In 2009, the EEOC sued the employment staffing firm of Spencer Reed Group in a federal court in Georgia on behalf of an older, white former employee, Diane Coleman, who was employed in the Atlanta office. The case is named U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Spencer Reed Group, LLC (N.D. Ga, No. 1:09-CV-2228 June 8, 2010). The complaint, filed under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), alleged that Spencer Reed treated Coleman differently (and worse) than it did younger, African American employees, and fired her the day after she complained about this.
To settle the case, Spencer Reed entered into a “consent decree” in which it paid Coleman $125,000. Additionally, under the consent decree Spencer Reed agreed to do, among other things:
· comply with Title VII and the ADEA in all respects;
· provide anti-discrimination training to all of the employees and managers in its Atlanta
· post notices in its Atlanta workplace informing employees of their rights under Title VII
and the ADEA and of the settlement of Coleman’s case, and to permit the EEOC to
enter the workplace to monitor compliance with this provision; and
· certify to the EEOC every 6 months whether anyone in the Atlanta office has
complained about race and/or age discrimination, providing relevant details.
This settlement is noteworthy to us because it underscores our belief that if an employer practices “preventive law,” by doing before an employee complains of discrimination what the EEOC required of Spencer Reed after the lawsuit was filed, it could save the employer having to pay a judgment of $125,000, or much more.
If an employer has and maintains a policy and procedure manual which is distributed to all employees and contains a “zero tolerance for discrimination” provision, posts anti-discrimination notices in the workplace, provides periodic equal employment training to both managers and employees, and periodically conducts an audit to insure compliance with the anti-discrimination laws – pretty much all of which the EEOC required of Spencer Reed in this consent decree – the employer might be able to avoid the enormous expense, time and distraction of a lawsuit, and a whopping judgment.
Perhaps the motto of this blog should be:
“An ounce of prevention. …”