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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against a loan company and its subsidiary Monday for racial harassment and disability discrimination.
The lawsuit, first reported by The Charlotte Observer, comes after a Black employee complained that her manager was blatantly discriminating against Black customers, and no action was ever taken. The same employee was later fired for allegedly taking unpaid leave to have surgery. The federal agency asserts that the racially hostile work environment and staffer’s firing violated anti-discrimination laws.
Community Loans of America, Inc. is based in Georgia, and its subsidiary, Carolina Title Loans, Inc.,— where Shaneka Jenkins worked — is a Greenville, South Carolina office.
The news release from the EEOC alleges that Jenkins was subjected to “severe and pervasive comments” based on her race. “Specifically, the branch manager made derogatory comments about Black customers in Jenkins’ presence. She routinely used the word n—-r and said things such as she ‘hated working with n—-rs’ and ‘they never pay their bills,’” the lawsuit alleges.
Jenkins made complaints to two different people in management, to no avail. She also complained through an employee assistance line, and her calls were never returned.
As it relates to the disability part of her claim, the EEOC says Jenkins was told she could not return to work until she no longer required the crutches or wheelchair she needed after surgery on a fractured foot. By failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, officials maintain, Carolina Title Loans violated her federal rights.
The agency says both companies violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Employers cannot tolerate a racially hostile work environment, even if the racial insults are directed at a customer rather than another employee,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Additionally, an employer cannot impose a 100% healed policy to prevent disabled employees from returning to their jobs. An employer has an affirmative duty to engage in an interactive process with the disabled employee to determine whether the employee can return to work with a reasonable accommodation.”
The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for Jenkins, including compensatory and punitive damages. It is also seeking injunctive relief against Community Loans of America, Inc. and Carolina Title Loans to end any ongoing discrimination based on race or disability and a permanent order requiring the firms to take steps to prevent future unlawful conduct.
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