Nursing Home to Pay $40K to Retaliation Victim

Retaliating against an employer for complaining about employment discrimination only compounds the original unfair treatment–it’s like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Or when there is no fire. After all, the underlying discrimination complaint might not have legs. But it’s still a violation of the law to retaliate even if the claim is suspect.

Latest case in point: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today it has obtained $40,000 as part of a settlement of a retaliation lawsuit against the home. According to the EEOC, the home, located on Cass Avenue in Westmont, Ill., fired a  former employee in retaliation for repeatedly complaining to management about alleged sexual harassment.

In addition, the settlement includes an injunction against retaliation and imposes record keeping and reporting responsibilities on the senior living center for the term of the settlement.

Read more.

Unplanned Absences Conundrum for U.S. Employers, According to SHRM Survey

U.S. employers spend less of their total payroll than other counties on absent employees, yet those absences cause more stress here than other countries experience, according to a survey released this week by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Twenty-two percent of U.S. payrolls is due to absent employees, less than in Europe (37 percent) and Australia (34 percent), SHRM found.

On the other hand, unplanned absences are more rampant in the U.S., as 72 percent of HR professions said they observed a pattern of employees calling in sick on Mondays or Fridays or before public holidays or national sporting events.

Unplanned absences increase stress for other workers, said 61 percent of U.S.-based HR professionals. That’s more than said it these absences cause stress in Australia (54 percent)  and Europe (51 percent).

HR professionals in this country also are more apt to say that unplanned absences hurt morale at the office (48 percent) than in Europe (36 percent) or Australia (31 percent).

What do these numbers mean? Other countries roll better with the punches when it comes to unplanned absences, while we get stressed out about it. Could the difference have something to do with our relatively stingy leave laws compared to those other countries that have more generous leave laws?

Go here to download the survey report.

No Way to Run a Railroad: Metro North Hit With Large Fine for Retaliation Against Injured Worker

Retaliating against employees who report workplace injuries is a costly proposition, as a major rail line in the Northeastern U.S. has discovered.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced that Metro North Commuter Rail has been ordered to pay a retaliation victim a total of $250,000 in punitive damages, $10,000 in compensatory damages and to cover reasonable attorney fees. It’s the largest punitive damages ever in a retaliation case under the Federal Railroad Safety Act, according to OSHA.

The worker, who is employed as a coach cleaner for the commuter rail carrier, was retaliated against after reporting the knee injury he suffered on Nov. 17, 2011, OSHA said.

The behavior of the company’s managers was illegal and mean-spirited, according to this account provided by OSHA.

“While driving the injured employee to the hospital, a Metro-North supervisor also intimidated the worker, reportedly telling the worker that railroad employees who are hurt on the job are written up for safety and are not considered for advancement or promotions within the company.”

“Unofficial reports from other employees appear to corroborate the supervisor’s claims. For instance, one worker smashed her foot with a barrel while on the job, yet she did not file an accident report and showed up to work every day using crutches in hope of keeping her injury record clean. Another worker was injured when her hand was caught in a broken door but, like her coworker, she did not fill out an incident report for fear of reprisal.”

By discouraging employees from reporting workplace safety, Metro-North undercut its ability to address and fix the underlying conditions that contribute to these injuries, OSHA said.

Read more.

NLRB: Employers Must Include Employees’ Phone Numbers, E-Mail Addresses in Voter Lists

Employers facing union drivers shouldn’t hold all the advantages when it comes to communicating with employees who the union is wooing, the National Labor Relations Board decided last week.

The board last Friday issued a set of regulations to create a more level playing field in union representation cases, which ultimately determine whether a workplace should be unionized or not.

Under the new set of procedures, employers faced with a union petition will have to provide additional contact information, including personal telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, in voter lists supplied to unions and other parties. The purpose of this requirement, according to the board’s announcement, is to “enhance a fair and free exchange of ideas by permitting other parties to communicate with voters about the election using modern technology.”

A main thrust of the new rules is to reduce the time between the filing of an election petition and the holding of the election.  Business critics of the new rules call them an effort to legitimize “ambush elections” in which employers don’t have time to rebut the arguments of the pro-union forces.

The rules were approved in a 3-2 divided board vote and business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce have vowed to file suit to stop them.

Don’t be surprised if the new rules aren’t also  subject to debate in the next Congress which convenes in January.

Here’s the NLRB’s fact sheet on the new rules.


Business Lessons From a Christmas Story

Tis’ the season for employees to express appreciation for their employees, suggests resident columnist Robin Paggi in her latest column. We hope you find it inspirational as the Hannukah, Christmas and Qwanza season descends upon us.

