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Thursday, October 20, 2011

S. 743, Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011Passed Out of Committee

Dear MISC Members, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011, by a unanimous voice vote at this morning’s markup. An archived video can be viewed here, beginning at minute 43,

Before the full senate vote, we will work to address recent developments, specifically attempts to gag national security whistleblowers through a new pseudo-secrecy category known as Controlled Unclassified Information.

The emerging legislative consensus includes the following reforms so far: 
  • Closes judicially-created loopholes in the law’s protection, while tightening language to preclude circumvention of the congressional free speech mandate.
  • Provides those covered by the WPA with access to jury trials in federal district court to challenge major disciplinary actions.
  • Restores normal appeals court access for whistleblowers who lose at the Merit Systems Protection Board, freeing them from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (The court has a 3-216 track record against whistleblowers since Congress last reaffirmed the law in 1994).
  • Extends WPA rights to some 40,000 airport baggage screeners.
  • Provides whistleblower rights to those who refuse to violate the law.
  • Creates specific protection in the law for scientific freedom, making it an abuse of authority to censor, obstruct dissemination, or misrepresent the results of federal research.
  • Restores the unqualified, original “reasonable belief” standard established in the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act for whistleblowers to qualify for protection.
  • Codifies and gives a remedy for the anti-gag statute, which bars agency rules or after-the-fact classification of information from overriding whistleblower rights.
  • Outlaws security clearance harassment as a WPA violation, establishes minimum due process standards for agency clearance actions, and breaks out of the grievance model through appellate review of clearance actions by an inter-agency intelligence community board required to have both merit system and national security expertise.
  • Explicitly states that FBI employees retain their exclusive remedy for prohibited personnel practices and are not placed into the new section on prohibited personnel practices for the intelligence community.
  • Extends rights analogous to the WPA for disclosures within the chain of command to employees of intelligence community agencies (i.e., CIA, NSA), and requires the Administration to issue corresponding enforcement regulations customized for the IC context but equivalent to the WPA.
  • Bars the President from exercising discretionary power to impose national security exemptions that deprive employees of Title 5 WPEA rights after the employee files a reprisal complaint.
  • Provides specific authority for whistleblowers to disclose classified information to Members of Congress on relevant oversight committees or to their staff.
  • Provides compensatory damages up to $300,000, and reimbursement for expert witness fees to prevailing whistleblowers, establishing consistency with other remedial employment laws.
  • Modifies the burdens of proof to make it more realistic for the Office of Special Counsel to seek disciplinary accountability against those who retaliate.
  • Provides the Special Counsel with authority to file friend-of-the-court briefs in support of whistleblower rights cases appealed from the administrative level.
  • Creates a whistleblower ombudsman as a five-year experiment to advise employees of their rights in Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) for title 5 employees.
From Government Accountability Project (GAP) (, Washington, DC

Posted by Angels Press ( and Cathy Harris (

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kentucky Mine River View Coal Is Sued for Discrimination

The EEOC is suing on behalf of Black applicants who say they were passed over for whites.

By Naeesa Aziz

Posted: 09/27/2011

A Kentucky coal company faces allegations of racial discrimination in hiring, according to a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Black applicants.

The suit alleges that River View Coal denied jobs in underground mining positions to a class of qualified Black applicants because of their race. The claims stem back as far as 2008 when hiring began for a new mine in Waverly, Kansas. Thirteen rejected Black applicants filed claims with the EEOC after being rejected without being given any reason why.

“Employers must choose employees based on their qualifications, and not on the color of their skin,” said Laurie A. Young, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office.

The agency claims that the mine violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for making employment decisions based on race.

River View Coal, LLC is a subsidiary of Alliance Resource Partners, LP and is the fourth-largest Eastern U.S. coal producer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Sues Trucking Company for Sidelining Alcoholic Truck Driver

As the actions of the federal government continue to spiral out of control -- with armed raids on Gibson Guitars, raids on Rawesome Foods and the assaulting of children's lemonade stands across America -- the insanity of government only becomes more apparent. In the latest example of regulations run amok, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing a trucking company called Old Dominion Freight Line for "violating federal law by discriminating against a truck driver."

In what way did the trucking company "violate federal law?" It sidelined a truck driver who was an admitted alcoholic!

The EEOC is now going to bring the full force of the federal government -- oops, I mean the "federal family" -- against this trucking company by making it reinstate the alcoholic truck driver so that he can cruise down the interstate at 70 miles per hour at the wheel of a twenty-ton rig loaded with who knows what.

This, you see, is the federal government "taking care of you."

Never mind the fact that most normal people would conclude that maybe people who are admitted alcoholics probably don't belong behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler on the interstate, but the federal government completely disagrees with that.

"Alcoholism is a recognized disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)," says the EEOC in a press release touting its lawsuit against the Old Dominion Freight Line "...and disability discrimination violates this federal law," it says. (

The complete co-opting of the ADA

The Americans With Disabilities Act, of course, was intended to provide equal work opportunities for people who are truly disabled such as Vietnam War veterans who are missing a leg, or someone who was born without the ability to see or hear. And for that purpose, the law arguably has merit. But no one in their right mind would say that having an all-too-cozy relationship with a case of Jack Daniels is a "disability." But that's the new political correctness in Washington, it seems.

While I agree that people with substance addictions absolutely deserve help and treatment, even the federal government violates that principle with marijuana: Instead of treating people who smoke too much pot as "pot-aholics" -- who should, under federal logic, be "protected" as being disabled -- they are arrested and prosecuted as criminals. So how is alcohol abuse a disability but pot abuse is a felony crime? Only the goons in Washington could come up with something that offensively contradictory and punitive.

Keeping the roads more dangerous for the rest of us

Common sense, of course, has been all but abandoned at the federal government. At what point did alcoholism grant truck drivers immunity from being fired, anyway? Obviously, people who have habits or physical disabilities that prevent them from safely operating a large vehicle should not be allowed to operate such vehicles on the roads. Someone who suffers from frequent seizures, for example, shouldn't be given a license to operate a freight truck. Their health condition is regrettable, but their right to drive with seizures does not outweigh the public's expectation of reasonable safety on the roads.

The federal government doesn't understand this commonsense logic, you see. If a seizure can be classified as a "disability," then the EEOC would sue trucking companies for removing seizure-stricken drivers from the road, too!

Got a drinking problem? Get a job at a trucking company. You can't be fired because your job is protected by the federal government! Just tell your boss you're an alcoholic, claim it's a "disability" and invoke the EEOC to threaten to sue your employer!

But if you work at Gibson Guitar making fine musical instruments out of wood imported from India, then you're suddenly a criminal according to the government, which raided the Gibson Guitar company and now demands they export American jobs overseas because it is illegal for U.S. workers to "process" that wood in America! Incredible...

Is my disability protected by the ADA, too?

Hey, I have a disability too (sarcasm). It's called common sense. It's some kind of weird disease that makes me think bizarre thoughts like maybe we shouldn't have alcoholics driving 18-wheelers down the interstate. My disability also makes me believe that "disabilities" means people who are physically challenged because of catastrophic injuries or birth defects (for example), not behavioral habits like biting your fingernails, or sleeping really late every day.

Under the fed's rules, someone could get a job at the U.S. Post Office, but show up late for work at 11 a.m. every day and claim they have a "sleeping disability" that causes them to sleep late. Is this a protected disability, too?

