Senior living community settles EEOC race discrimination lawsuit for $40,000

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A South Carolina senior living community will pay $40,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Thursday.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in 2015, alleging that Bloom Senior Living of Bluffton, operating as Bloom at Belfair, discriminated against an African-American employee because of her race when it fired her in September 2014. The employment of Michelle Billups Tensley, the activities director at the Bluffton, SC, community, was terminated after she missed one day of work because of a family medical issue, an absence she had announced openly in advance, according to the EEOC. Bloom said that Tensley did not personally speak to her supervisor the day of her absence. The EEOC, however, said that the supervisor was either unavailable or refused to accept the employee's phone call. Tensley's firing followed the termination of employment for other black managers at the same community, the EEOC charged, and was part of a plan to eliminate African-Americans from management.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race. The EEOC said it filed the lawsuit after trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the community.

In addition to providing monetary relief for Tensley, the consent decree settling the lawsuit includes provisions for equal employment opportunity training by the company, reporting by the company to EEOC and the posting of a notice about the lawsuit to the company's employees.

Bloom Senior Living declined to comment when contacted by McKnight's Senior Living.

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