Erickson Living Management, LLC, a Maryland-based company that builds and manages retirement communities in 11 U.S. states is set to pay $151,000 and provide other relief to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Details of the Case
The EEOC’s lawsuit claims that Erickson Living’s director of health services, talent development, and global programs made a complaint to human resources on behalf of a subordinate employee who she believed had been mistreated by the company on the basis of her disabilities. The claim revolved around the company’s performance management system which the director believed was used abusively. The director also expressed fear that the employee would be retaliated against for making this report.
Erickson Living went on to terminate the director and the subordinate employee stating that they were restructuring teams and roles within the company, but the EEOC claimed that the termination was actually related to the discrimination report itself. The EEOC also claims that this alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which includes a prohibition on retaliation against employees for filing charges with the EEOC or otherwise opposing workplace discrimination.
While Erickson Living is set to pay $151,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages to the director, they will also engage in training on ADA guidelines, post anti-discrimination notices on-site, and remain in clear contact with the EEOC about their efforts made to address future discrimination complaints.
Discriminatory Company Policies
Employers are responsible for cultivating a company culture that excludes discriminatory behavior and, at the very least, refuses to normalize it. While there’s no indication Erickson Living’s company culture fostered discriminatory behavior, it remains an important factor for employers to keep in mind when ensuring employee safety and dignity at work.
Reminder for Employers
There are two important lessons for employers to take from a case like this. The first is that a discriminatory workplace is illegal and behaviors that contribute to discrimination should not be tolerated. The second is that when a discrimination complaint is made, it should be taken seriously and escalated through the proper channels. No employee should have to face retaliation for making a report that protects themselves in a work environment.
Additionally, staying ahead of discrimination-related trainings from laws such as the ADA can help employers ensure their policies are in line with federal legislation. Taking steps to mitigate any issues involving the EEOC through pre-litigation mediation can also be a wise effort in minimizing financial impacts to your company as well as time spent on the matter and company public relations once the lawsuit becomes public knowledge.
If you’re experiencing discrimination at work based on a disability or are concerned about acts of retaliation against HR complaints, allow us to share some tips that may be able to help. No one should feel silenced when advocating for themselves at work and there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Review our strategies for handling workplace discrimination.