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), provided a helpful overview of employer best practices to prevent and address harassment.

Having a policy is insufficient if it is not communicated understandably to the workforce, Carol Miaskoff, Acting Associate Legal Counsel of the EEOC testified. For example, in a workforce that includes many teens, the policy should be understandable to the average high school student.

The Commission will hold open the meeting record for 15 days, and invites audience members, as well as other members of the public, to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at the meeting. Public comments may be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or emailed to: Commissionmeetingcomments@eeoc.gov.

The public comments submitted will be made available to members of the Commission and to Commission staff working on the matters discussed at the meeting. In addition, comments may be publicly disclosed on the EEOC’s public website, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, or in the Commission’s library. By providing public comments in response to this solicitation, commenters are consenting to their use and consideration by the Commission and to their public dissemination. Accordingly, commenters should not include any information in submitted comments that they would not want made public, e.g., home address, telephone number, etc. Also note that when comments are submitted by e-mail, the sender’s e-mail address automatically appears on the message.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information about the EEOC, including panelists’ statements, biographies and a transcript of this meeting, can be found at www.eeoc.gov.

Charlotte Burrows Sworn In as EEOC Commissioner

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Bipartisan Federal Agency Restored to Full Capacity

WASHINGTON – Charlotte A. Burrows was sworn in today as Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced this morning. Burrows was nominated by President Obama on Sept. 12, 2014, and was confirmed on Dec. 3, 2014 by a Senate vote of 93-2 to serve as Commissioner, for a term expiring July 1, 2019.

Burrows fills the slot created when former Chair Jacqueline Berrien’s term and holdover period expired in August 2015, and restores the Commission to its full complement. Burrows joins Chair Jenny R. Yang and Commissioners Constance Barker, Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic to complete the five-member presidentially appointed bipartisan Commission.

“I am pleased to welcome Charlotte Burrows to this vitally important agency,” said EEOC Chair Jenny Yang. “Her combined experience in civil and constitutional rights, coupled with her service as a trial attorney, will be great assets to the agency, and I look forward to working with her and my other colleagues on the commission to promote equal opportunity for all.”

Prior to her appointment at the EEOC, Burrows served as associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ), where she worked on a broad range of legal and policy issues, including employment litigation, tribal justice, voting rights, and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act, among others.

Burrows previously served as general counsel for Civil and Constitutional Rights to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in 2009, and on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2007 to 2008, after having served as legal counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2003 to 2007.

Before working on Capitol Hill, Burrows served in the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section at DOJ first as a trial attorney, and later as special litigation counsel and then as deputy chief. She served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton.

Burrows received an A.B. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

“I am honored to serve as a Commissioner of the EEOC,” said Burrows. “I’m eager to begin working with my talented and dedicated colleagues in fulfilling the agency’s mission of ensuring workplace equality for all.”

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

EEOC Sues Triangle Catering for Religious Discrimination

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Raleigh Company Unlawfully Fired Rastafarian Because He Refused to Remove His Religious Head Covering, Federal Agency Charges

RALEIGH, N.C. – Triangle Catering, LLC, a catering and event planning company based in Raleigh, violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and fired him because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC says Michael Reddick, Jr. had been a practicing Rastafarian for more than 15 years. As a Rastafarian, Reddick holds the sincere religious belief that he must keep his head covered to prevent his spiritual energy from escaping into the atmosphere. In accordance with this belief, Reddick wears a small cap, which he refers to as a “crown,” to cover his head. Reddick was hired as a delivery driver on December 2013. Shortly after he was hired, the company informed Reddick that he would have to remove his head covering while working for the company. Reddick told Triangle Catering that he could not remove his head covering because of his religious beliefs. The company ultimately fired Reddick for refusing to remove his head covering.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Triangle Catering, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:15cv00016) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Reddick, as well as injunctive relief.

“No person should be forced to choose between his religion and his job when the company can provide an accommodation without suffering an undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which includes the EEOC’s Raleigh Area Office, where the charge was filed. “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

EEOC Announces “Chair’s Message” Online

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Chair Jenny Yang Pens First in Series of Articles on the Work of the Agency

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the first “Chair’s Message” on www.eeoc.gov devised by Chair Jenny Yang to provide the public with information about the work of the EEOC, including best practices and insights on how to prevent, stop and remedy workplace discrimination, among other information. Today’s post is the first in a regular series by Chair Yang.

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

EZEFLOW USA, Inc. Will Pay $65,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

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Pipe Fittings Manufacturer Fired Disabled Veteran Instead of Providing a Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Said

PITTSBURGH – EZEFLOW USA, a pipe fitting manufacturer located in New Castle, Pa., will pay $65,000 and provide significant equitable relief to resolve a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The EEOC charged that Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. Marine Corps veteran Adam Brant, who worked as a maintenance technician, requested six weeks of unpaid medical leave when he experienced seizures caused by service-related disabilities. EZEFLOW USA denied the request because Brant was still a probationary employee. Even though EZEFLOW USA maintains a policy of providing up to 26 weeks of paid leave to non-probationary employees, the company refused to provide Brant with unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation and fired him because of his disability, according to the lawsuit.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. EZEFLOW USA, Inc., Civil Action No 02:14-cv-527) in the 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 $65,000 in monetary relief to Brant, the 28-month consent decree resolving the lawsuit prohibits EZEFLOW USA from engaging in disability discrimination or retaliation. The company will revise its policies to ensure that probationary employees with disabilities are given unpaid leave when needed as a reasonable accommodation. EZEFLOW USA will also provide training on the ADA, report to the EEOC regarding its compliance with the consent decree and post a notice about the settlement.

“This case is significant because it demonstrates that even probationary employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it can show that doing so would cause a significant difficulty or expense.”

Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office added, “We owe all of our veterans our gratitude for their sacrifices, but especially those with service-related disabilities. Mr. Brant honorably served our country as a Marine and only needed a brief period of unpaid leave to treat his disability and remain employed. I am pleased that EZEFLOW USA worked with us to resolve this lawsuit quickly and that the company will also provide affirmative relief to protect all employees from disability discrimination.”

The EEOC has issued two revised publications addressing veterans with disabilities and the ADA. The Guide for Employers explains how protections for veterans with service-connected disabilities differ under the ADA and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). It explains how employers can prevent disability-based discrimination and provide reasonable accommodations.

The Guide for Wounded Veterans answers questions that veterans with service-related disabilities may have about the protections available when they seek to return to their former jobs or look for civilian jobs. The publication also explains the kinds of accommodations that may be necessary to help veterans with disabilities obtain and successfully maintain employment.

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.