LEGAL BRIEF: African-American Female Buyer Held to Unequal Standard, Federal Agency Charges
SAN FRANCISCO — A major pharmacy chain has agreed to pay $55,000 and to implement preventive training to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging race and gender discrimination and retaliation, the agency announced yesterday. The EEOC had sued on behalf of an African-American female buyer who had been employed at Longs Drugs, which was later bought by CVS Caremark.
The EEOC’s suit asserted that Marcia Guaman was treated by Longs Drugs very differently from colleagues who were not black or female. For example, Guaman received verbal and written warnings for her performance numbers, while white female co-workers with lower scores did not face any disciplinary action. Also, Guaman’s requests for vacation days were denied, even though she asked prior to white co-workers who were granted vacation for the same dates, according to the EEOC. She was discharged from her position a few months after she raised the differential treatment to human resources.
Race and sex discrimination, and retaliation against workers who speak out against such treatment, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed suit (Civ 3:10-CV-04384-RS in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California) against Longs Drugs and CVS Caremark, which is liable as Longs’ successor.
Both companies denied any wrongdoing. According to the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, CVS agreed to pay $55,000 to Guaman and will change its policies to clarify employee protections against discrimination and implement training designed to prevent future retaliation or discrimination.
“Employers should guard against bias creeping in to distort company policies, and training staff is an important preventive measure,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo.
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado said, “A major American employer like CVS Caremark has major responsibilities to a great many people, and needs to put extra effort into obeying anti-discrimination laws and maintaining a fair workplace.”
According to its website, www.cvscaremark.com, Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Caremark and Longs Drugs operate more than 7,000 retail pharmacy stores in 43 states. CVS Caremark, a corporation established in 1963, is the second-largest pharmacy chain in the United States.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.