Race Harassment and Retaliation in Healthcare

Friday, July 9, 2021

Cardinal Health and AppleOne Settle EEOC Race Harassment / Retaliation Lawsuit
Health Care Services Company and Staffing Agency Fostered a Racially Charged, Hostile Work Environment, Federal Agency Charged

LOS ANGELES – Global health care services and products company Cardinal Health will pay $1.45 million to resolve a racial harassment and retaliation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. Cardinal Health, along with with California-based staffing agency AppleOne, will also implement sweeping injunctive relief as part of the settlement.

According to the EEOC, African American employees either directly employed by Cardinal Health or assigned to work for Cardinal Health by AppleOne were subjected to ongoing and unwelcome harassment based on their race. When employees complained, neither Cardinal Health nor AppleOne took immediate and corrective action regarding the harassment, which allowed the hostile work environment to fester, according to the EEOC. The EEOC further charged that employees who did complain were retaliated against, disciplined and terminated, while other employees felt that they had no choice but to quit.

Racial harassment and retaliation for complaining about it are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Cardinal Health and Howroyd-Wright Employment Agency dba AppleOne Employment Services; Case No.: 5:19-cv-00941) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

Cardinal Health has agreed to pay $1.45 million to resolve this suit. In addition to the monetary relief, Cardinal Health and AppleOne Staffing have agreed to separate two-year consent decrees that include injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The decrees include retaining an equal employment opportunity monitor; conducting audits; the review and revision of policies prohibiting discrimination and the distribution of those policies to direct and temporary employees; and establishing an internal complaint procedure.

Additionally, Cardinal Health and AppleOne Staffing agreed to maintain a toll-free complaint hotline and provide discrimination training for all employees. Lastly, Cardinal Health agreed to extend the decree an additional year if recommended by the EEO monitor.

The decrees will remain under the court’s jurisdiction for at least a two-year term.

“The EEOC has seen an increase in race harassment allegations across industries and localities,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “It is very important for employers and staffing agencies to be proactive in addressing these issues. Cardinal Health and AppleOne are commended for establishing changes within their workplaces that will have a positive impact on their employees and the communities they reside in.”

Rosa Viramontes, the EEOC’s Los Angeles District director, added, “Cardinal Health and AppleOne have put in place measures aimed at preventing discrimination and harassment that other employers should also consider. Employers and staffing agencies need to understand that both entities bear the responsibility to address and correct harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Employees should not have to choose between their livelihoods and the detrimental effects that race harassment can have on them.”

According to its website, www.appleone.com, Glendale, Calif.-headquartered AppleOne provides employment services both domestically and internationally.

According to Cardinal Health’s website, www.cardinalhealth.com, the Dublin, Ohio-based company is global, integrated health care services and products company which provides customized solutions for hospitals, health systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, and physician offices worldwide.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is also one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
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