Thursday, July 23, 2015

Aurora Settles Federal Disability Discrimination Suit for $80,000

The Milwaukee field office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") announced that Aurora Health Care, one of Wisconsin's largest employers, will pay $80,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination suit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). 

The lawsuit alleged that, in 2009, Aurora withdrew a job offer it had made to Kelly Beckwith ("Beckwith") for a position as hospice care coordinator upon learning during her pre-employment medical examination that she has multiple sclerosis (MS).  Beckwith had been diagnosed with MS some years earlier, but had not yet developed major symptoms. At the time she applied, Beckwith was working as a nurse and was fully qualified to perform the essential functions of the job.  Aurora attempted to argue that Beckwith did not disclose her MS.  The EEOC alleged that Aurora discriminated against Beckwith because of her disability by misusing confidential medical information to discriminate against her, and by using a qualification standard that tends to discriminate against those who are disabled.

The case was Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Aurora Health Care, Inc., Civil Action No. 12-cv-984.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Title VII to be Amended to Protect Against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination?

Eric B. Meyer over at The Employer Handbook is reporting on a bill, called the "Equality Act," which will be introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and several Senate Democrats as a “wide-ranging sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination bill.” A companion bill will also arrive in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Included in this wide-range of protections would be protection against discrimination in the workplace.  A fact sheet detailing the bill's plans can be found here.

As I have written about for several years now on this blog, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act ("ENDA") has failed time after time in Congress, and perhaps simply amending Title VII, especially with transgender and LGBT issues at the fore in the media lately, are all that is needed to provide for this much needed protection for thousands of employees across the United States as currently a majority of the states provide no protection, or limited protection for for the LGBT community in the workplace.

Stay tuned!

Abercrombie & Fitch Settle Supreme Court Case for $45,000

The now-famous Supreme Court case of EEOC vs. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores was recently settled for a mere $45,000.  That's right, only $45,000.  Abercrombie has agreed to pay Samantha Elauf $25,670.53 in damages and $18,983.03 in court costs.  Had Elauf been represented by a private law firm, the attorney's fees would have presumably been astronomical given this case went all the way to the SCOTUS.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

EEOC Settles Age Discrimination Suit with Enterprice Rent-A-Car for $425,000

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last week that it had reached a settlement agreement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Los Angeles, LLC, a subsidiary of Enterprise Holdings, Inc., North America's largest rental car company.  Charges made to the EEOC alleged that job applicants over the age of 40 were passed over for hire into management trainee positions at the company's Burbank, Calif. location between 2008 and 2011 due to their age. An EEOC investigation determined that ten (10) job applicants over 40 were ultimately denied hire in favor of less qualified, younger applicants, a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).  Though the local Enterprise company denied any wrongdoing, it has agreed to pay $425,000 to settle the charges and to enter into a 3-year conciliation agreement.

EEOC Holds Sexual Orientation Discrimination is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII

A temporary front line manager at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility in Miami, Florida, alleged he was not promoted to the permanent front line manager position because he was an openly gay man.  The FAA never reached a determination on the merits of the claim, and dismissed the complaint on the grounds it had not been raised in a timely fashion as required by EEOC regulations.  The complainant subsequently appealed the Agency's decision to the EEOC, which held that the complaint was timely.  And while the EEOC also did make a determination on the merits of the claim, they did conclude that Title VII forbids discrimination based on one's sexual orientation because it is a form of "sex" discrimination, which is consistent with an internal memorandum that was recently circulated instructing field offices to process and investigate sexual orientation, transgender, and gender identity claims

In reaching this decision, the EEOC held, "[s]exual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee's sex."  In reaching its conclusion, the Commission held "[d]discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, or norms.  'Sexual Orientation' as a concept cannot be defined or understood without reference to sex," which is language from the landmark Supreme Court case of PriceWaterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989). 

The EEOC also addressed previous court decisions that rejected the argument that Title VII applied to sexual orientation discrimination because Congress, in 1964, did not intend Title VII to apply to sexual orientation and, therefore, Title VII could not be interpreted to prohibit such discrimination. The EEOC also rejected other court of appeals decisions that relied on the fact that Congress has  debated, but not yet passed, legislation explicitly providing protections for sexual orientation (referring to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)), holding instead:

[t]he idea that congressional action is required (and inaction is therefore instructive in part) rests on the notion that protection against sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII would create a new class of covered persons.  But analogous case law confirms this is not true.  When courts held that Title VII protected persons who were discriminated against because of their relationships with persons of another race, the courts did not thereby create a new protected class of "people in interracial relationships."

The EEOC referring to associational discrimination.  A very interesting decision and it may be nigh time for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue if ENDA continues to be shelved in Congress.

The case is Complainant v. Foxx, E.E.O.C., Appeal No. 0120133080 (July 16, 2015).