EEOC: Grocery chain illegally compelled employee to use EAP

Weis Markets, a chain of Mid-Atlantic grocery stores, illegally tried to compel an employee at a store in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, to participate in its employee assistance program after she complained about a supervisor’s alleged sexual harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

According to the complaint, after complaining about a colleague’s alleged harassment, the employee was called into a meeting with multiple HR managers and supervisors. She was told that multiple co-workers had complained she was creating a “hostile work environment” and that they feared she would report them for unspecified conduct.

As a consequence, Weis Markets said it was requiring the worker to “complete an EAP referral as a condition of her continued employment,” according to the complaint. The process would require her to contact the EAP provider and submit an authorization form allowing the release of her clinical records related to mental health counseling obtained through the EAP.

The process was intended by supervisory staff to determine whether the employee needed to take disability-related leave, the complaint said. The worker refused to participate in the process and was subsequently fired.

EEOC sued Weis Markets, alleging it failed to appropriately address the sexual harassment complaints, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and required the employee to submit to a medical examination and disability-related inquiries that were not job-related, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Employees have a right under the ADA not to be forced by their employers to participate in medical exams and inquiries that are not job-related and consistent with business necessity,” Jamie Williamson, Philadelphia district director of the EEOC, said in the agency’s statement. 

Weis Markets declined to comment on the story.