Summaries of Recent Human Rights Cases
For additional examples see the Commission's Annual Reports
A cook who worked in an Anchorage restaurant alleged that he was discriminated against because of his age and treated as disabled, and that after he filed a discrimination complaint his employer retaliated by terminating him. The Commission’s investigation found that coworkers called the cook old and remarked about his poor eyesight. Investigation also found that after the cook filed a discrimination complaint he was threatened with physical harm by coworkers and his employer was aware of the threats but took no action. Commission staff found substantial evidence of discrimination. The parties reached a conciliation agreement in which the employer agreed to pay the cook $10,000 and provide anti-discrimination training to its management and employees.
A 70-year-old security guard alleged that her employer discriminated against her because of her age and treated her as disabled when it terminated her employment immediately after she notified her supervisor that she might need surgery. The security guard had worked for the employer off and on for more than 25 years, and had recently returned to work following an on-the-job injury. Commission staff found substantial evidence of discrimination and the parties agreed to conciliate the case. The employer paid $7,548 in back pay to the security guard, adopted a non-discrimination policy, and provided training to its managers, supervisors and other employees on the laws prohibiting discrimination in employment.
The Commission’s Executive Director filed a complaint alleging that a company that offers outdoor excursions was engaging in a practice of denying its services to persons with disabilities and women who are pregnant. Commission staff investigated and found substantial evidence of discrimination. The company conciliated the case and agreed to revise its marketing materials and website to delete discriminatory language, revise the waiver form it requires customers to sign, and adopt a policy stating its commitment to accommodate persons with disabilities. The company also provided training to its managers and supervisors on the laws prohibiting disability discrimination.
A blind cruise ship passenger alleged he was denied access to a shore excursion available to other passengers. He said the company’s booking agent told him his vision impairment would prevent his participation and refused to consider a possible accommodation for his disability or to identify the excursion operator so the passenger could contact the operator. Commission staff found substantial evidence of discrimination and the parties agreed to conciliate the case. The company adopted a non-discrimination policy and procedures for engaging in an interactive process with passengers with disabilities to ensure that no passenger will be denied services or access to activities in Alaska without first determining whether a reasonable accommodation would be possible.
A seasonal sales associate alleged discrimination because of religion when her employment was terminated and she was evicted from employee housing for violating her employer’s policy against alcohol on the premises. She alleged that her Mormon coworkers/housemates who violated the same policy in the same incident were not fired or evicted. The employer asserted that it discharged the non-Mormon associate because she failed to accept responsibility for her actions. Commission staff found substantial evidence of discrimination and the parties agreed to conciliate the case. The employer paid the associate $2500 in back pay and provided training to its managers and supervisors on the laws prohibiting discrimination in employment.
A tenant with a mentally disabled child alleged that her landlord discriminated against her on the basis of her association with this disability. She was served with an eviction notice two days after there was an incident involving her child but that more severe incidents involving non-disabled tenants did not result in eviction notices. Complainant moved shortly after receiving this eviction notice.
The parties reached a predetermination settlement in which the landlord agreed to waive all damage claims against the tenant (estimated at $2,700 including rent, utilities, and cleaning fee). The landlord also agreed to dismiss any pending eviction claims against this tenant.
A female human resources manager alleged that her employer discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and retaliated against her. She said that her direct supervisor sexually harassed her by offensive comments and conduct over 6 years of employment and when she complained to him, he did not speak to her for weeks at a time making it difficult for her to perform her duties. After complaining to her employer, she was placed on administrative leave, no corrective action was taken, and she was terminated within a month.
The parties mediated the complaint and settlement was reached. The employer agreed to pay $25,000, and provide her with a neutral reference when contacted by prospective employers.
Passing the Test
A student alleged that the school discriminated against her on the basis of her pregnancy and disability, when it removed her from its program. During the school year, she provided the school with a doctor’s note ordering bedrest due to complications with her pregnancy so she was not able to attend school. She took her remaining exams in December and in January requested retroactive withdrawal from the course due to her pregnancy and disability. Her request was denied and she was removed from the program.
