Ann Arbor nursing home to pay $35k in religious discrimination suit

Whitehall Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor, a skilled nursing and long-term care facility in Ann Arbor, will pay $35,000 to settle a religious discrimination suit.

In its lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) in late 2011, the EEOC alleged that Whitehall discriminated against a certified nursing assistant because of her request for a religious accommodation. The employee is a Jehovah’s Witness.

She asked that her employer not schedule her to work on Wednesdays or Sundays so she could attend spiritual meetings and participate in field service as a part of her sincerely held religious belief. The worker was fired when she informed her boss that she was unable to work on Sundays, according to the EEOC.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Whitehall Healthcare of Ann Arbor, LLC, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-15407) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The approval of a consent decree by Judge Avern Cohn brings a formal end to the litigation between the EEOC and Whitehall. In addition to paying $35,000 to the discrimination victim, the resolution requires the company to provide training to all employees regarding requests for religious accommodations, create a new religious accommodation policy and file reports with the EEOC regarding compliance with the decree’s requirements.

EEOC Trial Attorney Lauren Gibbs, Supervisory Trial Attorney Kenneth Bird, and Regional Attorney Laurie Young led the government’s litigation.

Got improv skills? Know the EEOC? Two events can help

Two State Bar sections are hosting upcoming seminars that emphasize audience participation.

First is the Young Lawyers Section’s “Think Fast! Boot Camp for New Lawyers” workshop, which takes place 3:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12 at Go Comedy! Improv Theatre in Ferndale.

Here, new lawyers will work on their improvisational skills, with improv actors teaching participants “Trust and Learning to Fail” (how to respond to an unexpected or unwanted ruling in court) and a “Yes, and …” exercise, which involves working with answers, or rulings, that seem impossible or unexpected There also will be a small informal dinner after the workshop, as well as an optional 8 p.m. show by the troupe.

Cost is $10 for the workshop and $5 extra for the following show. Space is limited to 25 participants. Register by May 5 at the SBM Young Lawyers Home Page at For more information, contact Syeda Davidson at (313) 207-4229 or

Then, at 4 p.m. June 7, the Labor & Employment Law Section hosts its annual Spring-Board series of roundtable discussions at The Reserve, next to Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham.

This year’s seminar will focus on the “ABCs” of agency practice, with agency representatives, investigators, administrative law judges, and experienced practitioners discussing how to effectively represent clients before the EEOC, Michigan Department of Civil Rights, NLRB, MERC, and Unemployment Insurance Agency.

It’s all followed by a networking session along with complimentary beer, wine, and hors d’oeuvres.

Cost is $50 in advance and $60 at the door.  For more information, contact Susan Hiser at (248) 540-4987 or

Could teens hold the answers to closing the wage gap?

You’d think we’d have figured this out by now, but a wage gap between men and women still exists, and among some groups of workers it’s pretty deep. And since we haven’t yet solved the problem, my hopes are not particularly high that my contemporaries — the middle-aged crowd — hold the answers to closing the gap.

But is it possible that my teenage son’s contemporaries can figure it out? My instinct was to quickly conclude, “Oh no. On any given day, about a third of the kids in my son’s high school haven’t even figured out that they’re walking around with their flies open.” But, and it hurts me to admit this, I might be wrong. At least the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) thinks I might be wrong.

Here’s the state of the current problem: Last week, U.S. News cited a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that “among the 20 most popular occupations for women workers, they only out-earn men in one field: bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks.”

Further, though 96 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants are women, those women only earn about 86 percent of what men earn, according to the story.

Often, the gap is created by societal norms, such as the division of duties when it comes to child rearing or caring for sick family members, or maintaining a household, which often are still considered primarily women’s work.

The disparity is even greater among low-wage workers and some minority groups. The story says that women overall earn $10,800 less per year than men. But African American women earn $19,600 less, and Latinas earn $23,900 less.

But here’s the possible solution: teenagers. To try to figure out why the gap is still larger than we’d like, and how to close it, the EEOC is asking young people to weigh in.