I say that all these made-up, fictitious, totally bogus "disabilities" are damaging the very concept of "disabled" and making circumstances more difficult for those who are truly disabled. I completely agree it is ethically and morally wrong to fire someone just because they happen to be in a wheelchair, for example, or if they have a hearing disability. If you're visually impaired, that's a legitimate disability and deserves extra consideration by your employer. But don't tell me that every guy who tips back a few too many beers is now suddenly "disabled" as well. It's ludicrous!

We need to grow up in America and stop acting like little children who need their nanny parental government to take care of everything. If someone has a drinking problem, they need to man up about it and take responsibility for their own behaviors, and the government needs to stop coddling them as some sort of "protected" class. Go get counseling. Visit AA meetings. Find a local pastor who can offer guidance. But don't run around like you're some sort of "disabled" person who is supposed to be protected by the federal government.

Drinking is a choice, not a disability. You can choose to do something different. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it takes therapy, or help from your friends, or whatever. Life is hard, but grow up. Be an adult. Take responsibility for your actions and make better choices. That's what adults do, y'know?

There are far too many people gaming the system for their own selfish reasons and thereby diluting the very definition of "disabled." In a similar way, let me relate to you a true story from my past:

How a white guy was awarded a black scholarship

When I was in college, I remember this white guy who lived down the hall in my dorm. He was a great card player and always seemed to come out on top of the late-night poker games that went on there (I never took part, but I saw them playing a lot). The reason I say he was a "white guy" is because toward the end of our first semester there, he revealed to a bunch of us sitting in the dorm lobby that he was paying his way through college with grant money he received from a black scholarship fund.

Huh? A black scholarship fund? But this guy was white, wasn't he? Well, it turns out his great, great, great grandma was black. So genetically speaking, he was "just enough black" to qualify for this scholarship, even though his skin color was as white as mine! In other words, the chance of this guy being discriminated against due to the color of his skin was zero, given that his skin was as white as all the other white guys there. In fact, when he announced he was paying for college on a black scholarship, nobody believed him at first. We thought he was joking.

But he wasn't. Turns out it was all true. And the point of this is that by applying for this "black scholarship" grant and taking the money, this white guy was effectively using money that should have legitimately gone to a black guy! As a result, some other truly black guy did NOT get that scholarship money and was therefore not able to pay his way through college.

So while our little friend technically claimed to be a black guy riding on a black scholarship, all the rest of us knew he was really a white guy who gamed the black scholarship fund application process and thereby took money out of the hands of some equally deserving black guy who was really black.

You see, while I honor and respect people who have true physical disabilities, or people who have been truly discriminated against for no reason other than the color of their skin, I absolutely abhor fakers who hide behind these protections to try to game the system and exploit situations for their own selfish gain, usually at the expense of someone else. The "white guy" who took black scholarship money was exploiting the system for his own selfish gain, not even considering the true intent of that scholarship fund. Likewise, someone who hides behind alcoholism as a protected disability is gaming the system, too. Sure, alcoholism is a real behavioral issue to deal with, but it's not like missing a leg, okay? It's not the same as growing up without the gift of functioning vision.

Much the same thing goes for those handicapped parking spaces. They should be reserved for people who truly cannot walk long distances, or who need wheelchairs to get around. Have you ever heard of people being awarded those handicapped parking tags for obscure conditions such as having Tourette's Syndrome? I don't know if that's ever actually happened outside a Larry David episode (Curb Your Enthusiasm), but I have seen people park in handicapped parking spaces and just waltz right into the store with no obvious disability whatsoever. Those spots should be reserved for people in wheelchairs, I say... or people who can barely walk, people on oxygen supplies, and so on.

We must discern the difference between real disability and clever excuse-making

If we are going to respect and honor the people with real disabilities in this country, we've got to stop coddling those with behavioral habits that are simply being relabeled as disabilities. Much the same thing goes on in psychiatric medicine, where normal behaviors of teenage boys are labeled "disorders" and then treated with dangerous mind-altering medications.

Having loads of energy and an inability to sit still isn't a "disease," folks. It's called being a 9-year-old boy!

It's time to cut the nonsense with bogus disabilities, false labels and government interference with the rational decisions made by employers. If an employer fires someone merely because they are in a wheelchair, that's discrimination against the disabled, and that deserves to be scrutinized. But if an employer fires an alcoholic to prevent them from driving big rigs down the road while sloshed over from too many drinks, that's just common sense. Maybe Old Dominion Freight Line was actually saving lives by sidelining this alcoholic driver, huh? Did the feds ever think of that?

Only in America are businesses which act out of a desire to protect public safety punished with federal lawsuits. Only in America are people with common sense labeled "terrorists" (i.e. Ron Paul supporters) while those with bad habits who eat too much or drink too much are labeled "disabled."

Let's save the labels for cases where they are truly justified, folks. There are millions of people in America with legitimate disabilities -- people who cannot walk, or who are missing an arm, or who are hearing or vision impaired, for example. They deserve society's support and protections, and we should make every effort (as employers or neighbors or just friends) to honor these people for who they are while offering assistance where needed.

And if you're white, please do not apply for black scholarships, for god's sake. Let that money go to its intended recipients.

Learn more:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NYU Pays $210,000 to Worker Ridiculed as 'Monkey' and 'Gorilla' by Supervisor

An African immigrant received a $210,000 payout from NYU after his abusive mailroom supervisor repeatedly ridiculed him as a "monkey" and a "gorilla."

"Do you want a banana?" his boss asked NYU employee Osei Agyemang in one of many racist remarks reportedly made to the native of Ghana from July 2007 through January 2009.

The boss mocked the immigrant's accent as "gibberish," while telling him "go back to your cage" and "go back to the jungle," according to a September 2010 suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The settlement between the Manhattan university and the one-time worker at the Bobst Library was made public yesterday.

"This suit shows that ugly harassment and retaliation can happen anywhere, even at a prestigious university," said EEOC attorney Gilliam Thomas, who represented Agyemang.

The lawsuit accused NYU of ignoring Agyemang's complaints about the stinging insults and racist cracks made while he worked in the library.

According to the suit, the harassment ended only after Agyemang's request for a transfer was granted. "This case goes back some years and involves the actions of an employee who is no longer with the university," said a statement from NYU spokesman John Beckman.

"Such behavior is extremely rare here, and totally at odds with the spirit of diversity and tolerance for which NYU is rightly known."

As part of the deal, NYU agreed to enhanced anti-discrimination policies to help prevent similar incidents.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Appeals Court Reinstates African-American Firefighter Suit

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday reinstated a suit against the City of New Haven by an African-American firefighter who claimed the city's firefighter promotion exams were discriminatory.

In his opinion, chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, said that African-American firefighter Michael Briscoe was not precluded from suing New Haven, Connecticut. The ruling was surprising because a related, earlier ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court compelled New Haven to abide by the exam results. Jacobs' decision vacates a district court finding that sided with the city .

The case dates back to 2003, when New Haven sought to discard the results of a firefighter promotion exam where white firefighters significantly outperformed minorities. That act prompted a group of white firefighters and one hispanic firefighter to challenge the decision and sue New Haven.

The Supreme Court took up the case, Ricci v. DeStefano, in 2009. The court sided with the firefighters, ruling that New Haven had not shown sufficent evidence to prove that keeping the test results would have made it subject to disparate-impact liabity. Disparate impact laws were cemented under Title VII of the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights law.

Normally, that decision would have ended further litigation. But because Briscoe brought his claim separately, Jacobs ruled he had standing to sue New Haven, in spite of the conflicting Supreme Court decision.

In his opinion on Monday, Jacobs said that New Haven could not use the Supreme Court to shield it from Briscoe's disparate impact claims, and that the high court's opinion did not preclude him from suing.

