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EEOC Sues Staffing Firms in Three Separate Cases

October 6, 2009

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued three staffing firms in September in three separate lawsuits.

In one suit, filed September 15, the EEOC accused Adecco of failing to take appropriate action when female employees complained about sexual harassment at a client site.

The EEOC reported that Adecco assigned Veronica Jalpa and other women to Pittsburgh Plastics Manufacturing Inc. in Butler, Pennsylvania, and that a Pittsburgh Plastics supervisor sexually harassed them through sexual comments and touching. The EEOC said Jalpa asked for a different shift to avoid the supervisor but was fired by Adecco.

The agency also claimed another employee was compelled to quit because of ongoing sexual harassment. Adecco continued to assign women to the plant despite the sexually hostile work environment, according to the EEOC.

Adecco said in a statement it has a zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination by anyone—including its employees, associates and clients—and takes complaints seriously.

Adecco said Jalpa never informed the company of the incidents reported by the EEOC. The company said its records indicate Jalpa’s assignment was ended for frequent tardiness. However, she never informed Adecco of the problems even after the assignment ended, the company said.

The second person mentioned by the EEOC did inform Adecco of inappropriate conduct that may have occurred off site during non-working hours approximately one month after it occurred, the company said. Adecco reported it took action consistent with its policies and as required under law.

“Adecco has fully cooperated with the EEOC and we are disappointed that it has decided to take this course of action given the information that was made available to the agency,” Adecco wrote.

The EEOC said it earlier filed a lawsuit against Pittsburgh Plastics.

“As more companies use staffing agencies to recruit employees, it is vital that both the company and the staffing agency understand that they are each legally required to protect their employees from sexual harassment,” Debra Lawrence, acting regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, said in a statement.

In another case filed September 15, the EEOC sued Balance Financial Inc.

The suit claimed the company discriminated against a blind woman in Chicago because of her disability, according to the EEOC. The agency said the company made a job offer to the woman to work at its planned Chicago office and that she began performing services for them from home.

The EEOC said the company rescinded the job offer after finding out she was blind. Balance has since ceased operations in Chicago. A court document identified the woman as Jocelyn Snower.

Melanie Damian, an attorney for Balance, said the woman was never employed by the company. Although offered a position, the woman did not fill out the paperwork to be hired and did not take a drug test, causing the offer to be withdrawn. In addition, the company no longer does business in Chicago and didn’t have the number of employees needed to be covered by the law in this instance.

“We think the case is without any basis,” Damian said. The company will be responding to the EEOC’s complaint, she said.

In a third suit, filed September 30, the EEOC sued Axiom Staffing Group Inc. and Axiom Staffing Group of Virginia Inc. for allegedly refusing to hire a woman because of her back impairment at the companies’ Hagerstown, Maryland, site.

The suit claims the woman, Deborah Reynolds, was told that she would be “too much of a liability because of her back,” according to the EEOC. A person at Axiom also allegedly told Reynolds that the staffing companies would never hire anyone with health problems because it “would be too burdensome to replace them should something happen,” according to the EEOC.

Reynolds said she could perform clerical or customer service duties as she had for years, but the companies’ representative would still not hire her because of her back, according to the EEOC.

—Staffing Industry Analysts

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