Human Resources News & Insights

Dumb manager decisions end up costing two firms big money for EEOC violations

Here’s two more chapters in the continuing saga of “How Bonehead Decisions by Middle Managers Can Put a Big Dent in Your Corporate Pocketbook”:

Case No. 1, or “Stick to that policy no matter how many other ways there are to handle the problem.”

The EEOC charged J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. of Lowell, AR, with discrimination for denying four Indian Sikh applicants religious accommodations in its drug testing policy.

One of the five articles of faith for Sikhs is maintaining uncut hair, and the applicants refused to submit a hair sample. Instead of approving the applicants’ request for an alternative test (urine, blood, etc.), the company simply denied them employment. The applicants filed charges with the EEOC, and the agency sued.

J.B. Hunt decided to settle the litigation by paying $260,000 in relief.

The company also agreed to enter into a two-year conciliation agreement with EEOC and the alleged victims, revise its written policies and procedures regarding discrimination and religious accommodations, and established an alternative to the drug testing by hair sample for those who need an accommodation. Plus, the the company will extend a conditional offer of employment to all complainants in this case.

Case No. 2, or “Of course you can make career decisions for pregnant women — the company knows best.”

RTG Furniture Corp., a Florida corporation that operates a chain of Rooms to Go furniture stores and distribution centers nationwide, agreed to pay $55,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, the company hired Chantoni McBryde and assigned her to work as a shop apprentice at the company’s temporary training facility in Dunn, N.C. The job required the use of various chemicals to repair furniture. After a couple days on the job, McBryde informed the company’s shop trainer that she was pregnant.

Later that same day, the EEOC said, McBryde was called into a meeting with the company’s regional shop manager and others, and was asked to confirm that she was pregnant. The regional shop manager then showed McBryde a can of lacquer thinner that contained a warning that the contents could potentially pose a risk to a woman or her unborn child, and discussed the warning with McBryde.

McBryde was then told that because she was pregnant, she could no longer work at the facility. She subsequently complained to the EEOC.

EEOC claimed the firing violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement with RTG.

Rooms To Go agreed to pay $55K to settle the suit. In a press release, an EEOC spokesperson said, “Pregnant women have the right to make their own decisions about working while pregnant, including the risks they are willing to assume.”

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