"I think the opinion is essential to maintaining the vitality of the disparate impact theory of liability under Title VII," Briscoe's attorney, David Rosen, said.

Title VII, Rosen said, protects "against the arbitrary use of selection devices that continue to be barriers to employment for well-qualified workers across America who happen not to be good at the particular pencil and paper, multiple choice-format quiz that some employers still insist on using."

"At the end of the day, the City of New Haven believes that the U.S. Supreme Court held that certification of the promotional exams at issue in the Ricci v. DeStefano case should not result in disparate impact liability by African American firefighters after the fact," said City of New Haven Corporate Counsel Victor Bolden

The 2003 New Haven firefighter test at issue was 60 percent written and 40 percent oral. Briscoe in his lawsuit said that under a 30 percent written, 70 percent oral test he would have been promotable.

The case is Michael Briscoe v. The City of New Haven, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-1975.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Great Lakes Chemical Corporation Settles EEOC Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Manufacturer Unlawfully Terminated Black Employees, Federal Agency Charges

EL DORADO, Ark. – Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, a manufacturer and seller of chemical products in El Dorado, Ark., will pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging racial discrimination, the agency announced on July 12th.

The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 1:09-CV-01042) alleged that Great Lakes violated federal anti-discrimination law when it terminated several black employees because of their race. Specifically, the EEOC alleged that Great Lakes terminated black employees based upon discriminatory and subjective evaluations.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"The EEOC remains committed to promoting equality of opportunity in the workplace for members of all races. We believe the decree entered by the Court will ensure that African American employees are not singled out for discriminatory treatment,"said Regional Attorney Faye A. Williams of the EEOC's Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and certain counties in Mississippi.

In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit enjoins Great Lakes from terminating employees in its El Dorado central location’s Inorganic Bromine (IOB) Unit on the basis of race. Great Lakes will also provide race and color discrimination training to all supervisory and management personnel in its IOB Unit and post a notice reinforcing the company’s policies on Title VII.

According to its website, Great Lakes is a business of Chemtura Corporation, a global specialty chemicals company. It is one of the three largest developers and manufacturers of bromine and bromine-based products.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fired Army Whistleblower Receives $970K for Exposing Halliburton No-Bid Contract in Iraq

Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse, the former chief oversight official of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, has reached a $970,000 settlement six years after she was demoted for publicly criticizing a multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to Halliburton—the company formerly headed by then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Greenhouse had accused the Pentagon of unfairly awarding the contract to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root. Testifying before Congress in June 2005, she called the contract the worst case of government abuse she had ever witnessed in her 20-year career. Just two months after that testimony, Greenhouse was demoted at the Pentagon, ostensibly for "poor performance."

She had overseen government contracts for 20 years and had drawn high praise in her rise to become the senior civilian oversight official at the Army Corps of Engineers. With the help of the National Whistleblowers Center, Greenhouse filed a lawsuit challenging her demotion. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, Greenhouse announces that a settlement has been reached in what is seen as a major victory for government whistleblowers. We’re also joined by Greenhouse’s attorney, Michael Kohn, and by Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jackson Park Hospital Sued By EEOC For Race Discrimination And Retaliation

Federal Agency Charged Black Female Employees Were Segregated in Job Assignments

CHICAGO – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a class race discrimination lawsuit in federal district court here on July 14th against Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center. The EEOC charged that the hospital, on Chicago’s South Side, subjected a class of black female employees to different terms and conditions of employment and segregation in job assignments because of their race. The suit also alleged that at least one of the women was demoted in retaliation for opposing and complaining about unlawful employment practices.

John Rowe, the director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said the agency’s administrative investigation revealed that numerous black female medical technicians at Jackson Park appear to have been required to perform assignments that their male counterparts who were not black were allegedly not required to perform.

Race discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, N.D. Ill., No. 11 C 04743, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit has been assigned to District Judge Milton Shadur and Magistrate Judge Gilbert. The EEOC’s litigation of the case will be led by Trial Attorney June Wallace Calhoun and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

“There’s a word for assigning work on the basis of race,” said Rowe. “It’s segregation—and it has long been prohibited by federal law.”

EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, “This case appears to be one of an increasing number which involve retaliation. That’s something we are always on the watch for and always want to challenge. Retaliation damages everyone—individuals, employers, and the public interest—so we are not inclined to let it slide.”

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at



Black institution Accused of Racial Bas — Against Black Workers

July 17, 2011

Jackson Park Hospital on South Stony Island is about the last place job discrimination should be an issue.

A black man, Merritt J. Hasbrouck, is at the helm of the 52-year-old institution.

The vast majority of the hospital’s 560 employees are black, and nearly all of the patients in the 336-bed facility are black, as are the residents in the surrounding area.

When you get right down to it, Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center is not just a hospital. It is a black institution and an anchor on the Far South Side.

But last Friday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action race discrimination lawsuit in federal district court against the hospital. The agency alleges the hospital discriminated against black female respiratory therapists.

“We were obviously aware of the community served by the hospital, and the composition of its patients and its staff and recognize that there might be some issues raised because of that,” John C. Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC, told me.

“We felt there was enough evidence here that a lawsuit was appropriate.”

I reached out to officials at Jackson Park Hospital, some of whom I’ve met in the past at social functions.

“No comment,” is all anyone would utter.

I couldn’t really blame them. This is awkward.

According to the lawsuit, black female employees “were subjected to different terms and conditions of employment and segregation in job assignments on the basis of their race and sex.”

When Rosie McGee, the employee named in the class action, complained about the disparate treatment, she was harassed and demoted, the EEOC alleges.

The group that allegedly discriminated against these black women, were Asian-Indian males. The supervisor in the department was also Asian-Indian.

An EEOC investigation that led up to the lawsuit found that while the black female respiratory therapists were required to administer EKGs, none of their male Asian-Indian counterparts were asked to perform this task.

The EEOC makes no allegation about why the Asian-Indian males were not assigned to administer EKGs.

But that is the question.

What is it about EKGs that someone apparently felt black female employees should do them, but Asian-Indian males shouldn’t have to?

Unfortunately, this fight has been brewing for a long time, not necessarily at Jackson Park Hospital, but in the health-care industry.

For instance, I’ve received complaints from black nurses at other hospitals who complain that they are being discriminated against by non-white supervisors.

Hendrickson acknowledges that the Jackson Park Hospital case is very odd.

“You appear to be dealing with discrimination of minorities by other minorities,” he said.

The federal agency is asking that McGee receive back pay, and that the other black female employees be compensated for their emotional pain, humiliation and inconvenience.

The last time I was at Jackson Park Hospital was nearly a dozen years ago. When a relative had reached her bottom, Jackson Park was the only place that had a bed available for detox.

Despite the circumstances, the doctor, nurses, and staff — all of whom were black — treated this patient with an unexpected level of compassion. I left my loved one there grateful that so many good people were using their talents to help patients in this underserved community.

These good people should not have to worry about discrimination in the workplace.

More importantly, this lawsuit shows although the EEOC has been criticized for not doing enough, it is still willing to take on some challenging cases.

That’s why people who believe they have suffered retaliation for speaking out against discrimination in the workplace shouldn’t be afraid to speak out and to seek the agency’s help.

It may seem irrational that black employees who work in a black facility, caring for black people in a black community would have cause to file a racial discrimination suit.

But, racial bias — no matter who is doing it — never makes sense.

Monday, July 4, 2011

EEOC Sues Houston Strip Club Over Alleged Discrimination

HOUSTON -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing a southwest Houston strip club for alleged discrimination.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday against Michael's International, which is located in the 6400 block of the Southwest Freeway.

