EEOC Wins Settlements in Piggly Wiggly, Tyson Foods Cases

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By LAURA LIEBECK– American workers prevailed in three separate discrimination cases recently settled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In Tennessee, the owners of Piggly Wiggly supermarkets in Hartsville and Lafayette, Tn., must pay $40,000 to settle a race and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC.

The EEOC reported that Piggly Wiggly locations owned by MWR Enterprises Inc. II maintained policies and practices that intentionally failed to hire African-Americans.

The settlement also revealed that these Piggy Wiggly stores maintained a segregated work force and established a practice of not hiring males for cashier positions.

“The law is clear: employers may not refuse to hire applicants based on their race or gender,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “The EEOC will continue to ensure that such barriers to employment are removed.”

In addition to monetary relief, a four-year consent decree requires MWR Enterprises Inc., II, to:
• Establish a written policy providing all job assignments be made without consideration to gender
• Create guidelines and procedures for processing employment applications
• Provide Title VII training on race and gender discrimination to its managers
• Meet recordkeeping and reporting requirements
• Post a notice about the lawsuit and settlement at its store locations.

In addition to the Piggly Wiggly case, the EEOC settled a disability discrimination case against Tyson Foods, Inc., one of the world’s largest processors of chicken, beef and pork.

The settlement includes a financial settlement of $35,000 plus other relief. The case centers around Tyson’s failure to hire Mark White in May 2010 for an open maintenance job in its Sedalia, Mo., plant because he has epilepsy.

Tyson’s decision was found in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the lawsuit, White’s epilepsy had been controlled by medication for 12 years.

White had twice before worked for Tyson.

Since White’s last stint with the company, Tyson instituted a new medical assessment procedure and refused to hire White for a third time because he did not pass a medical evaluation required of all applicants with epilepsy, which is performed to determine whether he could safely perform the job.

According to the EOOC, “the doctor who performed the evaluation for Tyson did not examine White, but relied on outdated medical research in determining that he could not safely perform the job. At the same time, Tyson employed several other persons with epilepsy who had been grandfathered in.”

In addition to the financial damages, which will be paid as back pay, Tyson will pay compensatory damages. Tyson also agreed to institute a new assessment procedure for similar cases that include required medical assessments for applicants rejected for employment.

The decree provides that applicants have the right to a second medical assessment at their own expense and “an independent and determinative third medical assessment be made for any applicant not hired after the second assessment.”

This consent decree, which still must be approved by the courts, also provides for injunctive relief, training for individuals involved in the assessment procedure, posting notification to employees, and compliance reporting to the EEOC.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.

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