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EEOC Settles Discrimination Suits Against Atlas Energy, Gulf Logistics, Party City, Safeway, and St. Thomas Health

Earlier this week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that, since April 18, it has reached settlement agreements with five separate companies facing allegations of discriminatory employment practices. As a result of these settlements, the five defendants will pay a combined total of $415,000 to resolve various claims involving disability, religious, or age discrimination. The five settlements were:

Atlas Energy

Atlas Energy Group, a natural gas and oil extraction company based in Pennsylvania, has agreed to pay $85,000 to resolve allegations that it committed age discrimination. The suit concerned a 52-year-old production foreman with over 20 years of experience in the industry whom Atlas Energy replaced by hiring a younger person for the foreman’s position. The complaint alleged that Atlas Energy treated the 52-year-old differently than other younger employees, subjected him to “age-related” discriminatory comments, and ultimately terminated him without any written warning or performance review.

Gulf Logistics

Gulf Logistics Operating Inc., a Louisiana-based company that operates a fleet of workboats, has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle allegations that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaint alleged that Gulf Logistics fired Jason Gunderson, a former deckhand on an off-shore workboat, because the company viewed him as a safety threat for having depression.

Party City

Party City Corp., a retail chain of party supply stores, has agreed to pay over $155,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the ADA. The suit arose after Party City chose not to hire Ashley Waxman, a qualified potential employee on the autism spectrum whose job coach accompanied her to an interview. Waxman alleged that a Party City hiring manager shortened her interview, spoke in a patronizing tone by thanking the job coach for “bringing” Waxman to the interview, and openly complained that the person who chose to interview Waxman would “hire an ant.” The judge in the case commended Party City both for quickly agreeing to mediate and settle the case, and for taking steps to prevent such discriminatory conduct from happening in the future.

Safeway

Safeway, Inc., a California-based supermarket chain, has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle allegations that it violated the ADA during the hiring process for a job applicant who is deaf. The complaint specifically alleged that an in-store hiring recruiter initially offered an interview to Joel Siebert. Mr. Siebert then informed the recruiter that he was deaf, after which the recruiter would not return communications to Mr. Siebert and stalled his hiring process while working to hire several other people who were not hearing impaired.

St. Thomas Health

St. Thomas Health, a hospital system in Tennessee, has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle allegations that it committed religious discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The suit was brought by Julian May, a former food service worker who alleged St. Thomas Health fired him for not getting a flu shot after he requested a religious accommodation. Mr. May requested to wear a protective mask instead of receiving the flu shot to conform with his religious beliefs associated with the Moorish Science Temple of America.