It states that in September of 2007 a group of African-American waitresses were told they could not work at the club.

“Regardless of the business you are in, the law is the law and you can't discriminate against people because of their race,” said Timothy Bowne of the Houston office of the U.S. EEOC.

The trouble came when Bert Stair, who is a vice president of Michael’s, was visiting the club from Dallas.

"Houston managers said that Stair did not like African-American waitresses and dancers in his club," according to the lawsuit.

Specifically, the waitresses said that they were asked to leave work or hide in a back room.

"To at least one of these waitresses he used the ‘N’ word and said, ‘What are you doing here? We don't want anymore of these ‘N’s working here, we have too many of these ‘N's here already," said Timothy Bowne, the senior trial attorney on the case for the EEOC.

There is no official comment from Michael's about the lawsuit but a manager said he was shocked by the lawsuit because the club now markets itself as multi-racial.

What is happening inside now does not get the club off the hook for past actions, especially ones that make no sense to government attorneys like Bowne.

"There is even less of a reason to believe that the clientele would be bothered by their race if the entertainment that they came to see was the dancers, and not the waitresses," he said.

The EEO said it tried to settle the claims before going to court but said the club and its parent company have refused to cooperate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Justices Rule for Wal-Mart in Class-Action Bias Case

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday threw out an enormous employment discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart that had sought billions of dollars on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female workers.

A Death Blow to Class Action?
By siding with Wal-Mart, the Supreme Court has signaled that it wants job bias disputes handled in the workplace, not the courts.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Supreme Court in March to show their support for female workers suing Wal-Mart.

The suit claimed that Wal-Mart’s policies and practices had led to countless discriminatory decisions over pay and promotions.

The court divided 5 to 4 along ideological lines on the basic question in the case — whether the suit satisfied a requirement of the class-action rules that “there are questions of law or fact common to the class” of female employees. The court’s five more conservative justices said no, shutting down the suit and limiting the ability of other plaintiffs to band together in large class actions.

The court was unanimous, however, in saying that the plaintiffs’ lawyers had improperly sued under a part of the class-action rules that was not primarily concerned with monetary claims.

Business groups welcomed the decision, and labor and consumer groups strongly criticized it. But all agreed it was momentous.

“This is without a doubt the most important class-action case in more than a decade,” said Robin S. Conrad, a lawyer with the litigation unit of the United States Chamber of Commerce, the business advocacy group.

The court did not decide whether Wal-Mart had, in fact, discriminated against the women, only that they could not proceed as a class. The court’s decision on that issue will almost certainly affect all sorts of other class-action suits, including ones brought by investors and consumers, because it tightened the definition of what constituted a common issue for a class action and said that judges must often consider the merits of plaintiffs’ claims in deciding whether they may proceed as a class.

“You will have people invoking the decision in lots of different cases,” said Brian T. Fitzpatrick, a law professor at Vanderbilt University specializing in class-action law. “The Supreme Court has said that it’s O.K. to look at the merits of the lawsuit to decide whether to allow it to go forward at the earliest possible moment.”

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said the women suing Wal-Mart could not show that they would receive “a common answer to the crucial question, why was I disfavored?” He noted that the company, the nation’s largest private employer, operated some 3,400 stores, had an expressed policy forbidding discrimination and granted local managers substantial discretion.

“On its face, of course, that is just the opposite of a uniform employment practice that would provide the commonality needed for a class action,” Justice Scalia wrote. “It is a policy against having uniform employment practices.”

The case involved “literally millions of employment decisions,” Justice Scalia wrote, and the plaintiffs were required to point to “some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together.”

The plaintiffs sought to make that case with testimony from William T. Bielby, a sociologist specializing in social framework analysis.

Professor Bielby told a lower court that he had collected general “scientific evidence about gender bias, stereotypes and the structure and dynamics of gender inequality in organizations.” He said he also had reviewed extensive litigation materials gathered by the lawyers in the case.

He concluded that Wal-Mart’s culture might foster pay and other disparities through a centralized personnel policy that allowed for subjective decisions by local managers. Such practices, he argued, allowed stereotypes to sway personnel choices, making “decisions about compensation and promotion vulnerable to gender bias.”

Justice Scalia rejected the testimony, which he called crucial to the plaintiffs’ case.

“It is worlds away,” he wrote, “from ‘significant proof’ that Wal-Mart ‘operated under a general policy of discrimination.’ ”

Nor was Justice Scalia impressed with the anecdotal and statistical evidence offered.

One of the plaintiffs named in the suit, Christine Kwapnoski, had testified, for instance, that a male manager yelled at female employees but not male ones, and had instructed her to “doll up.” Justice Scalia said that scattered anecdotes — “about 1 for every 12,500 class members,” he wrote — were insignificant.

He added that statistics showing pay and promotion gaps between male and female workers were insufficient to show common issues among the plaintiffs, because discrimination was not the only possible explanation. “Some managers will claim that the availability of women, or qualified women, or interested women, in their stores’ area does not mirror the national or regional statistics,” Justice Scalia wrote. “And almost all of them will claim to have been applying some sex-neutral, performance-based criteria — whose nature and effects will differ from store to store.” Joseph M. Sellers, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the majority had “reversed about 40 years of jurisprudence that has in the past allowed for companywide cases to be brought challenging common practices that have a disparate effect, that have adversely affected women and other workers.”

A Death Blow to Class Action?
By siding with Wal-Mart, the Supreme Court has signaled that it wants job bias disputes handled in the workplace, not the courts.

A lawyer for Wal-Mart, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., said the decision was “an extremely important victory not just for Wal-Mart but for all companies who do business in the United States, large and small, and their employees, too.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined Justice Scalia’s majority opinion on the broader point. But the court unanimously rejected the plaintiffs’ effort to proceed under a part of the class-action rules concerned mainly with court declarations and orders as opposed to money, one that did not require notice to the class or provide the ability to opt out of it.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, dissented in part. Justice Ginsburg said the court had gone too far in its broader ruling in the case, Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, No. 10-277.

She would have allowed the plaintiffs to try to make their case under another part of the class-action rules. “The court, however, disqualifies the class at the starting gate” by ruling that there are no common issues, she wrote.

She added that both the statistics presented by the plaintiffs and their individual accounts were evidence that “gender bias suffused Wal-Mart’s corporate culture.” She said, for instance, that women filled 70 percent of the hourly jobs but only 33 percent of management positions and that “senior management often refer to female associates as ‘little Janie Qs.’ ”

“The practice of delegating to supervisors large discretion to make personnel decisions, uncontrolled by formal standards, has long been known to have the potential to produce disparate effects,” she wrote. “Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Court: Chicago Must Hire 111 Black Firefighters

By Don Babwin - Associated Press / May 13, 2011

CHICAGO—A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that the Chicago Fire Department must hire 111 African Americans who passed a firefighters entrance exam 16 years ago and pay millions of dollars to thousands more who took and passed the same test.

The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was the latest blow to the city, which has been on the losing end of court decisions regarding the 1995 test for years, including a 2005 ruling by a federal judge who said the test discriminated against black applicants and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that the candidates did not wait too long to sue the city.

An attorney for the black firefighter candidates said that the 111 jobs would be filled from the applicants who passed the 1995 test and their pensions would be adjusted as if they'd been firefighters since 1995. And, said Joshua Karsh, 6,000 others who also passed the test will divide "tens of millions of dollars" that would have been paid 111 firefighters from 1995 until today.

