EEOC Sues Two Employers for Retaliation, and Settles One for Pregnancy Bias

February 13, 2017

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed suit against a Mississippi health care company for disability discrimination and retaliation, and a separate lawsuit against an automotive components manufacturer in Tennessee for retaliation. Additionally, the EEOC has settled a pregnancy discrimination suit it filed against a chain of furniture stores based on the actions of its North Carolina training facility.

According to the EEOC, the Mississippi company focused on rural health care, unlawfully discriminated against a therapist because of her disability—liver failure and a subsequent transplant—when it refused to extend her leave as a reasonable accommodation, fired her, and then retaliated against her by refusing to re-hire her after she complained. The therapist was hospitalized as a result of liver failure. She sought, and the company approved, her request for leave to cover her absence while she underwent a liver transplant, which was successful. She sought an additional four weeks beyond her anticipated return date to allow for her recovery from post-operative complications, and although she had more than four weeks of available sick leave, the company denied the request and subsequently fired her after her company-approved leave was exhausted. It also allegedly refused to rehire the employee for an available position after receiving notice that she had filed a discrimination charge.

In a separate lawsuit, the EEOC charges that an automotive components manufacturer located in Tennessee fired a female employee because she complained of sexual harassment in the workplace. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a female employee alleged that an HR manager at the Athens plant made unwelcome comments that the employee believed constituted sex harassment. She reported the comments to the plant manager, but he delayed in investigating the allegation, so she reported the harassment to a higher company official, who ordered the plant manager to investigate. He found that the company could not substantiate her complaint. She was then fired supposedly for "purposefully falsifying a claim of harassment" in violation of company policy.

A Florida corporation that operates a chain of Rooms to Go furniture stores and distribution centers nationwide, has agreed to pay $55,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC The EEOC's complaint alleged that the company hired a woman to work as a shop apprentice at the company's temporary training facility in North Carolina, a job that required the use of various chemicals to repair furniture. Two days later, the employee told the company's shop trainer that she was pregnant. That same day, the employee was called into a meeting where she confirmed she was pregnant, was told that chemicals used at the plant could potentially pose a risk to a woman or her unborn child, and was told she could no longer work at the facility.