Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced that it settled a nationwide sex discrimination lawsuit against LA Weight Loss Centers, Inc. (renamed Pure Weight Loss, Inc. in 2007) for $20 million and other relief.
The EEOC alleged that the Company had a nationwide policy of not hiring qualified males as counselors/sales, medical assistants, and for other field positions. The EEOC also alleged that a female employee was disciplined and fired in retaliation for complaining about the Company’s policy of not hiring or interviewing male applicants. In January 2008, the Company filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.
In accordance with the consent decree, which was approved by the bankruptcy trustee, the EEOC will have a claim in the bankruptcy court for $16,842,656 in back wages and $3,157,344 in punitive damages payable to men who were subjected to hiring discrimination. In addition to the monetary relief, the parties entered into a 10-year consent decree that will apply to all of the Company’s centers and to any successor entity that may resume the Company’s business.
The consent decree, among other things, (1) prohibits the Company from discriminating and retaliating against job applicants or employees because of sex, (2) requires the Company to use an electronic applicant tracking system for each person hired or for any person who submits an application, (3) mandates that the Company create a discrimination complaint procedure, (4) requires the hiring of rejected male applicants and (5) includes numerical benchmarks for hiring and promoting men.
Nancy Sasamoto reminds employers that job applicants are protected from discrimination and that refusing to hire qualified applicants because of their gender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nancy recommends that hiring managers and human resource professionals periodically review the hiring process to ensure that the company is not directly or indirectly discriminating against job applicants because of their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, veteran status, disability, handicap, or any other basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law.