Tuesday, March 1, 2022

If you want to get yourself into discrimination hot water, stereotype your protected-class employees

To cases recently settled by the EEOC illustrate the point that stereotypes of protected-class employees are a quick path an expensive lesson.

  • Ranew's Management Company agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a disability discrimination claim after it fired an employee based on a "lack of trust" instead of permitting her to return from a leave of absence resulting from severe depression.
  • American Freight Furniture and Mattress agreed to pay $5,000,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit based on allegations that managers made hiring decisions based on bias and stereotypes, including that women would not "do as great a job at selling furniture as men," could not work in the warehouse because "women can’t lift," and that female employees would be " distraction" to their male coworkers. 

"Employment decisions must be made based on employee qualifications," says EEOC regional attorney Marcus G. Keegan. "Eliminating barriers … is absolutely critical to our work to advance equal employment opportunity and to help provide access to good jobs for workers," adds EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. "All workers have a right to earn a living free of discrimination."

Stereotyping is a quick path to an expensive lawsuit fraught with legal risk. Treat employees as individuals, not by the color of their skin, their sex or gender, their religion, the country of their birth, their age, their disability, or any other protected class. It's just that simple.