The parties reached a predetermination settlement in which the school agreed to allow her to retake the necessary test, to offer her tutoring, and allow her to reenter its program provided she is successful in meeting the standards set for satisfactory academic progress after the completion of this test.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
A female project manager alleged that her employer discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and retaliated against her. She said that she was paid less than male managers and that her supervisor subjected her to harassment and intimidation but did not treat male coworkers the same. No corrective action was taken and she was demoted one week later. The complainant said her working conditions became so intolerable that she felt she had no other choice but to resign.
The parties reached a predetermination settlement in which the employer agreed to pay her $8,000.
Mediation in Action
A 51-year-old female systems network administrator alleged that her employer discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and her age. She was a long time employee who had received promotions and satisfactory evaluations under her prior manager. Her new manager began to treat her differently than her younger male coworkers by speaking to her harshly, giving her write-ups for minor mistakes, giving her poor evaluations, and decreasing her work assignments and did not treat the younger male coworkers similarly. Prior to the mediation, complainant retired and found another position elsewhere. The parties agreed to mediation and a settlement was reached. Respondent agreed to pay complainant the sum of $17,500.
A male security officer alleged that his employer discriminated against him on the basis of his sex, treated him as if he were disabled and retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination. He said that his knee condition did not impair his ability to perform his job tasks. However, his supervisors commented about his walk, asked how long he intended to work and belittled him in front of coworkers and clients. His supervisors notified him he would be reprimanded for falsifying documents, which he denied. After he complained to his employer, its investigation supported his harassment allegations and asserted that corrective action would be taken. Two weeks later he was terminated for falsification and lying. He said a female coworker was not terminated for similar actions. The parties agreed to mediate this complaint.
The parties reached a settlement in which the employer agreed to pay him $50,000.
Teach Our Children Well
A parent representing her disabled minor son alleged that her daycare provider discriminated against her on the basis of her son’s disability by charging her an extra $200 a month because of his disability. She said that her son does not receive daycare care services which are any different than those provided to non-disabled children.
The parties reached a predetermination settlement in which the provider agreed to 1) pay her $600 and give her a written apology and 2) charge the same fee for daycare services for children with disabilities and children without disabilities and to not charge an extra fee for disabled children.
A customer with a disability alleged that a motel refused to reserve a room for her if she was accompanied by her service dog, citing a “no pets” policy. The motel asserted that it tried to give the customer a phone number for another place that allowed “pets,” but the customer objected and ended the conversation. Commission staff found substantial evidence of disability discrimination because the Alaska Human Rights Law does not allow a public accommodation to refuse its services to a person with a disability because the person is accompanied by a service dog. The parties signed a conciliation agreement that required the motel to obtain training for its staff regarding service animals and the laws prohibiting disability discrimination.
Made to Order
A 56-year-old server alleged that her employer discriminated against her on the basis of her age and treated her as if she were disabled. Two months after her hire, she hurt her back while lifting a heavy tray and her supervisor told her she was too old. After the supervisor was subsequently promoted, she began to target her for discipline over minor mistakes on order forms. The supervisor extended her probation for an additional 30 days and then terminated her during this period. The parties agreed to mediation and a settlement was reached.
Respondent agreed to pay complainant the sum of $2,000 and complainant agreed to be responsible for any taxes due on this sum. Both parties agreed to keep this complaint and the terms of this settlement confidential and not disclose this information to third parties.
When Dogs Fly …
A woman whose husband has a disability and uses a service dog alleged that they were discriminated against by a company that offers wilderness flightseeing tours that include a brief stop to walk around and take pictures. The company refused to transport the service dog. Commission staff found substantial evidence of disability discrimination because the company failed to consider if a reasonable accommodation was possible. The parties conciliated the case and the company adopted a policy that requires it to always engage in a discussion with a disabled customer to try to find an accommodation that will allow access to the company’s services. The company also obtained training for its managers and supervisors on disability discrimination and the reasonable accommodation process.