With the partial shutdown of the federal government, the EEOC was essentially closed, offering limited services. Time to file a charge of discrimination was not extended and individuals who were within 30 days of the deadlines for filing were instructed to do so via hard copy, as the on-line portal was unavailable. Investigations were not conducted and the EEOC was unable to respond to inquiries about pending charges. However, now that the federal government is, at least for the time being, up and running, so is the EEOC. With the end of the shutdown, the EEOC has been actively reporting on its recent settlements and new litigation involving gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
On January 29, 2019, the EEOC reported a settlement, with the Maryland Insurance Administration paying $36,802 and agreeing to certain equitable relief to resolve an Equal Pay Act suit which alleged that female fraud investigators were paid less than their male counterparts for the same work. The equitable relief included a requirement that the agency create policies requiring specific, non-gender-based criteria for setting wages. The EEOC also reported on a $100,000 settlement of a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. In this case, the EEOC alleged that a female convenience store cashier complained of a hostile work environment and her employment was terminated after she filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. In addition to the monetary settlement, the EEOC reported that the employer agreed to train its employees and managers on Title VII and the prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace. An employer in another suit brought by the EEOC agreed to pay a $30,000 settlement to three male claimants who alleged that they had been denied jobs as bartenders at restaurant locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma based on their gender. Finally, on January 29, 2019, the EEOC announced that it filed suit against two U.S. military contractors alleging that they discriminated against a pregnant employee by forcing her to take unpaid leave, keeping her on leave even after she was medically cleared to return to work, and subsequently firing her because of her pregnancy.
As these lawsuits and settlements reflect, issues of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation continue in our workplaces, leaving employers with exposure to significant hard and soft costs with which to contend in addressing these allegations, which we discussed here. For employers, training employees and managers is a critical part of the process to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. In addition, adopting, implementing, and enforcing appropriate anti-harassment and related policies and procedures can be a key component to avoiding improper workplace conduct. The Norris McLaughlin Labor & Employment Group can assist employers with the tools needed to prevent harassment in your workplace.
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