Chair Jenny R. Yang
- July 2 marked the 50th anniversary of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the act made illegal employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex or religion. The act also created the EEOC to enforce the law, and promote equal employment opportunity. The Commission opened its doors on July 2, 1965, a year after the landmark legislation was signed.
- At the end of fiscal year 2014, the EEOC had 228 cases on its active litigation docket, of which 57 (25%) involve challenges to systemic discrimination. This is the largest percentage of systemic lawsuits since the agency began to focus on systemic enforcement in 2006. The EEOC's Federal Hearings Program resolves a total of 6,347 complaints and secures more than $74 million in relief for federal employees and applicants who request a hearing on their federal complaints.
- The EEOC continued to partner with other government agencies to eliminate duplication and increase efficiency across the federal government. The EEOC signed a National Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Embassy of Mexico to coincide with the many MOUs EEOC field offices have with Mexican consulates around the country. The MOU identified ways in which the EEOC and the Mexico government will work together to reach and protect the rights of members of the Mexican community working in the United States.
- The EEOC Training Institute offered education programs to over 18,000 individuals at more than 420 events, generating approximately $3.3 million in revenue.
- EEOC mission systems (Integrated Mission System and Document Management System) were moved to cloud-based managed services, reducing the costs for system operations.
- In EEOC v. Baltimore County, 747 F.3d 267 (4th Cir. 2014), the Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of partial summary judgment to the EEOC, finding that Baltimore County maintained a retirement plan in violation of the ADEA. The court noted that Baltimore County's plan impermissibly "mandated different contribution rates that escalated explicitly in accordance with employees' ages at the time of their enrollment in the plan."
- In EEOC v. LHC Group, Inc., d/b/a Gulf Coast Homecare, 773 F.3d 688 (5th Cir. 2014), the Fifth Circuit reversed the lower court's grant of partial summary judgment to the defendant and found that there were factual disputes regarding whether the employer was motivated to terminate the employee because of disability. The court also held that when courts determine the essential functions of a position, the deference they owe to the employer's position description should be overridden if the evidence shows that the employer did not actually require employees to perform the challenged function.
- In Mazzeo v. Color Resolution Int'l, Inc., F.3d 1264 (11th Cir. 2014), plaintiff alleged that he was fired from the company because of his disability and age. The Eleventh Circuit held that the affidavit from Mazzeo's treating physician was sufficient under the ADAAA to show that his disability substantially limited a major life activity, citing to the EEOC's regulations. The circuit court also vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment on Mazzeo's age discrimination claim because the district court erroneously applied the incorrect prima facie test.
- In EEOC v. A.C. Widenhouse, Inc., the Fourth Circuit upheld the jury verdict of more than $243,000 and injunctive relief for victims of racial harassment and retaliation by A.C. Widenhouse, Inc., a Concord, N.C.-based trucking company. Two truck drivers were repeatedly subjected to unwelcome derogatory racial comments and slurs by the facility's general manager, (who was also their supervisor), the company's dispatcher, several mechanics and other truck drivers, all of whom are white.
- In EEOC v. AA Foundries (Civil Action No. 11-CV-792 filed on Sept. 23, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas), AA Foundries agreed to drop its appeal of a racial harassment judgment for $140,000 and resolved the case. The EEOC had charged the company with racially harassing its African-American employees, including noose displays.
Notable EEOC Resolutions
- Global Horizons, et. al. (Mac Farms of Hawaii, LLC (nka MF Nut Co., LLC); Kauai Coffee Company, Inc., (nka McBryde Resources, Inc.), Kelena Farms, Inc. and Captain Cook Coffee Company, Ltd.) (D. Haw.) This case, a companion to the one settled last year, settled for $2.4 million in monetary damages and sweeping injunctive relief. In addition, the court found the labor contractor, Global Horizons, liable for a pattern or practice of harassing, discriminating, and retaliating against hundreds of Thai workers. (See EEOC v. Global Horizons, 7 F. Supp. 3d 1053 (D. Haw. March 2014). Then, in December 2014, the court entered Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law against Global and Maui Pineapple. 2014 WL 7338725 (D. Haw. Dec. 2014). The court entered a default judgment against Global and Maui Pineapple, finding them jointly liable for $8.7 million in damages.
