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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Heartland Employment Services

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


June 7, 2010

U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HEARTLAND EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, LLC D/B/A MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES-CITRUS HEIGHTS, DEFENDANT.

CONSENT DECREE

Plaintiff, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("Commission") commenced this action on February 28, 2008, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). The Commission's action was brought to correct alleged unlawful practices on the basis of religion. At all times Defendant Heartland Employment Services ("Heartland") has denied any violation of Title VII.

As a result of settlement discussions, the Commission and Heartland have resolved their differences and, pursuant to the Commission's policy that the only way this matter can be settled is to have a Consent Decree entered, this matter is being settled pursuant to this Decree. It is the intent of the parties that this Consent Decree be a final and binding settlement in full disposition of any and all claims arising out of this case. Nothing in this Consent Decree should be construed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing by Heartland.

It is therefore the finding of this Court, made on the pleadings and the record as a whole, that: 1) the Court has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of this action; 2) the purpose and provisions of Title VII will be promoted and effectuated by the entry of this Consent Decree; and 3) this Consent Decree resolves all matters in controversy between the parties as provided in the paragraphs below.

NON-DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION

1. Heartland and its officers, agents, employees, and successors agree for the duration of this Decree that they shall not:

(a) discriminate against any employee on the basis of religion; or (b) retaliate against any employee because s/he: (i) opposes discriminatory practices based upon religion which are unlawful under Title VII; (ii) files a charge of discrimination or assists or participates in the filing of such a charge; or (iii) assists or participates in an investigation or proceeding brought under the federal laws prohibiting discrimination or retaliation.

MONETARY RELIEF

1. Within fourteen (14) calendar days after this Consent Decree has been entered by the Court, Heartland agrees to pay Baljit Kaur Bhandal the amount of $30,000, less applicable state and federal withholding taxes. Heartland shall issue a W-2 form for this amount in the ordinary course of business. Heartland shall mail the check directly to Ms. Bhandal at her home address via certified mail, return receipt requested. Within ten (10) calendar days thereafter, Heartland shall mail a copy of the check and certified mail receipt to Marcia L. Mitchell, Senior Trial Attorney, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 350 The Embarcadero, Suite 500, San Francisco, California, 94105.

2. Heartland will not condition the receipt of individual relief on Ms. Bhandal's agreement to:

(a) waive her statutory right to file a charge with any federal or state anti-discrimination agency; or

(c) waive her right to apply for a position with Heartland.

POLICY

1. The parties acknowledge that Heartland has had and continues to have a religious accommodation policy in place that is available to employees on the company intranet and in hard copy in the human resources department.

2. The parties acknowledge that Heartland has a legal obligation to provide a safe environment for the residents of its facilities. The parties acknowledge that these security concerns may, depending on the circumstances and after meeting and conferring with the individual involved, provide a legitimate basis for Heartland to impose some requirements or restrictions relating to the individual's kirpan or the manner in which it is worn.

NON-MONETARY RELIEF

1. Within ninety (90) calendar days after this Consent Decree has been entered by the Court, Heartland will post the statement, attached as Exhibit A, in a conspicuous place on its premises in Citrus Heights, California, where employee notices are posted, encouraging employees to report any claims of religious discrimination to a manager, human resources, or the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if they believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of religion. This statement will include the names and telephone numbers of managers or human resources staff to whom employees can make such a report;

2. Heartland will maintain the confidentiality of any religious discrimination reports and investigate these reports in a prompt and fair manner;

3. Heartland will not retaliate against employees who believe they have been discriminated against based on their religious beliefs, nor will it retaliate against any of these employees' witnesses.

4. Heartland agrees that it will provide a neutral reference to prospective employers of Bhandal provided that Bhandal directs prospective employers to call the outside vendor designated by the company for employment references, which number shall be provided to Bhandal by Heartland.

5. Training: Heartland will conduct one training session for all managers at its Citrus Heights location, the Regional Human Resources Manager(s) responsible for the Citrus Heights location, and those persons at the corporate office who would be involved in the decision-making process when an employee makes a request to wear one or more of the Sikh Articles of Faith (i.e. the Kirpan, Kesh, Kangha, Kachecha, and Kara)in the workplace, on the requirements of Title VII as it relates to religious discrimination and accommodation in accordance with the following:

(a) The training will be conducted within ninety (90) calendar days after this Consent Decree has been entered by the Court. The trainer shall conduct one live training session three (3) hours in length, including adequate time for questions and answers. All employees shall register when they attend the training, and Heartland shall retain the registry for the duration of this Consent Decree and forward a copy of the registry to Marcia L. Mitchell, Senior Trial Attorney, at the address listed in this Consent Decree. Heartland shall report the name of any manager who misses the training and will provide to the EEOC the date when they will be trained.

(b) The training shall include examples relating to Sikhism, the Sikh Articles of Faith (i.e. the Kirpan, Kesh, Kangha, Kachecha, and Kara), and, specifically, the requirement that all baptized Sikhs wear a kirpan. Heartland will consult with the Sikh Coalition, or other similar organization or resource, in its development of materials related to Sikhism.

(c) All employees at the Citrus Heights location will be informed that they are required to attend this training.

6. Notice Posting: Heartland agrees to post the Notice of Non-Discrimination Policy attached as Appendix A to this Consent Decree in a conspicuous place on its premises where employee notices are posted at it Citrus Heights, California facility. Said notice shall remain posted throughout the term of this Consent Decree.

