Pa. Court Trainee Was Fired Due to Age, EEOC Alleges in Suit; Discriminatory Remark Made

Remind your supervisors and trainers never to discuss the age of the persons who report to them. That seems rather obvious advice, but ignoring it could land your company on the wrong end of an age discrimination lawsuit.

That’s the situation that the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania finds itself in. Earlier this month it was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which alleged that one of its trainees was the victim of age discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, Carolyn J. Pittman, at age 70, was assigned to work at the court by a staffing agency in February 2012. While Pittman was still in training with Lisa Moore, who was in charge of training and supervising her, Moore complained that Pittman was too old to work in the department. On March 28, 2012, Pittman was terminated, the EEOC alleged.

And with that the court faces possible liability, including have to reinstatement Pittman, pay her back pay and maybe double damages if the violation is deemed willful.

And all because the head training and supervisor said something she shouldn’t have.

Here’s more information on the lawsuit.

D.C. Mayor to Sign Law Banning Job Applications From Asking About Criminal Convictions

Residents of Washington, D.C. soon won’t have to answer questions on job applications asking them if they have ever been convicted of a crime. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign legislation to outlaw this practice.

The law would amend the D.C. Human Rights Act to add persons convicted of a crime as a class of persons protected from employment discrimination.

The law could have a big impact in the District of Columbia-where by some estimates one in every 10 inhabitants has a criminal record.

Supports of these “ban-the-box” laws argue that it’s not fair to deal applicants out of possible employment because of a criminal conviction, especially since it might have occurred years earlier and the applicant did his or her time and is entitled to a fresh start.

And the EEOC isn’t enamored of these questions either, and has issued enforcement guidance urging employers to review each applicant on the merits and not to use an arrest or criminal record as an automatic disqualification for hiring.

Four states and several other cities have already adopted similar “ban-the-box” laws. We’ll see if the movement catches fire nationally.

Court: ADA Ban on Medical Examinations Violated Even When Applicants Ultimately Hired

Employees whose ADA rights were violated by mandatory pre-hire medical examinations may be entitled to damages, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled this week, dismissing the company’s argument that they are outside the law’s protections because they ultimately were hired.

The ADA provision in question states that “a covered entity shall not conduct a medical examination or make inquiries of a job applicant as to whether such applicant is an individual with a disability or as to the nature or severity of such disability.

The company in this case, Grane Healthcare Co., argued that this section of the ADA protects only individuals who are denied employment because of medical conditions uncovered during unlawful screenings.But the court wasn’t buying that, insisting that the ADA is a “prophylactic” provision that denies employers access to medical information prior to their employment. Period.

The case is EEOC v. Grane Healthcare Co., W.D. Pa., No. 3:10-cv-250, July 7)

N.H. Governor Signs Paycheck Fairness Act

Equal pay advocates have another arrow in the quiver in New Hampshire, where the governor just signed her state’s version of the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. The law– Senate Bill 207–largely tracks the federal equal pay act by making it illegal to pay men and women differently for doing equal work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions, and forbidding retaliation against employees who complain about their wages.

Also like the federal law, the state law has exceptions for pay differences under a bona fide seniority system, merit or performance-based system, expertise or shift differential.

Violations of the law are subject to fines of up to $2,500.

In a statement on signing the bill, Governor Maggie Hassan said “Ensuring that women and men can earn equal pay for an equal day’s work isn’t just an issue of fairness, it’s essential to our economic future. I am proud to sign this common-sense, bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the economic security of hard-working Granite Staters and eliminate an unnecessary strain on New Hampshire families.

EEOC Sues Nursing Home Over Refusal to Let Muslim Employee Wear Head Covering on Job

A nursing home will have to defend itself against charges that it engaged in religious discrimination under Title VII by refusing to allow a female Muslim employee to wear a head covering while at work.

Earlier this month the EEOC sued Shadescrest Healthcare, which operates a nursing home in Jasper, Alabama, alleging that it fired Tracy Martin, who was a certified nursing assistant, when she reported to work wearing a hijab, in accordance with her religious beliefs.

According to the lawsuit, the home failed to reasonably accommodate Martin’s request and then fired her in retaliation for her charge.

Maybe had the home heeded the EEOC’s guidelines on religious discrimination, it wouldn’t find itself a defendant doing battle with the commission.

Here’s the announcement of the lawsuit.

No More Excuses: EEOC Updates Guidance on Pregnancy Bias Under Title VII, Related Issues

If you’re unsure about what Title VII has to say pregnancy discrimination, or how the Americans With Disabilities Act plays into the treatment of pregnant employees, here’s your choice to get up to speed.

Employers may not fully understand what Title VII allows and doesn’t allow with respect to pregnant workers, or whether they have to grant male employees the same parental leave rights as women,

These and other questions are addressed in an updated enforcement guidance that the EEOC issued today on pregnancy discrimination and related issues.

This is the first comprehensive update of the Commission’s guidance on the subject of discrimination against pregnant workers since the 1983 publication of a Compliance Manual chapter on the subject.

“Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment or treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.  “This guidance will aid employers, job seekers, and workers in complying with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, and thus advance EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan priority of addressing the emerging issue of the interaction between these two anti-discrimination statutes.”

Among other issues, the guidance discusses:

  • The fact that the PDA covers not only current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman’s potential to become pregnant;
  • Lactation as a covered pregnancy-related medical condition;
  • The circumstances under which employers may have to provide light duty for pregnant workers;
  • Issues related to leave for pregnancy and for medical conditions related to pregnancy;
  • The PDA’s prohibition against requiring pregnant workers who are able to do their jobs to take leave;
  • The requirement that parental leave (which is distinct from medical leave associated with childbearing or recovering from childbirth) be provided to similarly situated men and women on the same terms;
  • When employers may have to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with pregnancy-related impairments under the ADA and the types of accommodations that may be necessary; and
  • Best practices for employers to avoid unlawful discrimination against pregnant workers.

I think this should be essential reading for all employers. The link to the guidance is here.

If you are a small business, check out this a fact sheet also issued today for small businesses.

The guidance  builds off a public hearing the EEOC held in February 2012 to hear from stakeholders about issues related to pregnancy discrimination and discrimination against persons with caregiver responsibilities.

Nursing Home Violated ADA By Firing Worker With Limited Arm Use, EEOC Charges in Lawsuit

An employer can’t deny employment to an individual based on the assumption that because the person has a physical impairment he or she cannot perform the job. Sounds like basic ADA laws, but according to the EEOC, a Delaware company that operates a nursing home in Mount Olive, North Carolina, forgot that truism.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal district court, the EEOC charged that the company that operates the home, Genesis Health care LLC, hired Margaret Washington to work as a cook and dietary aide at its Mount Olive facility in June 2013.

Washington has a physical impairment that limits her use of the left side of her body, the EEOC said.  Shortly after Washington began working for Genesis Healthcare, her supervisor asked her what was wrong with her left arm. Washington explained that she did not have the full use of her left arm, but that she was still able to perform her job duties. A few weeks later, Washington’s supervisor informed Washington that she did not believe Washington could perform her job duties without the full use of both arms. Shortly thereafter, Genesis Healthcare fired Washington because she did not have the full use of her left arm.

The EEOC says this is an ADA violation because the nursing home fired Washington “based on unfounded assumptions about her ability to work simply because of a disability.”

The failure to offer a reasonable accommodation was also rather glaring in this case.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

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