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Press Release 06-09-2016

South Carolina Nursing Home to Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Fired African-American Manager Because of Her Race, Federal Agency Charged

ATLANTA - Bloom at Belfair, a nursing home located in Bluffton, S.C., will pay $40,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

EEOC filed suit in 2015 alleging that Bloomfield Senior Living of Bluffton, LLC, operating as Bloom at Belfair, discriminated against Michelle Billups Tensley, an African-American employee, because of her race when it fired her in September 2014. Tensley was the activities director at the Bloom at Belfair facility. She was terminated after she missed a single day of work because of a family medical issue, an absence she had announced openly in advance. Bloomfield said that Tensley did not personally speak to her supervisor the day of her absence; however, EEOC said that the supervisor was either unavailable or refused to accept Tensley's phone call. EEOC charged that Tensley's firing followed the termination of other black managers at the same facility, and was part of a plan to eliminate African-Americans from management.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Beaufort Division (Civil Action No. 9:15-cv-04047-CWH-BM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief for Tensley, the consent decree settling the lawsuit includes provisions for equal employment opportunity training by the company, reporting by the company to EEOC, and the posting of a notice about the lawsuit to the company's employees.

"Plain and simple, employers cannot fire employees because of their race," said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of EEOC's Atlanta District Office. "Company rules must be enforced fairly and without regard to anyone's race."

Lynette Barnes, acting regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office, added, "It is important for workers to know that they will be treated fairly in the workplace, without regard to race."

EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at