Business Lessons From a Christmas Story

Just before Christmas when I was eight years old, my dad brought home a big cardboard box that he painted to look like a fireplace. Our house was small, so the big box in the living room was a bit of an inconvenience. My three brothers and I grumbled amongst ourselves as we put the Christmas tree on top of it, piled the presents around it, and wondered why in the world dad wanted a fake fireplace.

Also just before Christmas that year, dad told my brothers and me to clean out the garage. Dad never had a problem with our garage being in disarray before, so we grumbled amongst ourselves as we worked and wondered why in the world dad wanted it cleaned now.

After opening our presents on Christmas morning, dad said “I guess we don’t need this fake fireplace anymore” and lifted up the box. Underneath was a brand new television (this was in 1970, so it was our first color TV). Then dad said, “let’s take our Christmas walk.” We never took a Christmas walk before, but if dad wanted to walk we were going to walk. He led us out to the garage, lifted the garage door, and revealed four shiny new bicycles. Best Christmas ever!

You might be thinking, “That’s nice, but what does this have to do with the business world?” Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there are several lessons to be learned by employees from my story.

First, dad was our boss and he had good reasons for doing what he did and telling us what to do. Because we didn’t understand those reasons, we complained and felt put upon. Of course, dad couldn’t tell us his reasons because that would have ruined the surprise. Bosses usually have good reasons for what they do and what they tell their employees to do. Because we often don’t understand those reasons, we complain and feel put upon. I strongly encourage employers to explain their reasons behind their policies, procedures, and directives to increase their employees’ understanding and commitment; however, sometimes bosses can’t or don’t provide an explanation, and we just need to trust that they know what they’re doing.

Second, dad made sacrifices (such as working overtime and staying up all night to put the bikes together) in order to make that Christmas happen for us. Of course, he didn’t tell us about those sacrifices – my mom did many years later. Employers often make sacrifices that their employees know nothing about. For example, I know of one company whose partners went without pay for several months in order to avoid laying off any employees. I know of an executive director of an organization who went without a pay increase for years so his employees could have raises instead. Employees should know that operating or managing a business requires sacrifices that we often don’t know about, but for which we should appreciate.

Finally, dad went way above the call of duty that Christmas. I now know that the only thing my parents were required by law to do for my brothers and me was to ensure our basic needs were met and that we went to school. However, as a child I thought that my parents were supposed to provide a nice Christmas for us. Employees often have the same expectation of their employers. Therefore, they should know that employers are not required by law to do anything special for their employees on Christmas day. In general, employers who give employees the day off, pay them while they don’t work, pay them extra for working, and provide parties, bonuses, and other gifts at Christmas time are going way above the call of duty. I strongly encourage employees to thank their employers if they receive any of these presents.

This story is one of my favorite memories and is always a joy to tell. I hope this holiday season is full of precious moments that become a favorite memory for you.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

Robin last wrote for us about cell phone policies at work and before that on rules for holiday parties at work and before that about preventing workplace bullying.


NLRB OKs Employees’ Use of Work E-mail for Union Organizing, Other Work-Related Matters

Employers that don’t want their employees using company-provided email accounts for union-related purposes shouldn’t give them e-mail access at all.

That’s the thrust of a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board this week that companies can’t prohibit employees from using the work e-mail accounts for union organizing and other workplace-related purposes.

Companies can require that employees do this sort of e-mailing on their own time–rather than on company time. restrict  But once the employer gives access to its email system, it cannot restrict what topics the employee emails about, as long as it is generally workrelated.


Company Settles EEOC Lawsuit Alleging Violations of ADA Accommodations Process

eJustrite Manufacturing Company was just wrong when it came to its treatment of employees with disabilities, according to the EEOC.

The agency announced yesterday that the Mattoon, Ill.-based manufacturer of storage, handling and security products, will pay $418,000, to settle Americans With Disabilities Act claims on behalf of disabled employees. The EEOC charged that the company failed to engage disabled employees in interactive dialogue in efforts to find reasonable accommodations, denied accommodations outright, and it retaliated when those employees complained about their treatment.

In addition to the monetary relief, the company will train its 130 employees on what the ADA requires, the EEOC said.

“The reasonable accommodation process works best when both the worker and the employer engage in a good-faith, collaborative discussion to find a mutually beneficial way for the disabled employee to perform the job,” said John P. Rowe, Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Retaliation against those who seek to begin this discussion would obviously undermine that process. Such conduct is not only illegal under the ADA, but is also destructive to the greater national goal of enabling employees, disabled or not, to take their place as workers as far as their talents and abilities will take them


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