March 31, 2022
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Employer Refused to Allow Employee Return to Work with Crutches and Fired Her Because of Her Disability, Federal Agency Charges
Georgia-based Community Loans of America, Inc. and its subsidiary, Carolina Title Loans, Inc., violated federal law by subjecting an employee to a racially hostile work environment, by failing to accommodate her disability, and by firing her because of that disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, from approximately August 2019 through September 2019, the branch manager of the employer’s operations in Greenville, South Carolina subjected Shaneka Jenkins to unwelcome severe and pervasive comments based on Jenkins’ race, African American. Specifically, the branch manager made derogatory comments about Black customers in Jenkins’ presence. She routinely used the word n—-r and said things such as she “hated working with n—-rs” and “they never pay their bills.” Jenkins reported the racially offensive comments directly to two different managers, but no action was taken to stop the harassment. Jenkins also attempted to report the hostile working conditions through the employer’s employee hotline, but the company did not return her calls.
Also, according to the EEOC’s complaint, the employer refused to allow Jenkins to return to work following unpaid leave for a disability-related surgery because she needed to return with the use of crutches or a wheelchair. The company told Jenkins that she could not return until she did not have any restrictions. By refusing to consider a reasonable accommodation or to allow Jenkins to return to work with the use of crutches or a wheelchair, the employer forced Jenkins to extend her unpaid leave. Ultimately, rather than accommodating Jenkins’ return to work, the company fired her.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Community Loans of America and Carolina Title Loans, Inc, Civil Action No.: 6:22-cv-01000-DCC-JDA) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for Jenkins, including compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to end any ongoing discrimination based on race or disability and to take steps to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.
“Employers cannot tolerate a racially hostile work environment, even if the racial insults are directed at a customer rather than another employee,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Additionally, an employer cannot impose a 100% healed policy to prevent disabled employees from returning to their jobs. An employer has an affirmative duty to engage in an interactive process with the disabled employee to determine whether the employee can return to work with a reasonable accommodation.”
EEOC District Director Thomas Colclough said, “All employees deserve and should expect a workplace that is free of racial harassment and disability discrimination. The EEOC will continue to vigorously seek redress that ensures that racial harassment and disability discrimination are eradicated from the workplace.”
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Charlotte District Office is charged with enforcing federal employment discrimination laws in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.