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Hostile Work Environment Definition

Employees File Complaints, Employers Pay

Janitor’s EEOC Complaint Ends With Order to Pay $350,000
A nursing home company, Skilled Healthcare Group, must pay a class of Hispanic employees it discriminated against $450,000 “and provide significant remedial relief [because they] were subject to harassment, different terms and conditions of employment, promotion, compensation, and treatment.”  The EEOC ordered the company to pay Hispanic employees because the employees had been forbidden from speaking Spanish at work, BUT, other ethnic groups were allowed to speak their own native (non-English) language while working for Silled Healthcare.  Because the compnay treated employees differently with respect to their national origin, the EEOC had filed suit against the company in Federal Court in California, alleging discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The suit stemmed from a complaint filed by a single employee, a janitor named Jose Zazueta.  Skilled Healthcare fired Mr. Zazueta for violating the company’s English-only policy.  At the same time, however, the company did not terminate or discipline other employees who spoke Tagalog at work.  Here’s a quote from the EEOC’s own press release about the details:

The EEOC identified a total of 53 current and former Hispanic employees at facilities in California and Texas who were subjected to disparate treatment and harassment based on their national origin and shared Spanish language. The EEOC alleged that some workers were prohibited from speaking Spanish to Spanish-speaking residents of the facility, or disciplined for speaking Spanish in the parking lot while on breaks. Additionally, the EEOC alleged that defendants gave Hispanic employees less desirable work than non-Hispanic counterparts, paid them less, and promoted them less often.

English-Only rules can be legal IF the employer demonstrates that the rule is necessary, and the employer also enforces the rule the same way with all employees.  Employers who fail to evenly enforce English-Only rules commit discrimination, whether the employer intends to discriminate or not.

Two Women Complain To EEOC and Employer is Ordered to Pay $267,000

Tineke Meyer and Karina Mercado worked for Sunfire Glass in Arizona.  The company’s owner, Paul McBride, touched them inappropriately, talked to the women about their bodies, used vulgar language with them, and made obscene gestures toward them.  Both women complained repeatedly, but nothing changed.  Eventually both Meyer and Mercado quit their jobs and Sunfire Glass, feeling that they were forced out by the hostile work envioronment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in September on behalf of employees (EEOC v. Sunfire Glass, Inc., Civ. 08-1784 PHX-LOA).  It alleged that Sunfire owner Paul McBride touched them inappropriately, made obscene gestures, talked about their bodies and used vulgar language.  The women repeatedly complained, but no action was taken, the EEOC said. Both resigned and filed complaints with the EEOC.

The EEOC filed charges against Sunfire and it’s owner Paul McBride in September of 2008.  On April 13, 2009, the court awarded Meyer $160,278, and awarded Mercado $106,781.  The amounts awarded to each woman included back pay, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages, plus interest until the amounts are paid.  The punitive damage amount awarded to each plaintiff was $50,000.

Sonic Drive-In Franchise Sued For Disability Discrimination

On April 13, 2009 the EEOC filed discrimination charges against a Louisiana based Sonic Drive-In franchise because the restaurant refused to hire a qualified applicant due to the applicant’s disability.  Sonic discriminated against the applicant when it refused to hire her as a car hop or cook because of her speech impediment.  The suit seeks to force Sonic to pay the applicant back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and interest.  The EEOC also stated that “ADA charge filings with the EEOC nationwide increased 10% in Fiscal Year 2008 to 19,543, the highest level of disability discrimination charges since FY 1995.”  For the full story click here:

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  1. speakonplank says:

    What happens when you are the only one in the “protected class” and your supervisor and management continue to harass, bully intimidate,yell,threaten,lock the computer,loosing paper work and using others to keep a close track on the protected-class employee in “at-will” employee state. The families dropped the program after their worker was forced out and now not only have this educational agency done so, but use their bullying into the community threatening to not enroll those who do not continue to participate in the program for the reminder of the year.
    To make something clear, to participate you must reapply next school year and qualify according to their poverty guidelines.
    Having said that these ex-participants are being coerced into taking back their drop-off decision or else…
    Another item I must point out, it is that all the participants are non-English speaking people. Where are the legal rights of people? To make things worse, management attempted to forbid said “employee to go this town, the next town or talk to its people or anyone in any other location” In addition, the supervisor tried to wrestled such document physically from the employee!!
    It is a sad fact that if EEOC is too busy to take all the complains then something is very wrong in this land.

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