Press Release 05-22-2020

Brookdale Senior Living Communities to Pay $80,000 to Settle EEOC Retaliation Suit

Caregiver Fired for Protesting Language with Racial Connotations, Federal Agency Charged

SAN FRANCISCO – Nationwide senior care provider Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. will pay $80,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an African American caregiver working at Brookdale’s Auburn, Calif., facility overheard co-workers use a phrase with racial connotations offensive to the caregiver. Soon after the caregiver complained about the comments and alleged discrimination, Brookdale suspended and ultimately fired her. According to settlement documents approved today by the federal district court, Brookdale denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for an employer to discipline or fire an employee who engages in statutorily protected activity, including opposing actions perceived to be discriminatory. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc, Case No. 2:20-cv-00993-TLN-AC in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. 

The two-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $80,000 in monetary relief to the caregiver. The decree also requires Brookdale to train its personnel on compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on retaliation under Title VII. The company will also implement anti-retaliation policies and post a notice describing employee Title VII rights and its obligations under the consent decree.

“The law protects your right to speak up and oppose workplace language that you reasonably believe to be racially offensive,” said William Tamayo, director of the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office. “If an employee explains that a certain term evokes a painful racial stereotype, this is an opportunity to demonstrate respect and understanding and conduct a careful investigation into the allegations.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley said, “This settlement compensates the caregiver for all the consequences of being fired and charts a positive path for Brookdale. We commend the com­pany for its commitment to equal employment opportunity.”

According to the company website, Brookdale Senior Living owns and operates over 1,000 senior living and retirement communities in the United States. Learn more about the company at www.brookdale.com.

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.