Rehab center pays to settle discrimination suit

Southfield rehabilitation and nursing company Health Partners, Inc. has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a case in which the company was accused of discrimination against an employee who had tested positive for tuberculosis.

In EEOC v. Health Partners, Inc. (Case No. 2:11-CV-12024), filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the EEOC charged that Health Partners violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to allow an employee to start working after she tested positive for tuberculosis on a preliminary skin test. The EEOC contended that such conduct violates the ADA because Health Partners regarded her as disabled even though she was not contagious and did not pose a direct threat of health risk.

Rather than engage in protracted litigation, Health Partners agreed to a two-year consent decree which requires it to pay $25,000 to the employee and train those employees responsible for hiring about ADA rules, according to the EEOC.

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She’s not fat. She’s pregnant.

A successful member of Weight Watchers is suing The WW Group, Inc. d/b/a Weight Watchers for refusing to hire her as a group leader because she was pregnant.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed today that Weight Watchers violated federal law when it refused to hire the woman.

According to an EEOC statement, the job seeker had been a long-term client of Weight Watchers. She had successfully met her weight loss goals, and had maintained the weight loss. She had done so well that her own group leader encouraged her to apply for a group leader position.

But Weight Watchers discovered she was pregnant, and according to the EEOC, the woman was told that Weight Watchers does not hire pregnant women and the company refused to consider her further for the job.

From the EEOC:

Refusing to consider a woman for a job because she is pregnant violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit against Weight Watchers in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, (EEOC v. The WW Group, Inc., d/b/a Weight Watchers International, Inc., Case No. 2:11-cv-14220) after first attempting to settle the matter. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the applicant along with injunctive relief intended to prevent further instances of pregnancy discrimination.

“Maintaining a blanket policy against hiring pregnant women is a clear violation of the law,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Nedra Campbell. “The EEOC will vigorously enforce a pregnant woman’s right to be considered for a job.”

The WW Group, Inc. owns and operates Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE: WTW) franchisees. The WW Group, Inc. was founded in 1968 and is based in Farmington Hills, Mich. It operates outlets in Michigan and in Canada.

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov.

Out of work and out of luck

The job market in Michigan has for some workers become like a game of musical chairs, and someone keeps swiping the seats from the game. The result has meant that some out-of-work Michiganders, and there are a lot of them – about 500,000, according to the State of Michigan – take longer to find work than they might have needed in a robust economy.

And though those workers have no control over the economy as a whole, they are certainly feeling penalized for being out of work, even if their jobless state is not of their own making.

According to a story in the New York Times this week, employers are openly admitting to excluding the unemployed from …. well, being considered for employment. Want ads in a sampling of papers around the country make it clear that the out-of-work need not apply.

In an economy that’s the worst for workers since the Great Depression, some Michigan lawmakers are saying that’s not fair, and earlier this year introducted House Bill 4675, which would prohibit employers seeking to hire workers from discriminating against the unemployed.

It’s a nice thought, but the bill probably has no chance of passing. And even if it did, what good would it do?

Bingham Farms-based employment lawyer Robert M. Vercruysse said that many employers find the unemployed to be attractive job candidates. He noted that they are able and eager to start work immediately, and “there are no non-compete issues and they will generally take the job offer at the pay range posted.”

But for those who don’t see the practical upside of hiring unemployed workers, proving that an employer is refusing to consider the jobless candidate would be “very difficult to prove,” he said.