Utility Services Company Unlawfully Publicized Worker's EEOC Disability Charge to Co-Workers, Federal Agency Charged
BOSTON - Day & Zimmermann NPS, a Philadelphia-headquartered provider of staffing services to the power industry, will pay $45,000 and furnish extensive injunctive relief to settle a lawsuit alleging retaliation and interference with rights filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, an electrician hired by Day & Zimmermann to work during the shutdown of a Waterford, Conn., power plant filed a disability discrimination charge with EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After that, the company publicized details of the charge, including the employee's name, union affiliation, and information about the medical restrictions on his ability to work, in a letter to 146 members of his union local. By publicizing the employee's charge in this manner, Day & Zimmermann retaliated against the employee and interfered with the rights of workers and witnesses to communicate freely with the EEOC and to file charges of their own, the EEOC asserts.
The EEOC's lawsuit, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-1416-VAB, filed in September 2015 in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, was scheduled to go to trial in January, after the court ruled in August that "when an employer disseminates an employee's administrative charge of discrimination to the employee's colleagues, a reasonable factfinder could determine that such conduct constitutes an adverse employment action." A jury, the court concluded, could find that "a retaliatory motive played a part" in the company's decision to publicize the employee's charge. The court further held that a reasonable jury could find that the company's letter "could have the effect of interfering with or intimidating the letter's recipients with respect to communicating with the EEOC about possible disability discrimination by DZNPS."
The three-year consent decree resolving the case, which was approved by the court today, enjoins Day & Zimmermann from future retaliation or interference with ADA-protected rights and prohibits the company from publicizing the identity of individuals who file charges of disability discrimination in the future. In addition, the decree provides for revision of company policies, an extended statute of limitations for certain individuals to file ADA claims with the EEOC, and $45,000 in compensatory damages to the employee who filed the original discrimination charge.
"This decree ensures that Day & Zimmermann will comply with the law," said EEOC New York District Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "As a national law enforcement agency, the EEOC will vigorously protect the rights of people to file charges with the EEOC and to participate in the agency's investigations without fear of retaliation."
EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, "Conduct by employers that interferes with the right of workers to speak to the EEOC increases the risk that discrimination will go unreported and unremedied. The EEOC will continue to oppose such conduct because it is crucial that employees, whether they are victims of discrimination or witnesses to discriminatory conduct, be able to communicate freely with the EEOC."
Sara Smolik and Rosemary DiSavino were the EEOC's lead trial attorneys for this case.
The EEOC's New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.