The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is reminding employment agencies that they have an obligation to comply with all federal laws against discrimination, including disability discrimination. The fact that an employment agency is not the actual “employer” that a client works for does not shield the agency from discrimination lawsuits. The employment agency, similar to a temporary agency, has an obligation to comply with all federal laws — and failure to comply may result in the EEOC filing federal charges.
In a press release issued on August 13, 2012, the EEOC advised that it filed suit against an employment agency based upon a finding that the agency unlawfully refused an employee to return to work because of a disability. JES Personnel Consultants, Inc., doing business as Genie Temporary Service, has been ordered to pay $80,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC. The EEOC had charged that JES unlawfully refused to allow an employee to return to work because of his epilepsy.
Based upon an investigation conducted by the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, the facts revealed that the employment agency placed the employee with Clover Technologies Group, LLC. The employee was assigned to unpack and sort ink cartridges. After the employee experienced an epileptic seizure on his first day of work, Clover allowed him to work the rest of the day, but asked him to provide a note from his doctor authorizing him to return to work the next day. Although the employee did provide the note, he provided it to the employment agency and not the actual employer, Clover. It was up to the agency to provide the note to Clover.
The note was deemed to be inadequate. Thus, the agency never forwarded it to Clover thereby allowing Clover to terminate the employee. The agency failed to advise the employee of the inadequacy of the note. The agency further failed to provide the employee with an opportunity to obtain an adequate note. Thus, the employee was not permitted to return to work and was terminated.
The law clearly states that disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Based upon this violation, the EEOC filed suit on July 28, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. After the suit was filed, the employee intervened in the case. (EEOC v. JES Personnel Consultants, Inc., d/b/a Genie Temporary Service, N.D. Ill. No. 11 C 5117). The suit was eventually settled for $80,000, to be paid by the employment agency, JES.
The EEOC has published this case in the hopes that employment agencies realize they are not immune from liability, and they must follow all federal guidelines regarding discrimination. If an issue arises with a client/employer, it is incumbent upon the agency to rectify the situation and work with both the employee and employer to avoid any potential liability for failure to comply with federal guidelines regarding discrimination.
For more information about how this may impact your business, or for assistance with preventative measures to help avoid facing EEOC claims, please contact: