EEOC Settles Pregnancy and Disability Discrimination, Sexual Harassment Suits; Files Religious Discrimination Suit

July 30, 2019

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced the settlement of a pregnancy and disability discrimination suit and a sexual harassment charge brought against employers in Texas and Indiana, respectively. In addition, the EEOC has filed an unrelated lawsuit charging religious discrimination against an employer in Florida.

Party City settles suit. Party City Corporation has agreed to pay $39,000 in lost wages and damages and to provide other significant relief in order to settle allegations that it violated the PDA and ADA when it fired an employee due to her pregnancy and pregnancy-related medical condition. Based in Rockaway, New Jersey, the party supply retailer operates in the greater Houston area.

In December 2015, the employee sought medical care due to a pregnancy-related condition and also sought a reasonable accommodation. The local store management conveyed the request to Party City’s human resources department; however, after requesting more information, Party City purportedly denied the employee’s request and she was subsequently terminated.

In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit includes an injunction prohibiting any future discrimination based on pregnancy or disability. Party City also must develop training about its policies and the requirements of the PDA and ADA.

Sexual harassment charge settled. The North Liberty, Indiana Police Department has agreed to pay $12,000 and make significant revisions to its anti-harassment policy and procedures to resolve a sexual harassment and retaliation discrimination charge. The EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the North Liberty Police Department subjected a police officer to a hostile work environment due to pervasive sexual harassment and that the officer was disciplined and forced to resign in retaliation for making protected complaints about the sexual harassment.

Besides the monetary relief for the employee, the conciliation agreement settling the discrimination charge requires the police department to revise its written policies and procedures prohibiting harassment based on sex, as well as prohibiting retaliation for complaining about, reporting or otherwise opposing such harassment. The revised policies and procedures will be published in the employee handbook and will be given to all employees upon hire. The police department will also provide all employees, including management, compliance training on sex discrimination and sexual harassment; workplace civility training; and bystander training on sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

Religious discrimination lawsuit filed. Chalfont & Associates Group, Inc, owner of multiple central Florida McDonald’s restaurants, violated Title VII when it refused to hire a job applicant who would not shave his beard due to his religious beliefs, the EEOC contends in a new lawsuit.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a practicing Hasidic Jew applied for a part-time maintenance worker position at a McDonald’s in Longwood, Florida. During his interview, the hiring manager told the applicant he would be hired, but he needed to shave his beard to comply with McDonald’s grooming policy. McDonald’s grooming policy states "[a]ll employees must be completely clean shaven."

According to the EEOC, the applicant told the hiring manager he would not shave his beard due to his religious beliefs, but offered to wear a beard net as a solution. However, this request was denied, said the EEOC.