A spokeswoman for the city's law department called the decision a "partial victory" for the city because it reduced the number of African Americans the fire department must hire from 132 to 111. "Reducing the number of plaintiffs who are eligible reduces the damages," said Jenny Hoyle.

Hoyle said that the city was still calculating the damages as result of dividing the back pay of 111 firefighters among the 6,000 applicants, but that officials estimate the payout will be about $30 million.

The ruling stems from a test given in 1995 that was intended to measure an aptitude for firefighting. After the test, anyone who scored 64 or below was deemed not qualified, but officials told those who scored above that number that while they passed, they would randomly hire the top 1,800 who scored 89 or better.

Because only 11 percent of the African Americans scored 89 or better, the overwhelming number of applicants hired from that test were white.

Karsh said the test was discriminatory because there was no evidence that the applicant who scored 89 or better would be any better firefighter than another who scored a 64, and in fact in 2005 a federal judge said the test discriminated against black candidates. In her ruling the judge said the city knew the cutoff point was meaningless and would disproportionately exclude blacks from the pool of candidates most likely to be hired.

"If the city of Chicago had selected firefighters at random from all the people who passed the test it would have gotten a pool of equally capable firefighters and the pool would have been more integrated," said Karsh said. He said he did not know when the hiring might begin, but said that he expected it to start soon.

After the judge's decision, the city, which hadn't given another test since 1995 because of ongoing court challenges, gave another test in 2006. But that test was given on a pass/fail basis and that all passing applicants, and not just the top ones, were processed randomly for additional tests such as physical agility and background checks.

© Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ganley Lincoln of Bedford Settles EEOC Racial Harassment Suit for $300,000

Former General Manager Jay Walsh Regularly Insulted and Mistreated African-Americans, Federal Agency Charges

CLEVELAND – Ganley Lincoln of Bedford, Inc., an auto dealership in Bedford, Ohio, will pay $300,000 to four African-Americans to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on April 20th.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Jay Walsh, Ganley’s general manager at the time, routinely used derogatory terms to refer to blacks, customers as well as employees, including the epithet “n----r.” Walsh, in referring to an older African-American employee, wished the “old n----r ... would hurry up and die.” Further, the agency charged, Walsh utilized a compensation system that disadvantaged black salespeople with regard to sales opportunities and commissions.

Racial discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, No. 1:07cv2829, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the suit provides for training on employee rights and employer obligations under Title VII, as well as supervisor accountability with regard to racial discrimination. The decree also requires Ganley to post a notice to employees about the lawsuit that provides the EEOC’s contact information.

“Racial harassment is utterly unacceptable and illegal,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “It demeans the entire workplace as well as the direct victims. This settlement – both the monetary relief and the training -- will help ensure that African-Americans at this company will never have to face such abuse again.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at


Thursday, April 28, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Ralph Jones Sheet Metal Settles EEOC Racial Harassment Suit for $160,000

LEGAL BRIEF: Ralph Jones Sheet Metal Settles EEOC Racial Harassment Suit for $160,000
White Supervisor Routinely Insulted and Demeaned African-Americans, Federal Agency Charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Ralph Jones Sheet Metal, Inc., an architectural sheet metal company located in Memphis, will pay $160,000 to former African-American employees to settle a racial harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on April 22nd.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that a white supervisor and other employees subjected African-American employees to racially offensive comments. The EEOC charged that the supervisor regularly referred to African-American employees with the epithet “n----r” and used other slurs. In addition, the EEOC charged that racial graffiti was on display in common areas and on company equipment.

Race discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit, No. 2:09-cv-02636, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division, after first attempting to settle the matter through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the 18-month consent decree settling the lawsuit provides for training on employee rights under Title VII, and requires Ralph Jones Sheet Metal to maintain records of racial harassment complaints, provide annual reports to the EEOC, and post a notice to employees about the lawsuit that includes the EEOC’s contact information.

“Employees should not have to endure a racially hostile work environment as it is a violation of federal law,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “It is appalling that racial harassment and the use of racial slurs remain so pervasive in today’s workplace. The EEOC will continue to forcefully fight against this misconduct.”

According to company information, Ralph Jones Sheet Metal fabricates and installs architectural panels made from aluminum composite, copper and stainless steel.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Black Capitol Police staff complain about discrimination

By Debbie Siegelbaum - 04/19/11 05:47 PM ET

More than 50 black employees of the U.S. Capitol Police have filed a complaint Tuesday, alleging discrimination by the police force.

Their action comes 10 years after nearly 300 employees filed a class action discrimination lawsuit, a suit that remains unresolved.

In a press conference, members of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association announced they intended to file a classwide request for counseling with the Office of Compliance, which will “initiate a process that will in all likelihood lead to yet another discrimination complaint” filed against Capitol Police, according to association member and Capitol Police Lt. Frank Adams.

Cited as reasons for the action are reprisals, hostile work environment and discrimination committed against black employees by the Capitol Police, the Capitol Police Board and the senior employment counsel for both, Frederick Herrera.

“The United States Capitol Police Department continues to project a model culture of discrimination as reflected in a ‘modern day version of a 19th Century Southern Plantation in law enforcement,’” Adams said.

The U.S. Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2001, current and former black Capitol Police officers and employees filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, citing discrimination by the Capitol Police Board. Blackmon-Malloy v. U.S. Capitol Police Board has yet to be resolved, but the number of plaintiffs has been whittled down in the intervening years due to deaths or plaintiff settlements.

Current complainant and former Capitol Police officer Mary Rhone spoke of the bullying and harassment she experienced in her time on the police force, and called for an end to such conduct.

“I never thought that I would be standing here after 10 years fighting for the same justice that we fought,” she said. “And yet, I stand here today filing another complaint.”

Rhone also called on lawmakers to intercede in the matter.

“I would hope that after all these years that Congress would take a step, and while they’re fighting oppression in all the other states, that they would come on Capitol Hill and fight the oppression that we’ve been fighting for 10 years,” she said. “And yet they remain silent.”

According to the association, to date there are approximately 20 active and related discrimination cases alleging reprisals, denial of promotions to upper ranks, denial of career-enhancing training opportunities and a hostile work environment against black employees of the Capitol Police.

The association also alleges that the chief of police and members of the Capitol Police Board have done little to nothing to eliminate inequities, and black officers have been kept from the upper ranks of the police force.

Following the press conference, members of the association officially filed the complaint with the Office of Compliance.

“I will fight until I have no more breath in me because discrimination is something I will not stand for, and this organization will not stand for,” Rhone said of the action. “And I will file as many complaints as it takes.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Channel 25 (Oklahoma) Settles EEOC Race and Sex Bias Suit

KOKH and Parent Company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Paid Black Female Reporter Less Than Coworkers, Federal Agency Charged

OKLAHOMA CITY – KOKH-TV (Fox 25) in Oklahoma City will pay $45,000 and additional consideration to a veteran African-American TV news reporter to settle a race and sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on March 3rd. The settlement terms are set forth in a proposed Consent Decree, approval of which is pending before the Court.

The EEOC charged that Phyllis Williams’ employers, KOKH and its parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, paid her lower wages than comparable white female reporters and male reporters of all races, and subjected her to unequal terms and conditions of employment until August 2007, when she signed an employment contract for a higher salary. Sinclair and KOKH had routinely offered employment contracts to other reporters at Channel 25. Williams has reported for Fox 25 since 1996.

Fox Broadcasting Company, which has an affiliate agreement allowing the station to use the Fox name, did not employ Williams and was not a party to the lawsuit.