7. Reporting: Heartland agrees to submit three annual reports to the Commission detailing its compliance with this Consent Decree. The first report shall be due six (6) months after entry of this decree, with subsequent reports mailed to the EEOC one year following the previously submitted report. The report shall include the following information for the twelve month period preceding the report: the identities of all employees who, during the reporting period, requested a religious accommodation, including by way of identification each employee's name, address, telephone number, nature of request made, and the resolution of the request. The report shall be directed to Marcia L. Mitchell, Senior Trial Attorney, at the address listed in this Consent Decree. The report shall be due within six (6) months after completion of the training session required above.

8. Heartland agrees that the Commission may review compliance with this Consent Decree. As part of such review, the Commission may inspect the premises, interview employees, and examine and copy documents. The Commission agrees to provide reasonable advance notice of such review and to conduct the review during normal operating hours.

DURATION OF THE CONSENT DECREE

The provisions of this Consent Decree shall remain in full force and effect for three (3) years upon the Court's entry of the Decree.

DISPUTE RESOLUTION AND COMPLIANCE

1. In the event that the Commission alleges that a violation of this Consent Decree has occurred, prior to exercising any remedy provided by law, the Commission will give notice in writing to Heartland specifically identifying the violation. Heartland will have thirty (30) days in which to investigate and respond to the allegation. Thereafter, the parties will have a period of thirty (30) days, or such additional period as may be agreed upon by them, in which to negotiate and confer regarding such allegation, before the Commission exercises any remedy provided by law.

2. This Court shall retain jurisdiction over this action for the duration of the Consent Decree. During this time, the Commission may petition this Court to order Heartland to comply with this Consent Decree.

MISCELLANEOUS

1. Each party shall bear their own costs and expenses of litigation, including attorneys' fees.

2. If any provision(s) of this Consent Decree is (are) found to be unlawful, only the specific provision(s) in question shall be affected and the other provisions will remain in full force and effect.

3. The terms of this Consent Decree are and shall be binding on the present and future owners, officers, directors, employees, creditors, agents, trustees, administrators, successors, representatives, and assigns of Heartland.

4. This Consent Decree constitutes the entire agreement and commitment of the parties. Any modification to this Consent Decree must be mutually agreed upon, memorialized in writing, and signed by both parties.

Dated: May 6, 2010

SHARON E. HOLLINS Assistant General Counsel HEARTLAND EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, LLC

MATTHEW J. RUGGLES LITTLER MENDELSON A Professional Corporation Attorneys for Defendant HEARTLAND EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, LLC D/B/A MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES-CITRUS HEIGHTS

WILLIAM TAMAYO Regional Attorney, San Francisco District Office for Plaintiff EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION

JONATHAN T. PECK Attorney for Plaintiff EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION

MARCIA L. MITCHELL Attorney for Plaintiff EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION

IT IS SO ORDERED.

APPENDIX A

EMPLOYEE NOTICE

NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY

Federal law requires that there be no discrimination against any employee or applicant for employment because of the employee's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (over 40), or disability.

Federal law also prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of religion in aspects of employment, including, but not limited to, hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, job training, and fringe benefits. In addition, employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate the sincerely-held religious beliefs of employees within the workplace, absent a showing of undue hardship.

Heartland Employment Services, Inc. supports and will comply with such federal law in all respects and will not take any actions against employees because they have exercised their rights, reported an alleged violation under the law, or have given testimony, assistance, or participation in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing conduced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

An employee has the right, and is encouraged to exercise that right, to report allegations of employment discrimination in the workplace. An employee may contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the purpose of filing a charge of employment discrimination.

Questions concerning this notice may be addressed to:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission The Care Line: 1-800-366-1232 350 The Embarcadero, Suite 500 San Francisco, CA 94105 Telephone: (415) 625-5602 TDD (415) 625-5610 EEOC 1-800-669-4000

APPENDIX B

RELEASE

1. I, Baljit Kaur Bhandal, for and in consideration of the sum of $30,000, to be paid to me by Heartland Employment Services, Inc. ("Heartland"), do hereby for myself, my heirs, executors, administrators, assigns, and agents release and forever discharge Heartland, its predecessors, successors, affiliates, and assigns, from any and all claims both judicial and administrative that I have or may have, arising out of or relating to the facts alleged in the Complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "Commission") in the case entitled Equal Employment Opportunity v. Heartland Employment Services, LLC d/b/a ManorCare Heath Services -- Citrus Heights, Civil Action No. 2:08-CV-00460-FCD-DAD, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Sacramento Division.

2. I declare that I know and understand the contents of this Release, that I have executed this Release voluntarily, and that this Release is part of the consideration given by me for settlement of my claim against Heartland. I understand that after signing this Release, I cannot proceed against any entity or person mentioned herein on account of these matters referred to in paragraph 1, above.

3. I understand and agree that this Release is given pursuant to the settlement embodied in the Consent Decree agreed to by the parties to be entered by the Court.

DATED:

Baljit Kaur Bhandal

NOTARY PUBLIC

_________ County, California My Commission Expires: Subscribed and sworn to before me this _____ day of ________, 2010.

20100607

© 1992-2010 VersusLaw Inc.



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