- EEOC v. v. Founders Pavilion, Inc (W.D. N.Y. Jan. 13, 2014)settled for $370,000 in the first class action case file by the EEOC under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Founders Pavilion requested family medical history as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants. The company also fired two employees because they were perceived to be disabled, in violation of the ADA. As part of a five-year consent decree resolving the suit, Founders Pavilion agrees to provide a fund of $110,400 for distribution to the 138 individuals who were asked for their genetic information and to pay $259,600 to the five individuals who the EEOC alleged were fired or denied hire in violation of the ADA.
- EEOC v. Pitre Inc., d/b/a. Pitre Buick/Pontiac (D.N.M. Mar. 27, 2014) was resolved for over $2 million for a class of men subjected to severe same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation. The harassment included frequent solicitations for oral sex, and regular touching, grabbing and biting of male workers on their buttocks and genitals.
- The EEOC resolved EEOC v. Dart Energy Co. (D. Wyo. Dec. 1, 2014) for $1.2 million to a class of Hispanic, Native American, and African American employees, who were subjected to racial and ethnic slurs by defendant's area manager and truck supervisor in violation of Title VII. These employees were disciplined more harshly than their white counterparts, were given unfavorable job assignments and retaliated against after they complained of discrimination.
Notable Federal Sector Developments
- The EEOC and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) signed a renewed MOU to enhance the efficiency and enforcement of federal sector equal employment opportunity laws. Under the MOU, the EEOC shall refer to the OSC cases in which a federal agency fails to comply with an EEOC order and any other case that the EEOC believes warrants enforcement by the OSC.
- The Commission issued a report on procedural dismissals of EEO complaints by federal agencies in an effort to identify common errors and reduce the number of incorrect procedural dismissals by federal agencies.
- In Petitioner v. Dep't of Homeland Sec., EEOC Petition No. 0320110053, the Commission differed with the MSPB and found that an employee was discriminated against when he was denied a reasonable accommodation that led to his removal. In reaching this determination, the Commission noted that attendance and timing are not essential functions but are methods by which a person accomplishes the essential functions of a job. The MSPB certified this matter to the Special Panel. The Special Panel deferred to the Commission and adopted its decision, 121 M.S.P.R. 613.
- In Petitioner v. Dep't of the Interior, EEOC Petition No. 0320110050, the Commission held that the "but for" standard does not apply to retaliation claims by federal sector complainants under Title VII or the ADEA because the federal sector statutory language does not employ the "because of" language on which the Supreme Court based its holdings concerning private sector complainants.
- The EEOC issued two technical assistance documents, "Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities" and "Fact Sheet on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities." These documents provide practical advice and examples for employers and stakeholders on disparate treatment, non-selection, segregation, harassment, accommodation, and retaliation issues arising from religious garb and grooming practices of applicants and employees.
- The EEOC and the Federal Trade Commission issued two joint technical assistance documents on background checks, one for employers and another for individuals. Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know and Background Checks: What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know. The documents summarized the basics of the federal EEO laws and the Fair Credit Reporting Act as they apply to employers' requests for, and use of, personal background information for screening job applicants.
- The EEOC revised two more technical assistance documents to reflect the ADAAA, "Q&A: Blindness & Vision Impairments in the Workplace & the ADA" and "Q&A: Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace & the ADA."
- The EEOC published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the Federal Register inviting public comment on how to amend its regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to clarify the federal government's obligation to be a model employer of individuals with disabilities.
- The EEOC issued Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues. The new guidance is the first update on pregnancy discrimination issued by the EEOC in more than 30 years, and addressed requirements of the PDA and the application of the ADA to pregnant workers with pregnancy-related impairments. The EEOC issued companion documents, Q&A About EEOC's Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues and Fact Sheet for Small Businesses: Pregnancy Discrimination.