Race and sex discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC, et al. v. KOKH, et al., Case No. 5:07-cv-01043-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

After the EEOC filed its charges, Williams intervened in the EEOC’s suit and added a retaliation claim under a separate civil rights statute known as Section 1981, which prohibits race discrimination and retaliation for reporting the same. KOKH and Sinclair agreed to resolve her Section 1981 claim in a private settlement for consideration in addition to the $45,000 being paid to resolve the Title VII claim.

In addition to monetary payment, during the three-year term of the consent decree KOKH and Sinclair must post an anti-discrimination notice, disseminate an anti-discrimination policy, and provide live training on preventing sex and race discrimination on at least an annual basis to all KOKH employees.

“This decree will remind KOKH Channel 25, Sinclair and all news organizations to treat their employees equally as required by law, including women and people of color, who traditionally have been the victims of job discrimination,” said Barbara Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma. “The notice posting and training required by the consent decree will go far in educating the station’s managers on their employees’ right to work in an environment free of race and sex discrimination.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Worker Suffers "Devastating Mental Injuries" in Physical Attack - $1 Million Judgment

LEGAL BRIEF: Black Worker Suffers "Devastating Mental Injuries" in Physical Attack - $1 Million Judgment
When you think about some of the things many of us experience in the workplace, in regard to race-related abuses, you never expect to hear stories where the abuse became physical. In this legal brief, a Black female worker was harassed by a White coworker and this escalated into a physical assault that left her with permanent mental injuries.

I can think back to a friend/coworker having to deal with racially-based retaliation after complaining about comments from a White coworker. I remember her saying she had a bruise on her leg from this woman stepping into her as they passed each other. She said the woman was holding something hard and made sure it banged into her leg. And, my friend said it was becoming commonplace--this coworker stepping into her path so that she could bang into her. This was physical harassment!

Even though I believed her, she wouldn't make that up, I got to see it for myself, when I was walking down the stairs one day. This same woman, who was banging into my coworker, stepped into my path. She moved right into the middle of the stairs. We were either going to bang into each other or I was going to have to plaster myself to the wall to let her past. There was no way I could get past her. I remember thinking, "Oh my God! She's trying to run into me!" I literally had no way to get past her. Even if I stopped, she couldn't get by without running into me. She definitely wanted a physical confrontation because she knew I was friends with the person who outed her for racist remarks and reported it.

How did it end?

I can't tell a lie. I looked right at her and said...

"I will knock you down these stairs."

She plasted herself to the wall!

I'm glad she did because I think I would have pushed her down the stairs. I will not lie. I was preparing to put my hands on both of her shoulders and give her a good head over heels tumble down the stairs. She had been essentially assaulting my coworker and I took her actions as a direct physical threat to me. I did not take it lightly. When she came up the stairs, I was on the right heading down and she was on the left heading up. We were both using proper stairway etiquette. She looked up and saw it was me and, looking at me the whole time, stepped into the middle of the staircase. That registered as a physical threat to me.

As surprising as things like that were and still are to me, to hear about someone sustaining any type of mental injury from a physical assault is just upsetting. In the workplace? Really? This is what people do and are allowed to get away with.

Employers must do something about harassment and discrimination because if you tolerate it at all, you condone the behavior and embolden the perpetrator. That's how things can escalate, on either side. The perpetrator may attack the victim or the victim may just snap one day.

For more details on the legal brief, see below:


Judge Affirms $1 Million Judgment in EEOC Sex and Race Harassment Suit Against Whirlpool

NASHVILLE – A federal judge has affirmed a million-dollar judgment against Whirlpool Corporation in a sex and race harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the agency announced on April 1st.

Judge John T. Nixon denied Whirlpool Corporation’s motion to alter and/or amend the judgment of the court, entered on Dec. 21, 2009, that Whirlpool pay $1,073,261 in damages to the discrimination victim.

“This woman was victimized by serious, ongoing abuse, and was severely and permanently damaged as a result,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Faye Williams. “A sizeable amount of damages was called for, and we are pleased that the judge agreed.”

The EEOC’s lawsuit had charged that Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool violated federal law when it tolerated the harassment of Carlotta Freeman, an employee at a Whirlpool plant in LaVergne, Tenn., by a white male co-worker because of her race (black) and sex. The abuse lasted for two months, the EEOC said, until the co-worker physically assaulted Freeman and inflicted serious permanent injuries.

During the four-day trial, the court heard evidence that Freeman reported escalating offensive verbal conduct and gestures by the co-worker over a period of two months before he physically assaulted her. The court heard that four levels of Whirlpool’s management were aware of the escalating harassment, but that Whirlpool failed to take effective steps to stop it. Further, Freeman suffered devastating permanent mental injuries that will prevent her from working again as a result of the assault and Whirlpool’s failure to protect her.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:06-0593) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Following a bench trial, Judge Nixon awarded Freeman $773,261 in back pay and front pay, and $300,000 compensatory damages for non-pecuniary injuries.

On Jan. 15, 2010, Whirlpool requested that the court reduce the damages. The corporation claimed that the court had erred when, among other things, it awarded front and back pay without considering the fact that the plant where Freeman worked had closed. Whirlpool also claimed the court erred when it relied on certain information from Freeman’s expert witness.

In denying Whirlpool’s motion, Judge Nixon noted that it had “wide discretion to make whole the victim of unlawful discrimination.” For that reason, the court “declines to find that failing to so cut off the award of front pay to Freeman constitutes a clear error of law or manifest injustice.”

Carlota Freeman intervened in the case and was represented by Nashville attorneys Helen Rogers and Andy Allman.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


LEGAL BRIEF: Targeted for Filing a Previous Complaint

The person in this Legal Brief filed an initial complaint of age discrimiation and then was denied a salary increase that was given to every other person of the same job classification. The purpose of this post is to remind everyone that if you have filed a complaint of any kind (age, retaliation, discrimination, gender bias, etc.), it is a violated of federal statutes to be targeted or treated differently than similarly situated/classified employees. Being treated differently could be construed as retaliation because you filed an earlier complaint. So age, in this case, can be substituted for race, color, etc.

Brooks County, Texas Sued by EEOC for Retaliation: Secretary in Treasurer’s Office Punished for Previous Age Bias Suit, Federal Agency Charges

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Brooks County, Texas violated federal law by retaliating against a secretary in the treasurer’s office because she had filed an age discrimination charge and lawsuit two years ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed On March 31st.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Brooks County refused to give a salary increase to the secretary in the treasurer’s office despite all other secretaries in county offices receiving higher salaries. Brooks County explained to the EEOC that the secretary in question was at the “maximum salary set for her job position” and “the maximum salaries for all secretarial/clerical job positions within Brooks County have remained the same for the last four budget years and no employees have received salaries in excess of the budget amounts.”

However, when Brooks County provided salary information, it became evident that every single person on its list of similarly situated employees had received salary raises or were hired at higher salaries. The EEOC also said that when the secretary was facing the elimination of her job, Brooks County failed to hire her in an open position in the county library because of her pending second EEOC charge.

The EEOC contends that the county was actually punishing the secretary for filing an age discrimination charge and then lawsuit against the county in 2009. At that time she was an assistant auditor in the county auditor's office and she identified her boss as the perpetrator of age discrimination. Later that same auditor was the main gatekeeper on all of the requests for higher secretarial salaries.

Retaliating against people who oppose what they believe to be discriminatory conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division (EEOC V. Brooks County, Texas, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-00086) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and liquidated damages, front pay and injunctive relief.

“We have observed an increase in retaliation claims at the EEOC,” said Judith G. Taylor, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, which is handling this case. “In fact, retaliation now accounts for the most numerous kind of discrimination charge. Employers cannot ignore the fact that employees have a guaranteed right to voice opposition to any violation of the ADEA without fear of repercussion. Punishing employees who exercise their right to report discrimination is a violation of federal law and will be rigorously enforced by the EEOC.”

Pat Connor, trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office, aid, “Even a small county employer must follow the law. The EEOC will continue to defend federally protected rights of all employees, public and private, large and small.”

In fiscal year 2010, the EEOC received 36,258 charges of retaliation, accounting for 36.3 percent of all charges, making it the most numerous kind of discrimination charge. The agency also received 23,264 charges of age discrimination in that year. This was an approximate 40 percent increase over the last 10 years, and encompassed 23 percent of the nearly 100,000 discrimination charges filed in 2010 overall.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Houston Black Firefighters Could Receive $300,000 Settlement

March 23, 2011

HOUSTON — A more than $300,000 settlement has been proposed for seven black firefighters in Houston who claimed racial discrimination.

The measure was scheduled to go before the Houston City Council on Wednesday.

The Houston Chronicle reports seven firefighters passed exams for captain or senior captain in 2006, but many white firefighters scored higher. Because promotions were awarded to candidates with the highest scores, the seven did not make the cut. Three of the seven have since retired.

The settlement of the 2008 lawsuit includes cash and promotions.

City Attorney David Feldman says the settlement does not acknowledge wrongdoing by Houston. Feldman says the department this year will begin using a new exam, to make sure it does not produce results related to the race or ethnicity of firefighters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fired Metro CEO Alleges Racism

Metro’s former CEO has sued the bus company and the local transit firm that employed her, claiming she was fired last year because of racial and gender bias and a management consulting contract laced with conflicts of interest.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Marilyn Shazor’s attorney, retired federal appeals court judge Nathaniel Jones, charges she was dismissed in August 2010 in part due to officials’ “stereotypical assumption that a single, minority mother would be unable to manage executive responsibilities at Metro in difficult economic times.”

The suit alleges that Shazor, a 46-year-old single mother of two, one of them a disabled daughter, was a “victim of conscious and subconscious stereotyped thinking” reflected in a performance evaluation process that differed from that of white and male employees.

“As a rare African-American woman CEO, she threatened and disrupted the ‘old boy network,’” the suit says.

The other major factor in Shazor’s firing, Jones argues, stemmed from an unusual contract under which she was employed not by Metro itself but by an outside company, Loveland-based Professional Transit Management.

Under that contract, the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, the board that oversees Metro, paid PTM about twice Shazor’s roughly $132,000 annual salary, with the additional money covering staff and other services periodically provided by PTM.

Metro spokeswoman Sallie Hilvers said Monday the company could not comment, but stressed that Shazor worked for PTM.

“At the time of her dismissal, Ms. Shazor was a PTM employee, not a SORTA or Metro employee,” Hilvers said. “All decisions relating to her employment were made by PTM.”

PTM officials did not return phone calls Monday.

'Caught in the middle'
Shazor’s job security became shaky, the suit alleges, amid moves to alter her PTM contract.

When SORTA’s chairwoman decided it made more sense for Shazor to be on Metro’s payroll, PTM executives viewed the plan as a threat to an arrangement under which it had been “pocketing a $12,000 profit each month on the back of Ms. Shazor and SORTA,” the suit says.

To protect its contract, PTM officials sought to discredit Shazor and to ultimately “eliminate (her) in a manner that would preclude SORTA from hiring her,” despite positive performance reviews, the suit says. Shazor, a West Point graduate with an MBA, , worked for Metro for four years, the final 2.5 years as CEO.

“PTM sought to maximize the fees it charged SORTA while SORTA sought to minimize its expenses,” the suit says. “Ms. Shazor, as CEO, was caught in the middle of the conflict and tension.”

There also were other occasions, the suit alleges, when Shazor’s “allegiance … to SORTA often put her in conflict with PTM, her legal employer.” For example, when PTM sought a contract for its parent company to operate the proposed Cincinnati streetcar – which SORTA itself wanted to run – Shazor sided with SORTA. On another occasion, Shazor angered PTM executive Tom Hock by questioning his effort to secure a SORTA strategic business planning contract for his wife, the suit says.

PTM officials plotted to undermine Shazor, the suit contends, by delaying her 2008 evaluation for four months and declining to conduct a 2009 evaluation, an “untimely and arbitrary” process not applied to white and male employees.

“Unlike any other white or male employees, she was allegedly terminated for poor performance, even though the only contemporaneous record of performance was ‘stellar’ and ‘satisfactory,’” the suit says.

Although PTM fired Shazor, the suit also faults unnamed SORTA board members for criticizing her performance and credibility via anonymous quotes in the news media at the time of her dismissal.

The fact that Shazor was “replaced by a woman of color,” Terry Garcia Crews – who also is a PTM employee – does not mitigate PTM’s actions, the suit concludes.

In addition to reinstatement, the suit asks for a financial award, including all lost pay and benefits and compensatory and punitive damages. SORTA, PTM, Hock and two unnamed SORTA trustees are named as defendants.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Atlanta moves to pay former parking enforcement officers $90K

In 2008, the city of Atlanta laid off 21 parking enforcement employees in a move toward privatization and the hiring of PARKatlanta.

Now, three years later, Atlanta is stuck with the ticket. The city’s Law Department has recommended that the city dish out a total of $90,000 to the former employees who were fired to make room for PARKatlanta.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in July 2009 that the employees -- fired in May 2008 -- had hired a lawyer in an effort to get their jobs back.

The City Council still has to approve the payout.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Segregation, Slurs And Noose Charges Launched At Oil Company

BATON ROUGE, La — About 230 current and former employees at a Louisiana-based oil services company have filed a civil rights lawsuit, saying they were forced to work in facilities where racist graffiti, slurs and discrimination are commonplace.

The lawsuit was filed this week in a Texas federal court against Turner Industries Group LLC, which is headquartered in Baton Rouge and has denied any harrassment or discrimination.

Black workers said Tuesday that they’ve complained for more than a decade about nooses hung in workplaces, racial slurs, segregated bathrooms and unequal treatment in Turner facilities in Louisiana and Texas. They said company supervisors and officials did little or nothing about the complaints and, in some instances, retaliated against the black employees for complaining.

Yvonne Turner, who said she has worked for the company at sites in both states, described showing up at a Sulphur, La., work site where a protective suit was stuffed, tagged with her name and hung from a noose. She said a supervisor laughed when told about it.

“I’m fed up. I’m tired,” she said after a news conference held with local civil rights leaders. “We’re not here trying to get money. We’re not here trying to cause trouble. We’re here for justice.”

Another woman, Cheryl Falola, described traveling to a work location where employees were separated by race and the black employees were sent home and replaced with white workers. She said at a different site she was repeatedly harassed by a white man who was working with her.

“Every day I would go to work he would throw racial slurs,” Falola said. “My stomach was hurting and knotting up because I know I have to work with that every day.”

In a statement, Turner said many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit no longer work for Turner and some never worked for the company.

The company blamed a “lengthy campaign by plaintiffs’ attorneys in New York and Texas” for the lawsuit and said its records show few of those participating in the lawsuit ever reported discrimination complaints to the company.

“Make no mistake, Turner Industries stands for diversity and inclusion for all. Our record supports that. We intend to defend our company and the jobs of our 15,000 employees who are employed in various divisions of the company,” Roland Toups, Turner Industries’ chairman and CEO, said in the statement.

