EEOC Resolves Disability Discrimination Suits, Files Others Alleging Disability, Race, and Religious Bias

May 01, 2017

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has settled two unrelated lawsuits alleging disability discrimination by employers in Maryland and Texas. The EEOC also announced the filing of separate lawsuits against employers in Florida (disability discrimination), Georgia (religious discrimination), and North Carolina (racial harassment).

EEOC v Harbor Hospital Inc, t/a MedStar Harbor Hospital, DMd, case number 1:16-03138-GLR: Under a five-year consent decree, the Baltimore, Maryland, hospital agreed to pay $179,576 and provide other relief to resolve allegations that it violated the ADA when it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to, and instead fired, a respiratory therapist because of his disability. The employee had a kidney transplant and takes medication which compromises his immune system and increases his risk of infection. Due to his weakened immune system, the employee purportedly asked for—and MedStar initially granted—a "work-around" that excused him from working in isolation rooms with a mechanical ventilation system designed to trap infectious airborne materials. Although the hospital gave some other workers similar work-arounds when requested, MedStar refused to reasonably accommodate the employee’s similar request on a later date, and instead abruptly terminated him because of his disability and his accommodation request, the EEOC contended.

EEOC v Flying Star Transport, NDTex, case number 2:17-cv-00070-J: The Amarillo, Texas-based fuel transport company will pay $65,000 and furnish other relief to settle claims that it violated the ADA by denying hire to a truck driver because he had had his arm amputated during his teenage years. The applicant allegedly had more than 20 years of experience driving trucks when he applied to work for Flying Star. The company made an assessment, without evidence or proof, that there was no accommodation that would allow the applicant to do the job safely, and it failed to engage in an interactive process of exploring that with him, according to the EEOC.

EEOC v STME LLC dba Massage Envy South Tampa, MDFla, case number 8:17-CV-977-T-35-TBM: The EEOC asserts that the Tampa, Florida, employer violated the ADA by firing an employee for refusing to cancel her plans to travel to Ghana, which company officials feared would lead to a potentially catastrophic outbreak of Ebola in the United States. The company discharged the employee because it regarded her as disabled based on its unfounded fears and beliefs about Ebola in Ghana and the risk that she would contract Ebola on her trip, the federal agency contends.

EEOC v Decostar Industries, Inc, NDGa, case number 3:17-cv-00054-TCB-RGV: The Carrollton, Georgia-based manufacturer and supplier of automotive parts violated Title VII by firing an employee rather than accommodating her religious beliefs, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit. Sometime in 2010, the company required all employees to work mandatory overtime hours on designated Saturdays. The employee, who was a line worker, allegedly asked to be excused from working Saturdays due to her religious belief that she cannot work during her weekly Sabbath, which she observes from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Decostar initially granted the request until January 2014, when a new supervisor took over the employee’s department and purportedly denied her ongoing request for a religious accommodation. The company allegedly discharged the employee in October 2014.

EEOC v Hiatt & Mason Enterprises, Inc, MDNC, case number 1:16-cv-01429: The EEOC contends that the structural steel erection services company violated Title VII when it subjected, for nearly two years, a black employee at its Mount Airy, North Carolina, facility to a racially hostile work environment that was created by his white foreman and some of his coworkers. The alleged misconduct included daily or almost daily use of the "N-word" and other racial epithets, as well as racial jokes about blacks. The employee was purportedly threatened physically on more than one occasion by one of the coworkers who engaged in racist name calling. The company’s EEO officer witnessed at least one of the incidents of harassment and received complaints about some of the abuse, but took no action to stop it, according to the EEOC. The employee ultimately left the company.