SUMMARY OF RECENT EEOC LITIGATION ACTIVITY

Disability Discrimination

  • United Airlines: The EEOC filed a lawsuit in Seattle on September 28 against United Airlines alleging the carrier violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it fired three employees who were physically unable to meet its new requirement for a minimum 30-hour workweek. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of reservation staff in Honolulu and Seattle and a class of employees nationwide. The women had worked for United from 15 to nearly 30 years and had been allowed to work 20-hour weeks to help accommodate their disabilities, which included multiple sclerosis, tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.


  • Denny’s Inc.: The EEOC filed a class-action lawsuit against Denny’s restaurants alleging that Paula Hart, a manager in its suburban Baltimore facility who had a leg amputated, was wrongly fired because her superiors believed she posed a safety risk. Hart had a leg amputated in December 2002 and returned to work in April 2003 using a walker while recuperating from surgery and awaiting a prosthetic leg. She was fired after using up 26 weeks of medical leave provided by the company. The suit seeks a court order requiring Denny’s to comply with the ADA by giving additional medical leave to eligible employees.


  • Tommy Bahama: The EEOC filed a lawsuit on September 28 alleging clothing retailer Tommy Bahama, which has co-headquarters in Seattle, violated the ADA by firing Todd Hiley, an employee with spastic paraplegia, a group of inherited disorders characterized by progressive weakness and stiffness of the legs. He was allegedly fired in 2005 after he took a few days off for a routine medical procedure. The EEOC said the company had been concerned that Hiley would injure himself on the job, even though he had worked for the company for a couple of years without incident.


Harassment

  • Southwest Airlines: The EEOC sued Southwest Airlines on September 27 in a federal district court in San Francisco alleging the company allowed a male employee to sexually harass female co- workers at Oakland International Airport. The agency claims the male employee made sexually suggestive comments and also flaunted nude pictures of women, “loudly simulated sex acts” and made “vulgar references to his sexual exploits.”


  • Taco Bell: The EEOC’s San Francisco office announced on September 27 that it had settled a sexual harassment lawsuit on behalf of several female workers at a Sunnyvale KFC/Taco Bell. The lawsuit alleged that the restaurant’s manager repeatedly approached the female employees with unwelcome sexual advances. The settlement calls for the restaurant’s complaint procedure and harassment policy to be outlined in both English and Spanish. Additionally, the restaurant manager is required to send a letter of apology to each of the three plaintiffs.


Racial Discrimination

  • John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods Inc.: A U.S. District Court judge ordered Atlanta-based residential developer John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods Inc. to comply with a subpoena issued by the EEOC for information about the company’s recruitment, hiring, assignment, and compensation policies and practices for its sales agents. The EEOC had asked the company for 19 categories of information as part of an investigation of race discrimination based on a charge filed by a former employee who alleged African-American sales agents were subjected to discriminatory hiring and assignment practices. Another employee claimed she was forced to resign because she refused to comply with the practice.


Religious Discrimination

  • University of Phoenix: The EEOC filed a class action lawsuit on September 27 in U.S. District Court in Phoenix alleging the University of Phoenix and its parent company, the Apollo Group, discriminated against four employees because they were not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The agency alleges that the employees were offered less favorable terms and working conditions because they were not members of the church.


  • Razzoo’s: The EEOC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against Razzoo’s, an Irving-based restaurant, alleging it fired Sabrina Balentine after she requested that she not be part of birthday celebrations because she is a Jehovah’s Witness. Such celebrations are forbidden by her religion, according to the EEOC. The agency alleges that her supervisor said Razzoo’s could not accommodate her request and fired her.


Sex Discrimination

  • Outback Steakhouse: The EEOC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver against Outback Steakhouse of Florida Inc. and OS Restaurant Partners Inc. for allegedly not promoting women to top management positions. Tom Flanagan, a joint venture partner, allegedly said that women managers had “let him down” and “lost focus” when they had children. He also allegedly said women managers had trouble “saying no” and that he wanted “cute girls” to work in the front as servers.

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