Articles Posted in Discrimination

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Dillard’s Department Store has agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The suit alleged that the retailer fired a 61 year old employee manager, who had 4 years on the job experience and good performance reviews, and replaced her with a 24 year old, who had only 4 months experience. The lawsuit settled for $50,000.00.

Employment discrimination cases are very factually driven matters, and case settlement values can range dramatically based upon the various factors involved.

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Sam’s Club, a national retailer, has settled a discrimination case alleging that 9 Hispanic employees of its Fresno, CA location were discriminated and harassed by fellow workers based upon their being Hispanic. The allegations were that for an extended period of time, these employees were subjected to regular disparaging remarks about Mexicans from a Mexican-American Co-worker. The EEOC claimed that since 2005 these workers regularly underwent insults about Mexicans. The case was settled for a collective sum of $440,000.00.

This appears to have been a co-worker on co-worker discrimination claim, which went on for an extended period of time, and was considered severe and pervasive in the workplace. The claims likely involved that Sam’s Club knew of and/or should of know of the discrimination and failed to take action to stop it.

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952313_gavel.jpgA Jefferson Circuit Court Judge has ordered the City of St. Matthews, Kentucky to respond to a 2008 complaint filed by a former female police officer with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. The Human Rights Commission had sought information and a response from the city for nearly 2 years in regards to the complaint filed by the former police officer. The case has been stalled until this information is received and the investigation can continue.

The ruling this week requires the city to produce the information to the Commission within 30 days. From there the investigation into the complaints can move forward.
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A Shelbyville Police Officer wins lawsuit against the Oldham County Police Department, and is awarded $600,000.00 in damages. The lawsuit alleged discrimination in hiring based upon military service. Discrimination and retaliation in Kentucky’s workplace is illegal.
In this case, a Shelbyville Police Officer, who was also an enlisted member of the Kentucky National Guard, applied for a police officer position with the Oldham County Police Department. The Oldham County, Kentucky position paid more than the Shelbyville position. The Officer passed ever test and was told in July 2008 that he would be getting the new position. A start date was assigned to him and a salary specified. Then after the Oldham County Police Department learned that the Shelbyville Officer was also enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard and might be called up for duty, it withdrew its offer and gave the position to another person.

Discrimination based upon military service is a violation of both federal and Kentucky law. Businesses and employers who violate and discriminate against an employee or prospective employee can be sued for damages including punitive damages, if the jury finds the conduct was willful. Kentucky employees who believe that they have been discriminated or retaliated against should seek legal counsel to know their rights.
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A Kentucky man was fired in 2003 from a steel plant a month after his bosses learned that his fiancée had filed a discrimination complaint against the company. He sued claiming that they fired him to retaliate against his fiancée. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that he can sue his employer for retaliation related to his fiancée’s complaint. Justice Scalia wrote: “We think it obvious that a reasonable worker might be dissuaded’ from filing a complaint “if she knew that her fiancée would be fired.” The 8-0 ruling provides important protect for Kentucky workers whose spouses or relatives work at the same company and who might otherwise be afraid to file discrimination or sexual harassment complaints against their employers out of fear that relatives might suffer retaliation from such complaints.

For more information on the rights of Kentucky Workers in the workplace who have suffered from retaliation, sexual harassment, or discrimination, see one of our previous blog posts on these type of claims. (Click here for the link).570502_myself.jpg
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1302191_cross_of_carhuaz_beach.jpgA Kentucky federal lawsuit claiming religious discrimination against the University of Kentucky by a former professor has been settled prior to reaching a jury trial. The case was in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and the judge had ruled there was enough evidence for the case to go to a jury trial.

The allegations of the case were that Professor Martin Gaskell was considered to be the top candidate for UK’s director of it new observatory, until the University became concerned about Gaskell’s religious beliefs and how he coupled such with scientific beliefs.

UK has agreed to pay Gaskell $125,000.00 to settle the case. This is the equivalent of nearly two years salary for Gaskell, who has since found other employment.

In Kentucky, people who believe that they have been discriminated against in the workplace can file suit under federal anti-discrimination laws or under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KRS 344.010 et seq.) There claims are viewed under a multi-prong test which establishes the evidence and shifts burdens of proof. Discrimination cases can be very difficult and hard fought because in most cases they boil down to conflicting testimonies of what really happened and why it happened. Many times, employers will try to mask their discriminatory conduct by coming up with other reasons why they did what they did with regards to the employee. Because of such, these type of cases require a tremendous amount of time combing through documents, emails, and deposing witnesses.
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931543_-team_iii-.jpg Kentucky is an “employee at will” doctrine state. In Kentucky your employer can terminate you at any time, with or without reason, and you can quit at any time, with or without reason (provided there is not a written contract to the contrary). The Kentucky Supreme Court has interpreted the “employee at will” doctrine as meaning: “An employer can fire an employee for cause, without cause, or even for cause that may seem to be morally indefensible. It is only illegal if the employer violates a contract, retaliates against an employee for exercising certain legal rights or if the employer takes action in violation of a protected status (discriminates).”Kentucky employee’s have very limited protections against bad employers. If a Kentucky employee is fired or suffers negative consequences in the workplace, they must examine the below to consider if they have legal action against their employer.

It is illegal to:
(i) discriminate based upon race, gender, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, or disability;
(ii) require an employee to lie to a government authority or in an investigation, or take action against an employee who refuses to do such;
(iii) require an employee to violate the law, or take action against an employee who refuses to do such;
(iv) prevent an employee from reporting violation of the law, including civil statutes such as discrimination laws and/or suspected healthcare violations or dangers related to a medical patient’s care;
(v) take action against or fire an employee in violation of the terms of a specific written contract of employment between the employer and the employee.

Workplace Sexual Harassments & Harassments In order for work place harassment or discrimination to be actionable, it must be more than personality conflicts and a general dislike of a person, and it must be “severe and so pervasive” so that it “unreasonably interferes with a person’s ability to do his/her job.” Isolated acts or isolated comments are NOT sufficient under the law to rise to the level to be actionable in court.

Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination has to be based upon one of the following: race, gender, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy, or disability. These are referred to as protected statuses.
Under a discrimination legal action, the discrimination has to be evidenced by either:
(1) direct evidence, which would be the effect of verbally or in writing stating negative expressions or actions towards a person based one of the protected statuses above, or (2) indirect evidence, which would be a comparison between how protected status persons are treated versus how those who do not fall in the protected status are treated.
As with workplace harassments, the workplace discrimination will not be legally actionable if it is an isolated incident.

Government Employee Whistleblower Protections
It is illegal for a government agency to take action against an employee who in good faith reports a suspected violation of law, fraud, or abuse of authority, to the proper authorities or another government agency.
These persons are referred to as “Whistleblowers.”
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