EEOC Recovers $85K for Nurse Fired After Asking More Time Off for Cancer Treatments

Just because an employee has survived a bog ut with cancer doesn’t mean that he or she won’t need additional time off for cancer treatments. So employers need to remember that their duty of reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities includes giving a cancer survivor the time off necessary to complete those treatments.

The latest employer apparently to ignore that obligation is Angel Medical Center, Inc., a full-service critical access hospital located in Franklin, N.C., which the EEOC charged in a lawsuit had failed to accommodate a nurse undergoing cancer treatments and subsequently fired her because of her disability.

The EEOC said that the medical center had agreed to pay $85,000 to settle the ADA lawsuit it brought on behalf of Susan Williams, a full-time registered nurse at the facility.

“We hope that this case reminds employers that they must accommodate disabled employees’ requests for leave for medical treatment unless granting leave would pose an undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “We are happy to have resolved this matter for Ms. Williams and hope that we have prevented similar situations from happening to other persons with disabilities.”

Read more about the lawsuit and settlement.

DOL Says New Rules Coming on LGBT Discrimination, Pay Secrecy in Contracting

Employers wanting to know what Washington, D.C. is up to next should pay attention to the regulators. They’re the ones who put the meat on the bones of congressional legislation and presidential declarations.

Case in point: The U.S. Department of Labor issued its semiannual regulatory agenda last week, and two items stand out among many.

One is a new rule implementing President Obama’s executive order on lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual (LGBT) discrimination in federal contracting.  Obama issued E.O. 13672 in August.

DOL also intends to issue a rule implement the requirement for the Equal Pay Report as part its crackdown on discriminator pay practices. DOL promised action on that rule by next August.

A companion rule would implement the ban on pay secrecy so that workers could discuss their pay amongst each other without fear of contractor reprisal.  That prohibition is contained in Executive Order 13665, which Obama signed in September. DOL said it plans to issue that rule next September.

So everything now knows these are on the DOL’s rulemaking plate for 2015.

Cells phones at work

Do you have a cell phone policy for employees during working hours? If not, it might be in your interest to have one, as our resident columnist Robin Paggi explains.

Cells Phones at Work

In September, Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez scaled the fence, bolted across the lawn, and burst through a door at the White House before being apprehended by two secret service agents. According to a Department of Homeland Security review recently released, a Secret Service officer who was supposed to be stationed at the North Lawn with an attack dog could have stopped Gonzalez long before he reached the building. But, the officer wasn’t at his post; instead, he was sitting in his van making a personal call on his cellphone.

Evidently, some employees think that using their cellphone is more important than doing their job. Like the San Antonio bus driver that caused a wreck on Loop 410 in 2009 because of texting while driving. And, the trolley operator that caused a crash in Boston (also in 2009) because of texting, which resulted in about 50 people being injured.

The danger of employees injuring themselves and others because of the distractions caused by cellphones has led some employers, such as FedEx, to prohibit them at work. Of the ban, one FedEx employee was quoted on as saying, “I think it is infringing on everyone’s right.” Obviously, this employee does not know that it is a privilege – not a right – to have a personal cellphone at work. And, employers have the right to take that privilege away.

If you are an employer who has employees who are too distracted by their phones, consider implementing a policy on cellphone use at work. The policy could include things like no cellphone use while driving or operating machinery (yes, this is obvious, but some people need to be told); only taking important calls (such as from a child’s school) while working; returning calls and texts during breaks and away from the employee’s desk or workspace; requiring phones to be set on vibrate; not using phones during meetings; and anything else you’d like to put in it. If employees can’t adhere to the policy, discipline them. If they still can’t stay off of their phones, invite them to seek employment elsewhere.

Speaking of seeking employment elsewhere, I’m willing to bet the Secret Service officer who allowed his cellphone to distract him from protecting the President will be looking for a new job soon. I hope the call he was making was worth it.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

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


















Employer Owes $735K to African Americans Employees Victimized by Racial Slurs on Dock

If racial slurs are being directed against some of your workers, you’ll certainly want to put a stop to that. A Chicago-based wholesale grocer and manufacturer did just that, agreed to resolve an EEOC lawsuit brought on behalf of African American workers who endured a barrage of slurs, including the N-word, from co-workers and managers while working on the company’s docks.

EEOC announced on Wednesday that the company, Battaglia, had agreed to settle the lawsuit for $735,000. a group of current and former African-American employees.  Under terms of the settlement filed with the U.S. district court, the company must train its managers on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination on the job, and report regularly to the EEOC on any complaints it has received, as well as provide other data to demonstrate that it has not retaliated against any of the participants in the litigation.

“Resolutions of this nature are positive for both the employer and the employees,” the EEOC’s regional director said.

Amen to that.

Read more about the lawsuit and settlement.

EEOC Sues Rail Company for Use of Tests to Screen Applicants for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Employers can’t screen out job applicants on the suspicion, backed by dubious medical testing, that they might develop a disability.

That’s the gist of a lawsuit the EEOC filed today under the Americans With Disabilities Act against Amsted Industries Inc. and Amsted Rail Co. Inc., for alleging using physical tests and applicants’ history to weed out applicants with a history of carpal tunnel syndrome.

EEOC alleged that during the hiring process, the company asked applicants if they have a history of carpal tunnel syndrome and gives them a nerve conduction test, even though the most current relevant published medical literature does not support the use of such tests alone, or the use of prior medical history alone, to predict the development of carpal tunnel. Based on the results, Amsted refused more than 50 applicants  because they had a history of carpal tunnel syndrome, tested positive on the nerve conduction test, or both.

EEOC said that the ADA violations took place at the company’s Granite City, Ill., facility. It described the company as a leader in the manufacture of steel castings for the rail industry.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

Compliance With Labor Laws as Important as Enforcement, Wage and Hour Division Head Says

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, responsible for enforcing a raft of laws affecting the workplace, wants employers to know that it views their compliance with the law as important if not more so than merely enforcing the law.

That’s the message that David Weil, administrator of the department’s Wage and Hour Division, stressed in a blog posting earlier this week on the DOL website., titled Employers Must Know the Rules.

Weil noted that since 2009 WHD has conducted more than 10,000 outreach events and presentations, providing information, help and distributing educational materials to thousands of employers, employees, community organizations, industry associations and other stakeholders nationwide.

The DOL website has materials covering everything from child labor laws to the Family and Medical Leave Act, Weil said.

Another critical resource are DOL’s Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialists (CORPS), based in our offices around the country, who “communities in dialogue about local industry practices and labor concerns, and provide training and resources to employers, their associations, worker advocates and other stakeholders.”

And so on. Here’s a window into WHD’s thinking as the Obama administration enters its last two years.

If you’re an employer subject to DOL rules, it’s worth a read.



EEOC Extracts $138,000 Settlement From School District That Ran Early Retirement Program

It’s legal to give employees an incentive to retire early, but it’s not legal to make the incentives greater for one set of employees than another on the basis of their age.

That’s the lesson from today’s announcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that it has settled an Age Discrimination in Employment Lawsuit against a Phoenix-area school district that it alleged “used an early retirement incentive plan which granted greater economic benefits to employees based upon their younger age.”

The early retirement incentive in this case–adopted by Murphy School District No. 21 in the early 1980s–became facially discriminatory once the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act was enacted in 1992, the EEOC said.

The EEOC said that the school district agreed to pay $138,000 to compensate over two dozen employees who took early retirement under the program.

Here’s more information on the lawsuit and settlement.


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