Tufts Associated Health Plans settles charges of retaliation against minority workers

Tufts Associated Health Plans Inc. has agreed to pay $372,739 after a US Department of Labor investigation determined that Tufts retaliated against 12 minority workers; the investigation was opened after a minority worker alleged that he had been a victim of discrimination.

Tufts Health Plan also agreed to provide additional training to managers and trainers involved in enforcing federal employment requirements, said the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP.

In a statement, Tufts Health Plan said: “While the settlement allows both parties to move forward, Tufts Health Plan does not agree with the OFCCP’s position that it did anything wrong. In fact, we have a starkly different view of the facts in this case.”

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According to Tufts Health Plan, the record keeping practices in place at the time of the investigations were insufficient to prove to the OFCCP that the health plan did not discriminate.

“We have since then instituted additional checks and balances around our record keeping practices and policies, so that we aren’t in this position in the future,” Tufts Health Plan said.

As part of the settlement, Tufts Health Plan will pay $372,739 to 12 Asian-, Hispanic-, and African-American workers whom the OFCCP determined had been wrongly terminated.

In 2009, Tufts agreed to hire minority workers as customer service representatives to settle an earlier finding by the OFCCP that the health plan’s hiring practices discriminated against minorities.

“On March 10, 2010, OFCCP received a complaint of discrimination from an individual hired under that agreement, alleging he had been terminated due to his race and retaliated against due to his status as an OFCCP class member,” the Department of Labor said in a press release. “The worker alleged that minority class members were segregated from other employees and held to stricter standards than non-class members during the training program.”

Tufts’ employment practices fall under federal purview because the health plan is a federal contractor under the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“Our job is to protect workers, promote diversity, and enforce the law,” OFCCP director Patricia A. Shiu said in a statement. “That responsibility to workers continues long after an investigation ends. Any effort to retaliate against workers who have already been victimized by unfair treatment only compounds the problem and will not be tolerated by this administration.”

In an e-mailed statement, Tufts Health Plan vice president Sonya Hagopian wrote: “Tufts Health Plan has not discriminated or retaliated against any applicants or employees. Tufts Health Plan is proud of its legacy promoting diversity and inclusion in the work force.”