Home Furnishings Company Denied Accommodation to and Fired Employee, Federal Agency Charged

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Heritage Home Group, LLC, a North Carolina corpor­ation that designs, manufactures, sources and retails home furnishings, will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that Heritage Home violated federal law when it failed to provide a machine operator at its Hickory Chair Company manufacturing plant in Hickory, N.C., an accommodation for his disability. The federal agency further charged that Heritage Home fired the employee because of his disability.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee (who wishes to remain anonymous) is a diabetic. He developed an infection and underwent surgery for amputation of one of his toes in March 2016. The employee was also diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and needed additional leave to recover fully. The employee informed Heritage Home of his anticipated return to work the first week of June 2016. Heritage Home informed the employee in a letter dated April 29, 2016 that it would be terminating his employment because the employee would not be able to return to work until June.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division (EEOC v. Heritage Home Group, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-CV-00018) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As part of the settlement, Heritage Home is required to pay the employee $50,000. In addition, the company has entered into a two-year consent decree that requires it to implement an ADA policy; conduct annual training for its human resources and management personnel on the ADA and its requirement that employees be provided with reasonable accommodations absent an undue hardship; and report to the EEOC on its accommodation practices.

“This settlement recognizes that employees with disabilities are important members of the workforce and should be provided equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.

Red Banks, Miss., Store Ignored Complaints About Manager’s Abuse of Female Employees, Federal Agency Charged

OXFORD, Miss. – Dolgencorp, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of retail chain Dollar General Corporation, will pay $70,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the store manager at Dollar General’s Red Banks, Miss., store subjected a female sales associate to unwanted sexually laced comments, text messages, and gestures. Although other female employees had previously complained about the same manager, the harassment continued. Dollar General continued to employ the manager for several months after the sales associate’s initial complaint, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in February 2017 (EEOC v. Dolgencorp, LLC, d/b/a Dollar General Stores, Inc., Case No. 3:17-cv-00023-MPM-RP) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi at Oxford after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Besides the monetary relief, the consent decree approved by Judge Michael P. Mills:

· enjoins Dollar General’s stores in the district of the Red Banks store from unlawful sexual harassment in the future;

· requires mandatory sexual harassment training, with civility and bystander intervention training, to all employees, including the district manager, store manager, and assistant store manager;

· requires annual training for the store manager, district manager, regional directors and human resource managers within the district of the Red Banks store;

· requires Dollar General to notify the EEOC of future sexual harassment complaints; and

· requires annual reporting to the EEOC during the decree’s 18-month term, to include reporting of future sexual harassment complaints and training.

“While the recent #Me Too movement has shone a light on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, the EEOC has long remained on the front lines litigating these types of cases on behalf of victims, including vulnerable women in low-wage industries such as the retail, warehousing and food services industries in the South,” said Regional Attorney Faye Williams of EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which serves Tennessee, Arkansas and Northern Mississippi. “The EEOC will continue to bring these lawsuits. Employers who allow their supervisors or managers to subject their employees to sexually harassing behavior can expect that serious repercussions will follow.”

EEOC Trail Attorney Markeisha Savage added, “As we have said time and time again, having an anti-harassment policy that looks good on paper does not satisfy federal prohibitions against sexual harassment in the workplace. In fact, in this day and age, one would expect a corporation as large as Dollar General to already have such a firm policy in place and seriously enforced. In addition to having an anti-harassment policy, employers must also enforce it. An unenforced anti-harassment policy is tanta­mount to having no policy at all.”

Headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tenn., Dollar General represents one of the largest discount retailers in the United States. According to company information, it operates over 14,600 stores in 44 states and plans to open 900 new stores in fiscal year 2018. Dollar General employs approximately 129,000 people.

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.