Thursday, May 11, 2017

Date Me, or Else...

On March 30, 2017, the EEOC filed a complaint against Special Education Associates, Inc., a New York corporation which provides education services for developmentally disabled children, alleging that the company engaged in retaliation and sex discrimination.  The complaint alleged that the corporation’s CEO interviewed a female job applicant for a service coordinator position.  The next day, the CEO offered the female applicant the position and, in that same conversation, he suggested that the two of them “party” together and continue their conversation “over dinner and drinks.”  The female applicant declined the CEO’s invitation and informed him that she hoped “we can move forward in a strictly professional manner.”  Shortly thereafter, the CEO interviewed other candidates for the service coordinator position and ultimately offered the position to a male candidate.  The complaint further alleged that the corporation was in violation of Section 709(c) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(c) because it “failed to maintain records of job applications, resumes, interview notes, and other records having to do with hiring, including the records of the hiring process in which the Aggrieved Individual took part.”

EEOC reiterated that sex discrimination under Title VII includes denying a person an employment opportunity or benefit because that person rebuffed an unwanted sexual advance.  Per a settlement agreement, Special Education Associates, Inc. will pay the female applicant $57,000 in lost wages and damages.  The corporation must also adopt new policies and procedures regarding anti-discrimination.  EEOC stated that the consent decree settling the suit will now require that the corporation implement yearly, in-person training on anti-discrimination laws for all of its employees.

It may or may not come as a surprise to you that behavior, such as conditioning hiring on an applicant’s willingness to go on a date, exists in 2017.  Regardless, employers must establish clear policies and procedures addressing anti-discrimination and take measures to ensure compliance with such policies.  Employers might also consider developing a collaborative, multi-step hiring procedure to avoid situations such as we see here.