In April 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that black workers at the Turner Industries plant in Paris, Texas, were taunted with slurs, intimidation tactics and symbols of discrimination and were given lower-paying jobs and denied promotions. The EEOC said Turner managers were aware of the hostile work environment but didn’t make changes.

At the time, Turner issued a statement saying it disagreed with the findings and its own investigation didn’t find discrimination. Toups said the company has asked employees to make sure its facilities are compliant with anti-harassment policies.

“If there is a problem, we want to know about it so that it can be addressed,” he said.

James Vagnini, one of the lawyers representing the workers, said the lawsuit was filed because Turner did nothing to address the EEOC findings.

“Just three weeks ago, more nooses are up,” Vagnini said.

He said after the EEOC report, he received hundreds of complaints from current and former Turner employees who had worked in Turner facilities in Port Allen, Sulphur and Monroe, La., and in Paris and Beaumont, Texas.

At Tuesday’s news conference, lawyers for the workers handed out photos that showed racial epithets and swastikas scrawled on desks and bathroom walls and three nooses hung at what they said were different Turner job sites.

The lawsuit says black employees were forced to do dangerous tasks that white workers refused to perform and were passed over for better jobs in favor of white employees. The lawsuit says the discrimination grew worse after President Obama was elected.

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District federal court in Texas.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fiancé of Person Filing a Charge of Discrimination Protected From Employer’s Retaliatory Action, Court Rules

LEGAL BRIEF: Supreme Court Upholds EEOC’s Retaliation Reach
This legal brief is important because it's a reminder that acts of discrimination and/or retaliation can go beyond the initial target and impact other workers. Many people find romance/love in the workplace. So, it's not uncommon to have people who are married or dating at the same job, even if they don't work in the same department. This legal brief is about the fiancé of woman who ended up terminated about 3 weeks after SHE filed a complaint of discrimination against her employer. That's pretty strong evidence that something strange was up. The time between the act that the woman took in filing the complaint and him being fired is extremely short and suggests that the two events are connected. See below:
Fiancé of Person Filing a Charge of Discrimination Protected From Employer’s Retaliatory Action, Court Rules

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled on January 24th that the fiancé of a woman who filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), was protected from retaliation by their mutual employer and had standing to redress this illegal act. In a unanimous opinion, Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, No. 09-291, the Supreme Court held that long-standing EEOC interpretations of the scope of the anti-retaliation provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) applied to an individual harmed by retaliation, even if that person had not himself filed a charge of discrimination.

In Thompson, Miriam Regalado filed a charge of discrimination against her employer, North American Stainless (NAS). Three weeks after receiving notice of the charge from the EEOC, NAS fired Regalado’s fiancé, Eric Thompson, who also worked there. Thompson then filed his own charge, claiming his termination was in retaliation for Regalado’s initial charge. After the district court in Kentucky and the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Thompson could not raise a retaliation claim because he himself had not filed a charge of discrimination, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and issued its decision reversing the lower courts’ opinions.

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court opinion issued today,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “The unanimous decision reaffirms the importance of preventing retaliation against those seeking to protect their civil rights.”

This past fiscal year, the EEOC received more charges alleging retaliation than any other basis, supplanting race discrimination charges for the first time in its 45-year history as the most numerous.

The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information about the EEOC can be obtained at


Northwest Cosmetic Labs Settles Discrimination Suit

Company Fired Black British Intern Because of Race and Color, Federal Agency Charged

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Northwest Cosmetic Labs has agreed to settle a federal suit charging discrimination based on race, color and national origin and retaliation against a black employee for $30,000 and other relief, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on January 13th.

According to the complaint, the employee, a British subject born in Zimbabwe, was hired after a series of phone interviews for a full-time paid internship in cosmetic formulation. She did not interview in person because she was living in England at the time. Upon her arrival in Idaho Falls, she was told by her supervisor that employees at the company would likely be “surprised” to find out that she was black, since she was British. From the beginning, the EEOC said, she received little to no direction from her supervisors and was rarely given assignments, despite her repeated requests to be given work. Her treatment stood in stark contrast to that of the company’s two other interns, who were both Caucasian. They were given ample opportunity to participate in projects and to receive feedback from supervisors. After consistently receiving different treatment from her white counterparts and hearing more race-based comments, she raised these issues with management. Soon thereafter, the EEOC said, she was fired.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed this suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation. Under the consent decree settling the suit (EEOC v. Northwest Cosmetic Labs LLC, Civil Action No. 10-608-CWD, U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho) approved by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy W. Dale, Northwest Cosmetic Labs will pay the employee $30,000. In addition to the monetary payment, the company will adopt a comprehensive non-discrimination policy and complaint procedure, conduct anti-discrimination training for staff and management officials and submit semi-annual reports to the EEOC detailing any complaints of race discrimination or retaliation that may have arisen in the prior six-month period.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "Employment decisions must be based on merit and ability, not race and color. We are pleased that Northwest Cosmetic Labs took this lawsuit seriously and that it will be taking steps to make sure that race and color are not a barrier to success in its workplace.”

“Instead of encountering the exemplary American values of justice and equality, this young visitor was treated to discrimination and punishment for standing up for her rights,” noted EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado. “Fortunately, this country also has an EEOC to fight for discrimination victims, and we will continue to do so.”

Located in Idaho Falls, Northwest Cosmetic Labs formulates and manufactures cosmetic products for third-party customers based throughout North America, Europe and Australia.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Discrimination Suit Against Clear Channel

Clear Channel properties in New Orleans include urban-themed stations Q93.3 FM and 98.5 WYLD-FM, and urban gospel station 1280 WODT-AM.Q93.3 and 98.5 WYLD-FM were the two top-rated stations in New Orleans in the most recent Arbitron ratings report.

There are seven black account execs who have attained council and filed a discrimination suit against the radio giant in that market. The executives accuse Clear Channel of paying lower commissions for advertising sales tied to local stations that reach a predominantly black audience.

They further charge that white account executives were given leads on preferred advertisers, hampering the earning potential of black salesmen and saleswomen.

Clear Channel rep Lisa Dollinger issued a press statement that read: “Clear Channel does not discriminate in its hiring or employment practices. These charges are totally baseless and without merit.”The company’s website touts the diversity of its employees as one of Clear Channel’s “greatest strengths” and stresses a zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

LEGAL BRIEF: EEOC Files Nationwide Hiring Discrimination Lawsuit Against Kaplan Higher Education Corp.

Company’s Use of Job Applicants’ Credit History Discriminates Because of Race, Federal Agency Charges

CLEVELAND – Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, a nationwide provider of postsecondary education, engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination by refusing to hire a class of black job applicants nationwide, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

Since at least 2008, Kaplan Higher Education has rejected job applicants based on their credit history. This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity, the EEOC charged in its lawsuit.

As a result of these practices, the company has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-02882) filed by the EEOC’s Cleveland Field Office in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. It is a violation of Title VII to use hiring practices that have a discriminatory impact because of race and that are not job-related and justified by business necessity.

The EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement before filing suit. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief in its lawsuit, as well as lost wages and benefits and offers of employment for people who were not hired because of Kaplan Higher Education’s use of job applicants’ credit history.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended to eliminate practices that serve as arbitrary barriers to employment because of a job applicant’s race,” said Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and portions of New Jersey and Ohio. “Employers need to be mindful that any hiring practice be job-related and not screen out groups of people, even if it does so unintentionally.”

Workplace discrimination charge filings with the federal agency nationwide rose to an unprecedented level of 99,922 during fiscal year 2010.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at