Human Resources News & Insights

Sony cancels ‘The Interview’ – and violates the ADA (says the EEOC)

The holiday season hasn’t been kind to Sony Corporation of America. 

First, due to threats of violence at movie theaters that screen Sony’s controversial new film The Interview, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. decided to cancel the Christmas Day release of the film.

It’s suspected the threats may have come from the same group responsible for the recent hacking of Sony Pictures.

The hack and the threats were the first lumps of coal Sony received in its stocking this holiday season, but they weren’t the last.

EEOC discrimination suit settled

The final lump came in the form of a consent decree Sony Electronics Inc. entered into with the EEOC on December 23. Under the decree, Sony will pay $85,000 to end a lawsuit brought against the company by the federal agency.

In the suit, the EEOC claims Sony violated the ADA when it fired a woman because of her disability — she had a prosthetic leg.

The employee had been sent to Sony via Staffmark Investment LLC, a staffing firm. Her job was to inspect televisions on a temporary basis at a facility in Romeoville, IL.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the employee was forced to leave the worksite on her second day on the job by a Staffmark employee. She was allegedly told that there were concerns she’d be bumped into or knocked down.

The EEOC said the employee’s removal was actually prompted by Sony’s management.

The agency sued both Staffmark and Sony. Earlier this year, the EEOC entered a similar decree with Staffmark under which the staffing firm was made to pay $100,000 to the employee. Sony’s $85,000 will also go to the victim.

Under the new decree, Sony must also:

  • Report all employee complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC for the next two years.
  • Train certain managerial and supervisory employees on the laws pertaining to employment discrimination, like the ADA.

John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, had offered this warning to employers:

“The ADA provides robust employee protections, even for short-term temporary workers hired through staffing agencies. Smart employers will learn from this case that they cannot insulate themselves from liability for discrimination by acting through employment and staffing agencies. That’s axiomatic under the civil rights laws we enforce — if you can’t do it directly, you can’t do it through someone else.”

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