ICYMI: Our Social Media Posts This Week – Nov. 17-23, 2019

Below is a review of the posts (on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week. You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

In the post on Sunday 11/17/19 we learned that the WeWork ex-CEO faces a pregnancy discrimination complaint. In this case, the former CEO, Adam Neumann, is also a co-founder of the company. Medina, Neumann’s former chief of staff, filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging that she was demoted, derided for going on leave, and then fired for raising concerns. She asked that it be treated as a class action. The sordid details of her allegations are in the post and note that the behavior started with her first job interview. The post then traces more of the behavior through the years. Medina’s allegations even include that the Chief Legal Officer joined in – how is in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Illegal behavior and actions will come out – just don’t do it. Consult with employment counsel (like us!) to be sure you stay on the straight and narrow.

The post on Monday 11/18/19 was about a white Starbucks manager claiming racial bias in her firing after the arrests of 2 black men. The saga and fallout continue … Shannon Phillips recently filed suit in federal court. Why? She alleges that she was a 13-year employee, overseeing the territory noted in the post, when employees at a Philadelphia store called 911 in April 2018 to say 2 black men were trespassing. Yes, that incident that hit the news big back then. More about the men and the incident is in the post. Starbucks closed all stores the following month for a day of racial sensitivity training. Shannon says that she tried to learn more about the incident, including addressing a strong community concern and ensuring the safety of all. What else she did is in the post. A month or so later, she was directed to suspend an employee as noted in the post. She objected (on the bases in the post). She was fired. And now she has sued.

TAKEAWAY: As if the incident were not bad enough from the start, now Starbucks has compounded it. Don’t be like Starbucks in this instance.

The post on Tuesday 11/19/19 taught us that new US condo regulations provide a leg-up for buyers – which also helps current owners in an Association. Before, individual condo owners could not apply for (or get) federal mortgage insurance if the entire development was not approved. Now, the regulations have changed (and also apply in other areas – see the post). So how does this benefit the Association? The process for approval of the entire association has been streamlined in the ways noted in the post. And as for individuals, up to 10% of units (or not more than 2 in a development of fewer than 10 units) are eligible for individual insurance/FHA financing, assuming the entire development still meets certain specific things (for which the FHA has not yet issued guidelines).  

TAKEAWAY: The new Regs may be helpful to some buyers (and associations) but will certainly turn no tide in condo ownership.

The post on Wednesday 11/20/19 told us that a health care company agreed to pay $50k in a wage discrimination case. The employer, a home health care agency, agreed to settle a suit brought by the EEOC alleging that female employees had been discriminated against. How that occurred is noted in the post. What also happened – or, in this case, didn’t happen – is also in the post. And the result was that the employees lost thousands of dollars per year. Also, why the EEOC was anxious to bring that case is discussed in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Make sure to pay all employees doing substantially the same job the same wages – or you will end up paying out a lot more in the long run.

The post on Thursday 11/21/19 showed us that a mushroom farm settled for $200K in a sexual harassment and retaliation suit. This was a “local” story coming out of Reading PA and involves Bisconti Farms and Bisconti Management. The EEOC alleged that for about 8 years, a female manager and 2 female employees subjected 8 female workers to repeated sexual harassment. Same-sex harassment is uncommon but does occur. Here, what happened is in the post. And when one of the victims of the harassment then objected, she was subject to the retaliation noted in the post. The consent decree is broad and covers what the employer must do for 3 years (as listed in the post) in addition to paying the $200,000 in monetary relief to the 8 female employees.

TAKEAWAY: Don’t treat employees differently based on a protected characteristic; you will get found out and it will be oh so much worse than had you just done things the right, legal way from the start. Consult employment counsel in this type of situation if you are unsure what to do.

The post on Friday 11/22/19 explained that a Court axed an ADA anxiety discrimination claim and granted summary judgment to the employer against the EEOC. The EEOC is a stalwart protector of rights but does not win them all. Here, it alleged that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation as required by the ADA, and then discharged the employee due to her disability. Ugh, just ugh. The employee here was a laundry technician who requested accommodation for her condition noted in the post. The employer argued in court that she was not disabled under the ADA, such that there was no failure to accommodate. Its motion for summary judgment was granted. The Court first analyzed the definition of disability under the ADA (see the post). The EEOC used testimony by a doctor, but the Court pointed out the problems with that testimony (again, see the post). What else the Court said the EEOC failed to show is in the post (and instructive). How the Court dealt with the EEOC’s “record of impairment” claim is next in the post. Finally, the Court disposed of the EEOC’s “regarded as” claim as set forth in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Just because the EEOC lost this case, do not think that you as an employer have carte blanche to do what you want under the ADA – quite the opposite, as the EEOC is still looking over your shoulder.

Finally, in the post yesterday 11/23/19, we saw that a man claims he was fired from a restaurant because he has HIV. No, HIV has not disappeared, just not at the forefront of the news any more. Here, Antonio was a server at a restaurant when he was diagnosed with HIV in late 2018. What he then did is in the post. After that, he was transferred and the employer made the other changes listed in the post, despite an earlier agreement with him. When he pushed back, he was fired – and sued. More about why his diagnosis was not a problem, even in food management, is in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Before you assume that a medical condition interferes with a person’s job in such a way that the only choice is termination, check with an employment lawyer – it may save you from hot water in the courts of justice and public opinion.

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