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University of Phoenix Lawsuit
University of Phoenix/EEOC Lawsuit
In 2006, the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) sued the University of Phoenix, alleging that enrollment counselors who were non-Mormon were discriminated against. The federal lawsuit states that employees who were not Mormon (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) were not treated favorably when it came to reprimands, tuition waivers, and leads on new students (Gilbertson, 2006). There are 4400 enrollment counselors in the school, including 2600 in Phoenix itself. It is owned by Apollo Group, Inc., which is a publicly-traded company. According to Mary Jo O'Neill, who is the regional attorney for the EEOC, there has been a pattern of practice seen with the University of Phoenix and how it favors LDS workers over those who are not LDS, which is a violation of anti-discrimination laws (Gilbertson, 2006).
Joe Cockrell, spokesman for Apollo Group, said that he had not seen the lawsuit but that the company has always had respect for others and equal opportunities for everyone (Gilbertson, 2006). The company has both anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, and there is a zero-tolerance stance taken on the issues. For years, University of Phoenix and the Apollo Group have had rumors of Mormon influence swirling around them (Gilbertson, 2006). The long-time President of the company was Mormon, and left unexpectedly in January of 2006. The new President is non-LDS, as is the founder of the company (Gilbertson, 2006). The EEOC says that there is a growing trend of intolerance when it comes to other religions in the workplace. Some of the former workers at the University of Phoenix are named in the lawsuit and are asking for damages and back pay, to which they feel they are entitled (Gilbertson, 2006). They allege that they were fired based on their non-Mormon influence and that the best leads (which kept up tuition numbers and allowed them to keep their jobs) were only given to Mormons (Gilbertson, 2006).
The EEOC is a federal watchdog agency that addresses complaints in the workplace such as harassment and discrimination. It generally protects against you being discriminated against on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, age, disability, national origin, pregnancy, or genetic information (EEOC, n.d.). That's true whether you are already working somewhere, or you are trying to get hired at a particular company. If you have a reasonable accommodation you would like made in your workplace because of your religion or a disability, you have a right to request and get that accommodation (EEOC, n.d.). You also have the right to be protected against retaliation if you complain about job discrimination or assist in a lawsuit or investigation (EEOC, n.d.). It is the EEOC's job to protect you from all of those things that may occur while you are working or looking for work, and to file suit on your behalf if you have a case because of these types of issues in the work place.
The role of the EEOC in this lawsuit is that of the plaintiff. It filed the lawsuit as a class action suit on behalf of a number of workers who were no longer employed by the University of Phoenix. These workers alleged that they were fired because they did not conform to what the company was looking for, in that the company wanted Mormon employees and gave the best leads and benefits to those were Mormon (EEOC, 2009). For people who did not belong to the LDS church there were scant leads, and they were often turned down for tuition reimbursement and other perks that were supposed to be a part of what they were entitled to get as employees of the University (EEOC, 2009). The EEOC press release is clear about why the lawsuit was filed and states that it is glad that the company will no longer be able to get away with discrimination based on religion.
The press release information is very similar to what is seen in news stories about the lawsuit, and there are no real discrepancies with the information. While the University of Phoenix did not admit guilt in the matter, it did agree to pay nearly $2 million to settle the issue (EEOC, 2009). The only real differences between the…[continue]
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