- A Mississippi tool company violated federal law when it denied an employee a reasonable accommodation for her disability and then retaliated against her for complaining, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) has alleged in a lawsuit (EEOC v. Valley Tool, Nos. 19-cv-00140 and 19-cv-00141 (N.D. Miss. July 2, 2019)).
- When the employee said she had a blood disorder that caused her to miss work, a manager allegedly told her that he would not have hired her had he known about the ailment, and that they thought they were hiring a "healthy" individual. Later, the EEOC said, the company denied her a reasonable accommodation by telling her that she could not miss any more work until her probation expired, placed her on an involuntary leave of absence, and eventually discharged her despite a doctor's letter stating she was cleared to work without limitations. This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), EEOC said.
- The company also retaliated against another employee, said EEOC, who complained about the manager's comment and other workplace issues and was then denied a pay increase because of the money the company spent responding to the discrimination charge she filed.
Many employers have ended up in expensive litigation because of comments made by managers and supervisors. Front-line managers and supervisors are responsible for a large number of discrimination and retaliation claims, experts have said.
As an example, a recent age-bias lawsuit brought by a 59-year-old dispatch supervisor who was criticized for his "dinosaur age related theories" survived a motion for summary judgment; the court said the "dinosaur" comment was "highly probative" of discriminatory intent, in part because it was made by the decision-maker in the worker's firing.
HR can head off lawsuits by making sure that managers and supervisors take part in periodic compliance training. Some employers also provide unconscious bias training, which works best when offered in a non-judgmental way that allows employees to understand that everyone has biases and provides a means for workers to identify and examine their biases, experts previously told HR Dive.
At a 2018 Society for Human Resource Management conference, attorney Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris, suggested that when presented with a complaint, HR professionals should thank workers for raising their concerns, explain the life cycle of a complaint and assure employees that their complaint will be taken seriously.