Tomorrow, the EEOC is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Take your Child to Work Day by inviting teenagers to its Denver Field Office to participate in a dialogue for solutions on how to bridge the gender wage gap in America.

According to the EEOC, suggestions from this forum will be sent to the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force in Washington, D.C.

The reason the teenagers may hold the keys to solving the problem is that they are an unbiased group, said Denver EEOC Field Director Nancy Sienko.

She might be right about that. Not only are teenagers mostly untarnished by many of life’s experiences (think: child-rearing, dealing with serious illness, and meeting the responsibility of making ends meet in a recession), but among young people, women have now for the first time surpassed men in how much value they place on earning a lot of money.

An April 23 story on The Job Mouse website reported that young women value high-paying careers more than their male counterparts.

The story says that when asked if career is high on their list of life priorities, 66 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 said yes. That number has been growing, according to the story.

But the key to true equality has often been thought to lie with the men. When young men’s priorities — about work and career, child rearing and housekeeping — match those of women, then household responsibilities and wage earning will start to look more balanced between the sexes.

The Job Mouse reported that 59 percent of young men, when asked about life priorities, answered that career is high on the list.

So my mother’s generation opened the doors, mine walked through them and now view work outside the home as a necessity, and perhaps my teenage son’s generation will be the one that finally figures it all out. Let’s hope so.

EEOC: Auburn Hills company laid off workers, based on age

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Jan. 20, claiming that Auburn Hills-based Hutchinson Sealing Systems Inc. selected project engineers for lay-off based on age.

Hutchinson manufactures automotive, aerospace, defense and marine industry parts.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Case No. 2:12-cv-10264, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan), the company “manipulated its criteria for selecting project engineers for layoff based on age.

“In the first round of layoffs, William Galas was the only engineer selected for layoff. At the age of 62 at the time, he was the oldest project engineer. A mere month later, Hutchinson laid off two more project engineers. This time, Hutchinson added one new layoff criterion that led to the second- and third-oldest project engineers at the time, ages 51 and 48 respectively, to be selected for layoff.”

The company couldn’t explain the new criteria. The EEOC claims that if the company had used the same criteria for the later layoffs as it did for the first one, the second and third engineers would not have lost their jobs. Instead, younger engineers would have been let go.

The EEOC released a statement saying that it had tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“The agency seeks to recover monetary compensation for Galas and the two other project engineers in the form of back pay other relief, including reinstatement, front pay and anti-discrimination training for the company,” according to the EEOC.

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

Fired worker takes on Ford Motor Co.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against Ford Motor Co. Inc. for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disabled worker at its Dearborn facility.

According to the EEOC, Ford refused to let employee Jane Harris participate in its liberal telecommuting program as a reasonable accommodation for her gastrointestinal condition, which she said had rendered her disabled. The EEOC claims that instead of accommodating the worker, Ford criticized her job performance, and placed her on a “performance enhancement plan.” She complained about being denied the accommodation, and a few months later, Ford fired her, which EEOC said is a violation of the ADA.

The EEOC said that it tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The agency is seeking back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages. The case is EEOC v. Ford Motor Company Inc., Case No. 2:11CV13742, and was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

EEOC files suit against BK

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has charged TSW Management Inc., the owner of several metro Detroit-area Burger King restaurants, with pervasive sexual harassment and retaliation. The lawsuit, case No. 2:11-CV-13220, was filed July 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The EEOC claims that “the manager of TSW’s Royal Oak Burger King severely harassed many of his female employees, including minors, over several years.” The commission said he made lewd comments, touched female workers, and made sexual advances toward them. If the workers complained, the EEOC said the manager would “cut hours, alter paychecks, and escalate his harassing behavior. The manager also retaliated against one victim by terminating her for insubordination.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from sexual harassment and from retaliation for complaining about illegal practices such as sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC is seeking an injunction to prohibit the company from engaging in this type of discrimination in the future, as well as monetary relief on the behalf of the victims, according to the EEOC website.