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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued a Tennessee staffing agency and an international recycling company with a facility in Tennessee over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The action was based on the defendants’ treatment of a deaf employee. The plaintiff sought temporary employment through the staffing agency and was assigned to work at the recycling center. However, the plaintiff suffered from a hearing impairment disability, and once the defendants learned of the disability, the complaint alleges that the defendants informed her that she could no longer work there.
The ADA protects employees with a recognized disability from discrimination in the workplace. It is a federal law that applies to most employers with more than 15 employees in Tennessee, Georgia, and the rest of the United States.
In Godwin v. WellStar Health System, Inc., Mary Godwin had been working as an order puller for WellStar Health Systems since 1999. By 2003, she had been promoted to the position of Buyer in WellStar’s Purchasing Department. Her duties included processing orders with outside vendors for goods made by WellStar’s different departments. In 2009, WellStar hired a new Vice President of the Supply Chain, Tony Trupiano, whose job included overseeing the Purchasing Department. Soon after, Godwin’s supervisor expressed concerns to Trupiano about Godwin’s performance, noting that she had made some errors with purchase orders. Later that year, the supervisor conducted an evaluation of Godwin and found her to be “below expectations.” Soon after, that supervisor left and a new one was hired, Ken Tifft. Tifft read the former supervisor’s comments on Godwin, but thought they lacked documentation, and thus approved a merit pay increase for Godwin. However, Tifft would later come to share the view that Godwin was performing “below expectations.”
In September 2010, Godwin was placed on a 90-day performance improvement plan, with follow-up consultations after 30 and 60 days. Each time, her supervisor noted improvement, but also continued concerns. Godwin was eventually placed on a second 90-day plan in February 2011. Later that month, Godwin provided her supervisor with a letter from her doctor stating that due to her arthritis, she needed to move around every hour. Her supervisor responded that Godwin needed to remain visible in the Purchasing Department, which was large enough to walk through. However, Godwin, then 63 years old, complained to the Human Resources Department that her supervisor’s comments were ageist and there was no accommodation of her need to walk.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently sued Fannin County, Georgia for age discrimination on the basis that the county violated the law by choosing to layoff employees who were over 60 years of age. According to the lawsuit, the Fannin County Road Department decided to reduce its workforce back in November 2011. There were 11 people chosen to be laid off, four of whom were younger than 60 years of age and seven of whom were older than 60. Subsequently, the County ended up rehiring three of the four employees who were under 60 within a few months of being laid off; however, the County did not rehire any of the employees who were older than 60.
Individuals are turned down for jobs for a variety of reasons. Some job applicants are simply unqualified for the position sought, while others are over-qualified. However, there are occasions when job applicants are turned away for discriminatory reasons, such as race or age. Accordingly, it is important for business owners to work with a Georgia employment attorney to ensure that their policies and hiring practices are legal and nondiscriminatory in every way. An attorney can appropriately evaluate employment policies and make a determination with respect to the possibility or existence of discriminatory hiring practices that might subject a business to litigation.
According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of 23 law clerks who had filed a wage discrimination lawsuit against Fulton County. The Court’s ruling affirmed an arbitration ruling that awarded the law clerks at least $4.3 million in back pay. A Superior Court already had affirmed the arbitration ruling on appeal, and Fulton County sought review of the ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, claiming that the award of back pay was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeals also remanded the case back to Superior Court so as to allow the law clerks to collect back pay from the date of the arbitration to the present, which amounts to an additional $500,000. As your Georgia employment lawyers can tell you, this ruling is a huge win for the law clerks of Fulton County after six long years of litigation.
In a five-to-four decision, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that retaliation claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which governs discrimination in employment, are held to a stricter standard of proof than other types of discrimination claims. In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, the Court very strictly interpreted a statute that was enacted in order to overrule a prior Supreme Court decision. As a result, the Court found that in a retaliation claim concerning the denial of permanent employment to a temporary employee, the individual must prove that he or she would have gotten the permanent job, but was denied for the retaliation that occurred by the employer.
Age discrimination complaints are on the rise as the average age of American workers continues to increase, and Americans continue to work longer before retiring. In fact, a recent Forbes article notes that according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of age-related complaints in recent years has skyrocketed. From 1997 and 2007 there were between 16,000 and 19,000 annual age discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC. Since 2008, that number has increased to between 23,000 and 25,000 age discrimination complaints annually. As your Atlanta discrimination attorney can tell you, it is illegal under federal law for an employer with 20 or more employees to discriminate against an employee who is 40 years or older.
According to a recent press release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, there are now publications available that specifically address the employment rights of people with some specific disabilities, including diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. While EEOC publications in the past have primarily addressed employment rights of the disabled in very general terms, these revised publications specifically designate people with these medical conditions as falling under the purview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). More particularly, the ADA Amendments Act changes the definition of disability so as to make it easier to conclude that these medical conditions qualify as disabilities for the purposes of the ADA.