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Flow of new EEOC suits continues with complaints filed against employers in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, and North Carolina

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

In the continuing flow of new lawsuits filed by the EEOC as the end of its fiscal year approaches, employers in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, and North Carolina face separate complaints asserting discrimination based on religion, pregnancy, national origin, race, and disability.

Parker Drilling Company. In a suit filed on September 18, the EEOC asserts that an Alaska-based oil drilling company violated the ADA when it refused to hire a worker who is blind in one eye.

After first making a job offer to him, Parker Drilling Company failed to hire the highly-experienced oil rig worker who lost sight in his left eye as a child, the EEOC said. The worker had successfully held various positions on the oil rig floor for the last 35 years; he began his career with Parker Drilling from 1978-1982, according to the complaint.

The commission is seeking monetary damages on behalf of the worker, training on antidiscrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite and other injunctive relief.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the District of Alaska; the case number is 3:13-CV-00181-SLG.

Kentucky Fried Chicken operators. Scottish Food Systems, Inc. and Laurinburg KFC Take Home, Inc., North Carolina corporations that operate a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in eastern North Carolina, violated Title VII by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and firing her because of her religion, the EEOC asserts in a lawsuit filed on September 19.

The employee converted to Pentecostalism in 2010, according to the EEOC’s complaint. As a member of the Pentecostal church, she believes women should wear skirts and, in accordance with this religious belief, has not worn pants since the fall of 2010.

The employee had worked for various Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants since 1992. Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home purchased the KFC restaurant where she worked in April 2013, the EEOC said. At that time, they purportedly informed her that she must wear pants to work because of their dress code policy. The employee told the restaurant operators that she could not wear pants because of her religious beliefs. Ultimately, the two companies fired her for refusing to wear pants to work, the commission contends.

The complaint seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v Scottish Food Systems, Inc) in the Middle District of North Carolina; the case number is 1:13-CV-00796.

Triple T Foods. On September 18 the EEOC announced the filing of a lawsuit against Triple T Foods, an Arkansas pet food processor, for its purported violation of Title VII by firing a female lab technician due to her pregnancy.

The technician worked in the quality control section of Triple T’s Springdale, Arkansas, plant where the company processes meat by-products used in pet food. About a month after she was hired, the employee told management that she was pregnant, the EEOC asserts. Later that same day, the Triple T terminated her employment.

The commission is asking the court to permanently enjoin the defendant from engaging in any employment practice that discriminates against an employee on the basis of pregnancy. The agency is also seeking back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.

“Triple T fired this employee the same day she informed the company she was pregnant for no legitimate or legal reason,” said Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee, and portions of Mississippi. “Pregnant women should not have to fear that they will be subjected to this type of conduct by their employers.”

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Western District of Arkansas; the case number is 5:13-cv-05198.

Rosebud Restaurants. Ten Rosebud Restaurants in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs have violated Title VII by refusing to hire African-Americans in numerous Chicago area locations because of their race, the commission contends in a lawsuit filed on September 18.

Rosebud currently operates 10 restaurants in greater Chicago, including eight white-tablecloth Italian restaurants and two steakhouses. The restaurants that are subject to the suit include Carmine’s, The Rosebud, Rosebud Prime, Rosebud on Rush, Rosebud Old World Italian, Rosebud Steakhouse, Rosebud Deerfield, Rosebud Theater District, Rosebud Italian Specialties and Pizzeria, Ristorante Centro (formerly known as EATT and Bar Umbriago), and the recently closed restaurants Rosebud of Highland Park, Rosebud Burger & Comfort Foods, and Rosebud Trattoria.

The agency’s administrative investigation, managed by District Director John Rowe, found that company managers, including an owner, indicated they preferred not to hire African-Americans to work in the company’s restaurants. The owner and other managers used racial slurs to refer to blacks, according to the investigation.

“At the time the EEOC began examining Rosebud’s hiring practices, most of its restaurants had no black employees at all,” Rowe said. “In most of them we were looking at what we call the ‘inexorable zero’ — situations where the absence of any African-Americans makes it unlikely this was caused by chance. Those are almost always the result of strong racial bias.”

The EEOC’s complaint asserts that Rosebud failed to maintain employment applications for a one-year period and file required employer information reports with the agency prior to 2009, in violation of federal regulations. Private employers with more than 100 employees must file annual reports with the EEOC providing employment data by job category, race, ethnicity, and gender. Federal regulations also require that employers keep all personnel and employment records, including employment applications, for one year.

The agency’s suit seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the black applicants denied employment, hiring of qualified African-American applicants, an order barring future discrimination, and other relief to prevent future discrimination.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v Rosebud Restaurants, Inc) in the Northern District of Illinois; the case number is 13-cv-6656.

Rizza Cadillac, Inc. In a lawsuit filed on September 18, the commission contends that Rizza Cadillac, Inc. of Tinley Park, Illinois, a suburb south of Chicago, violated Title VII by encouraging a work environment that was hostile and offensive to Muslim and Arab sales staff.

Rizza Cadillac managers fostered the discriminatory work environment by using offensive slurs, such as “terrorist,” “sand n—-r,” and “Hezbollah,” and making mocking and insulting references to the Qur’an and the manner in which Muslims pray, according to the agency’s complaint.

“Our investigation revealed that Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures to stop and prevent this abusive misconduct, as they were required to do by federal law,” Rowe said.

The EEOC is seeking monetary relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages, an order requiring the dealership to implement measures to prevent a recurrence of harassment, and a permanent injunction against future discrimination.

“Employers may not allow managers to repeatedly make offensive slurs and insults about an employee’s religion or national origin,” said EEOC Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson.

“Comments implying that all Muslims are terrorists cannot be excused or minimized by calling it mere ‘banter’ about a minority ethnicity or religion.”

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois; the case number is 1:13-cv-06696.