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Not-So-Sweet EEOC Settlements Land Donut Companies in Hot Water

Not-So-Sweet EEOC Settlements Land Donut Companies in Hot Water


I often fly Southwest Airlines through the Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) on my way to Love Field (DAL) in Dallas. The next time I do, I’ll drop by the Dunkin’ Donuts in Baltimore and the Shipley’s Do-Nuts in Dallas to write a blog about the importance of complying with Title I of the ADA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

In the last 10 days both Dunkin’ (operated in the Baltimore area by OHM Concessional Group, LLC ) and Shipley’s (franchise of D&S Shipley Do-Nuts) have settle EEOC charges for $151,000 and $45,000, respectively, related to the issue of leave as a reasonable accommodation.

According to the suit, Joan McMahon O’Donnell successfully performed her job duties as a regional manager at the company’s BWI Dunkin’ Donuts locations. After O’Donnell was diagnosed with breast cancer and requested unpaid leave for surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Dunkin’ Donuts refused to provide a reasonable accommodation and instead abruptly discharged her because of her disability, EEOC charged.

In addition to the $151,000 in monetary relief to O’Donnell, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit prohibits OHM from engaging in any future disability discrimination. OHM will implement a new attendance policy which includes a provision for requesting reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. The restaurant will provide annual ADA training to all supervisors, managers and human resources employees. OHM will also post a notice about the settlement and will report to EEOC about how it handled any internal complaints of alleged disability discrimination.

In its Shipley’s lawsuit, the EEOC charged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it forced Brooke S. Foley to take unpaid leave after Shipley’s owner/general manager received information that Foley might be pregnant. According to EEOC, Shipley’s would not allow Foley to continue working unless she provided a doctor’s release indicating that her pregnancy was not “high-risk.” The lawsuit further alleged that when Foley failed to provide such a release, and after she and her mother complained that Shipley’s could not require her to do so, she was fired.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits pregnancy-related job discrimination. Under the PDA, an employer cannot force a pregnant employee, or one the employer suspects of being pregnant, to provide medical documentation proving that the employee can continue working, unless the employee requests some pregnancy-related accommodation. Further, if an employee complains about pregnancy discrimination, the employer must investigate that complaint and must not take any retaliatory employment action against her.

“The Supreme Court decided many years ago that a pregnant employee is solely responsible for making decisions that affect her ability to continue her job, and any duties associated with her job,” said Jim Sacher, EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston. “An employer that imposes its own personal beliefs and concerns about an employee’s pregnancy on her violates federal law and invites legal action.”

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