Monday, September 29, 2014

DSW to pay $900,000 over age discrimination accusations

From:  The Chicago Tribune.
By:  Ellen Jean Hirst
September 22, 2014

Shoe retailer DSW Inc. has agreed to pay $900,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the Chicago District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that accused the company of unfairly firing older workers.

The EEOC had charged Columbus, Ohio­ based DSW with unfairly firing employees and managers over the age of 40 during a "reduction in force." The EEOC, the government agency charged with enforcing discrimination laws, said DSW fired older employees because of their age and retaliated against employees who refused to fire other workers based on their age. DSW has about 10,000 employees nationwide.

The plaintiffs in the case, filed in federal court Sept. 15 and settled Friday, included seven former managers and about 100 other former employees, an attorney said.

In addition to disbursing $900,000 to the former employees, DSW must report to the EEOC for the next three years regarding any employee complaints of age discrimination and revise its anti­discrimination policy.

Charges filed with the EEOC under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act have increased about 36 percent since 1997, from 15,785 to 21,396. Supervisory trial attorney Diane Smason said a spike in 2008 – to 24,582 – was likely due to the recession when many companies were forced to downsize, a common guise for age discrimination, she said.

“We see this often where it’s easy for employers to use a need for a reduction in force and financial problems as an easy excuse to let go of older workers,” Smason said. “We think that’s what happened here at DSW.”

DSW issued a statement “unequivocally” denying that it discriminated based on age. The allegations focus on events from 2008 and 2009, the statement said.

“Those difficult decisions were driven by economic volatility and were in no way influenced by the age of associates,” the company said. “Our decision to settle this case mitigates the costs associated with a lengthy legal proceeding and is in the best interest of our associates and shareholders

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Men, women face different standards in work-related parenting requests

  • Article by: HEIDI STEVENS , Chicago Tribune 
    • September 15, 2014

    • First, the good news: Men who ask for flexible work arrangements to care for their children are “very likely” to have their requests granted.
      As a bonus, these family-minded men are thought of as all-around admirable chaps.
      The not-so-good news: Women who ask for the same flexibility are significantly less likely to have their requests granted and are thought of as uncommitted to their jobs.
      A study by Furman University sociology Prof. Christin Munsch revealed that our cultural biases often don’t follow with our workplace policies.
      She asked 646 participants, ranging in age from 18 to 65, to read a transcript of a conversation between an employee and a human resource manager in which the employee asks to work from home two days a week or come in early and leave early three days a week.
      Participants were then asked whether they would grant the requests and how likable, committed, dependable and dedicated they found the employee to be.
      When the request came from a male employee, 69.7 percent of participants of both genders said they would grant his request, and 24.3 percent deemed the employee “extremely likable.”
      When the request came from a female employee, 56.7 percent of participants would grant her request and a measly 3 percent called her “extremely likable.”
      Fifteen percent of participants described women seeking flexibility as “not at all” or “not very” committed to their jobs, but only 2.7 percent of participants said the same of a male employee who asked for a flexible schedule.
      “These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work,” Munsch writes in the study, which she presented to the American Sociological Association.
      “We think of women’s responsibilities as including paid labor and domestic obligations, but we still regard breadwinning as men’s primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of child care or to other household tasks.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

EEOC Challenges Overbroad Medical Releases In Lawsuit Against Cummins Power

EEOC Press Release

September 9, 2014

Company Violated Two Federal Laws by Making Invasive and Irrelevant Inquiries Through Its Medical Releases, Federal Agency Charges
MINNEAPOLIS - Shoreview, Minn.-based Cummins Power Generation violated federal law by requiring an employee to submit overbroad medical release forms to have a fitness for duty examination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
In its lawsuit, the federal agency contended that Cummins required an employee to sign various medical release forms that sought irrelevant information. Cummins informed the employee that he had to sign a release before taking a fitness-for-duty examination. When the employee objected to executing the releases presented to him, Cummins informed him that he had to sign a release or face termination. Cummins ultimately fired the employee for failing to sign the release, the EEOC said.
The EEOC maintains that by requiring the employee to execute an overly broad release, Cummins was making disability-related inquiries that were not job-related or consistent with business necessity. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Further, the EEOC asserts that the releases presented to the employee would have resulted in the disclosure of family medical history in violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The EEOC argues that Cummins also violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the ADA and GINA by firing the employee for his good-faith objections to the releases.
The EEOC brought the suit under Title I of the ADA, which prohibits disability discrimination in employment, and under Title II of GINA, which prohibits the acquisition of genetic information, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Cummins Power Generation, Civil Action 0:14-cv-03408-SRN-SER) was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, and is assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson.
"The EEOC doesn't challenge Cummins' request for a fitness-for-duty examination, but Cummins had an obligation to request only those medical records and information that actually pertained to that issue," said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago district. "Employees don't give up all rights to privacy of their medical information when they get a job. By asking for all and sundry medical information, Cummins went too far. The EEOC is here to make sure employers follow the requirements of ADA - and of GINA, which is a newer statute that everyone needs to understand and observe."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at