Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zale Corporation Agrees To EEOC-Directed $55,000 Settlement With Christina Kantarzis In Anchorage, Alaska Pregnancy Bias Case

In a brief story posted on the Anchorage Daily News website on July 26th, 2007, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the settlement of a pregnancy bias lawsuit against Zale Corporation. The EEOC said it brought the suit on behalf of Christina Kantarzis, a pregnant worker whose male manager at the company’s Dimond Center store allegedly refused to consider her for promotion despite her extensive experience with the company. The EEOC has yet to post this information on their website.

According to the settlement, Zale has agreed to pay Kantarzis $55,000 and to initiate a sensitivity training program to educate managers and supervisors about discrimination. Zales will also be placed under enhanced EEOC scrutiny during the next two years to ensure compliance, being tasked to provide information to the EEOC about its handling of sex and pregnancy discrimination complaints during that period.

A routine Google search of terms relating to this case produced no information on the specifics of this case. Efforts by the media to contact Zale Corporation for a reaction have been unsuccessful thus far.

Commentary: Because women and the disabled have been identified as "protected classes" in this country as a result of the perversion of the civil rights movement, it is tempting to blow this case off as "political correctness". In a similar EEOC case from July 2006, Anchorage trucker Shotsay Posciri won a $95,000 settlement after charging that Anchorage-based United Freight and Transport didn't hire her because she was a woman (click here for Anchorage Daily News story published on July 13th, 2006). However, evidence in that case showed she wasn't hired because she lacked the specialized driving experience the company needed, so the EEOC's judgement appeared arbitrary.

However, in this case, it appears that Zale has a history of employee abuse. The website reports that on June 11th, 2007, in response to a wage and hour lawsuit filed against Zale Corporation in Sacramento County Superior Court by certain current and former employees of Zale Piercing Pagoda chain of stores, Zale agreed to pay $3.8 million to settle the suit. The suit claimed that the store underpaid its employees and did not equally compensate for overtime.

Nevertheless, there have been numerous stories about abuses of process by both the EEOC and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the latter which has put some employers into impossible conditions of actually being forced to choose between which "protected class" to discriminate against. One case of EEOC abuse was so blatant that the targeted business, a law firm, successfully sued them in court. In March 2006, a California federal court judge ordered the EEOC to pay more than $1 million to a Pasadena law firm that the agency unsuccessfully sued for sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. In his strongly worded 17-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian described the EEOC's lawsuit against Robert L. Reeves & Associates as frivolous and without foundation, supporting Reeves' claim that the EEOC should have been able to put the allegations into context and see that they were part of a plot by two former law associates to destroy his business. Of course, one must understand that in the civil rights racket, it's the presumption of guilt that prevails, particularly if the accused is white, male, or Christian.

Some courts have contributed to this problem by providing an overly-broad interpretation of this and other related workplace harassment of women. The case of EEOC/Christopher v. National Education Association, discussed on the website, gives us an example of judicial abuse. On September 2, 2005, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit issued a unanimous decision in EEOC/Christopher v. National Education Association reversing a U.S. District Court of Alaska decision holding that alleged sexual harassment could not constitute a violation of Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination without evidence that the harassment was “because of sex.” The Ninth Circuit held that 'there is no legal requirement that hostile acts be overtly sex- or gender-specific in content; rather, sex- or gender-specific content is but one way to establish discriminatory harassment.' The ultimate question is whether 'members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous terms or conditions of employment to which members of the other sex are not exposed'. In reversing the District Court, the Ninth Circuit held that an employer’s offensive conduct that is not facially sex-specific nonetheless may violate Title VII if there is sufficient circumstantial evidence of qualitative and quantitative differences in the harassment suffered by female and male employees. The primary defendant in that case was Thomas Harvey, who held successive positions as Interim Assistant Director, Assistant Executive Director, and Executive Director at NEA-Alaska's Anchorage office. Three female employees of the Anchorage office filed charges with the EEOC based on Harvey’s workplace conduct.

This is what diversity and multiculturalism have brought us - an endless round of bickering, division, and litigation. This is all part of what is called "managing diversity". If diversity is so natural and wonderful, why does it require so much time, effort and resources to "manage"? Is all of this worth it in exchange for a few more ethnic restaurants? You be the judge.

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