Employer refused to allow employee to return to work on crutches and fired her due to disability, federal agency says
GREENVILLE, SC – Georgia-based Community Loans of America, Inc. and its subsidiary, Carolina Title Loans, Inc., violated federal law by subjecting an employee to a racist work environment, disregarding her disability and dismissing her. because of this disability, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC complaint, from approximately August 2019 to September 2019, the employer’s branch operations manager in Greenville, South Carolina, subjected Shaneka Jenkins to serious and pervasive unwanted comments based on the Jenkins race, African American. Specifically, the branch manager made derogatory comments about black customers in Jenkins’ presence. She regularly used the n—-r word and said things like she “hated working with n—-rs” and “they never pay their bills”. Jenkins reported the racist comments directly to two different managers, but no action was taken to end the harassment. Jenkins also attempted to report the hostile working conditions via the employer’s employee hotline, but the company did not return his calls.
Additionally, according to the EEOC’s complaint, the employer refused to allow Jenkins to return to work after unpaid leave for disability-related surgery because she had to return with crutches or a wheelchair. The company told Jenkins she couldn’t return until she had any restrictions. By refusing to consider reasonable accommodation or allow Jenkins to return to work on crutches or a wheelchair, the employer forced Jenkins to extend his unpaid leave. In the end, rather than accept Jenkins back 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 an action in the United States 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 is also seeking an injunction 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 slurs are directed at a customer rather than another employee,” said Melinda C. Dugas, Charlotte District Attorney for the EEOC. “Furthermore, an employer cannot impose a 100% cure policy to prevent employees with disabilities from returning to work. An employer has an affirmative duty to engage in an interactive process with the employee with a disability to determine if the employee can return to work with reasonable accommodation.
EEOC District Manager Thomas Colclough said: “All employees deserve and should expect a workplace free from racial harassment and discrimination on the basis of disability. The EEOC will continue to vigorously pursue remedies that ensure racial harassment and discrimination based on disability are eradicated from the workplace.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. The EEOC’s Charlotte District Office is responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.