Greenville title lending company sued for discrimination
A Georgia-based loan company and its Greenville subsidiary subjected a black employee to a racially hostile work environment and then fired her for her disability, according to allegations in a lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
As a result, Georgia-based Community Loans of America, Inc. and its subsidiary, Carolina Title Loans, Inc. in Greenville are now facing a lawsuit related to violations of federal law.
The lawsuit filed by the EEOC seeks monetary relief for the employee, including compensatory and punitive damages. He also seeks an injunction against the company “to end any ongoing discrimination based on race or disability and to take steps to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on March 24, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
“All employees deserve and should expect a workplace free from racial harassment and discrimination based on disability,” said EEOC District Manager Thomas Colclough. ”
Shaneka Jenkins, the employee named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment. Community Loans of America, Inc., did not return a phone call or email seeking comment.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Jenkins was hired in 2019 as a title manager at Carolina Title Loans‘ Spartanburg location.
A week or two later, she was reassigned to the Greenville location, where she worked with another person, a branch manager, according to the complaint.
From approximately August 2019 to September 2019, the Greenville branch manager of Carolina Title Loans subjected Jenkins to “serious and pervasive unwanted comments based on Jenkins’ race,” the lawsuit states.
The EEOC said in its complaint that the branch manager made derogatory comments about black customers in Jenkins’ presence and regularly used racial slurs.
The complaint said the race-based comments and hostility created a hostile work environment for Jenkins. She reported the comments to a branch manager at the Spartanburg site and through the company’s employee hotline.
The defendants acknowledged that Jenkins called the employee hotline, but did not return the calls, according to the complaint. They failed to take prompt and effective action to end the racial harassment, the lawsuit says.
In 2015, Jenkins broke his foot in a car accident. The injury required corrective surgeries over the years, which limited his ability to stand or walk, the suit said.
In September 2019, Jenkins informed his regional manager of his need to take time off for disability-related foot surgery. She also discussed with the area manager her need to come back with crutches or a wheelchair to keep her foot elevated.
The regional manager approved unpaid leave for Jenkins, who had the surgery on October 1, 2019. She requested to return to work on October 18, 2019 and again “on or about” November 1, 2019, using crutches or a wheelchair.
The defendants denied the requests, initially telling Jenkins that she could not return until she could do so without physical restrictions, according to the complaint.
By refusing to consider reasonable accommodation or allow Jenkins to return to work on crutches or a wheelchair, the employer forced Jenkins to extend his unpaid leave.
On November 25, 2019, Jenkins was fired. The defendants called the separation a “leave of employment”, claiming that she did not return to work when the unpaid leave expired and did not complete the leave formalities.
The company has a policy that employees must be 100% healed before they can return to work after sick leave, according to the complaint. Applying a 100% cured policy or practice is contrary to public order and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“An employer cannot impose a 100 percent cure policy to prevent employees with disabilities from returning to work,” said Melinda C. Dugas, Charlotte District Attorney for the EEOC. “An employer has an affirmative duty to engage in an interactive process with the employee with a disability to determine if they can return to work with reasonable accommodation.
The defendants have yet to file a formal response with the district court.