Brokerage Firm in Court Opposite EEOC Over Taking Back Job Offer From Pregnant Applicant

A brokerage company that rescinded a job offer to a pregnant job applicant after she inquired about maternity benefits has been sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

According to the EEOC, Brown & Brown, a Daytona Beach-based insurance brokerage firm extended a job offer to the applicant with two proposed starting dates. Upon receipt of the offer letter, the applicant emailed the department leader, affirming her interest and seeking to ask a few questions regarding the offer. About two hours later, the applicant spoke with the department leader’s assistant and inquired about maternity benefits because she was pregnant. The assistant immediately advised the department leader of the applicant’s pregnancy and, minutes later, the applicant received an email rescinding the job offer because, according to Brown & Brown, it “had a very urgent need to have somebody in the position long term …We appreciate you telling us beforehand.”

The bottom line: “Pregnant women have the right to seek jobs and not be denied employment because they are pregnant,” said Robert Weisberg, EEOC’s Miami regional attorney.

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the lawsuit.

$1.4M Settlement in EEOC Lawsuit Alleging Harassment, Retaliation by California Farm

Farms provide the food we put on our table each day, but it is sometimes at a frightening cost to the men and women who work for them.

Consider the behavior that occurred at Fresno, California-based Z Foods, a processor of dried fruits.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Z Foods allowed male supervisors to sexually harass a class of female employees and fired male and female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment.

That’s right. Both men and women complained about the behavior.

As part of a settlement of the case, Z Foods agreed to pay $1.47 million to the harassment victims.

The court found that two supervisors for the Madera, Calif.-based company subjected multiple female farmworkers to ongoing sexual harassment. The sexual harassment took the form of conditioning promotions and employment on sexual favors, continuous sexual advances, stalking female employees and unwanted physical touching and leering.

Male employees who witnessed the egregious harassment complained about the abuse alongside their female employees. These employees were retaliated against and discharged soon after their complaint.

Three cheers for the men who spoke up against this outrageous behavior.

“EEOC continues to see sexual harassment and retaliation in the agricultural industry,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District. “The solidarity that male employees displayed here in supporting and speaking up along with their female co-workers about the severe harassment is a critical component of remedying the pervasive problem of sexual harassment. The court’s findings vindicate the courage it took for these workers to stand up and demand a workplace free of sexual harassment.

For my prior posts on sexual harassment cases against agricultural employers, click here. Also here and here.

EEOC Issues Fact Sheet on Religious Bias; Younger Workers Are The Target Audience

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wants to make sure young workers understand their rights and responsibilities under federal laws prohibiting religious discrimination.

So today it put out a one-page fact sheet intended to do just that.

The document, titled “Religion and Your Job Rights,” starts off with some examples of scenarios that young workers might face at their workplace, than provides information on how to file a complaint along with other factors to “keep in mind” when faced with issues of religion.

The fact sheet is available at EEOC’s Youth@Work website, which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination.

The EEOC also announced it will change the collection of demographic data from individuals who file charges with the agency. These changes will allow EEOC to collect more precise data about the religion of the individual alleging discrimination – allowing the agency, as well as the public, to recognize and respond to trends in charge data.

The EEOC received 3,502 charges of religious discrimination in 2015.

Here’s the fact sheet.

OSHA Pleads Case for Poultry Industry Workers

If you eat chicken-or even if you don’t–attention must be paid to the plight of poultry workers in our economy.

OSHA head Dr. David Michaels took to the Internet today to plead the case of poultry industry workers and to remind employers of these workers’ rights.

The beginning of his essay is bleak enough: “For some workers, a simple trip to the bathroom could result in the loss of a job,” he writes.

According to Michaels, some poultry industry workers are  disciplined for taking bathroom breaks and have taken to wearing diapers or limiting their liquid intake so they don’t have to leave the production line and take those breaks.

“No one should have to work under these conditions. All workers have a right to a safe workplace, and that includes access to readily available sanitary restroom facilities on the job,” writes Michaels.

This treatment violates federal safety standards, which “require[s] employers to provide , all workers with sanitary restrooms and prompt access to the facilities when needed,” he says.

OSHA has found workers exposed to serious hazards in poultry processing plants, including exposure to dangerous chemicals and biological hazards, high noise levels,unsafe equipment, and slippery floors.

Poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries on the job as other private industry workers and almost seven times more likely to contract a work-related illness. They are also at particularly high risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders from the repetitive motions they perform on the job, with workers twice as likely to have a severe wrist injury and seven times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than the average U.S. worker.

I hope that Michaels’ pleas on behalf of these workers, who put so much of our food on our plate, will not go unheard by their employers and the public.

Read his entire blog post here.

Feds: 99% Compliance With Coal Dust Rule

I remember the phrase “get the lead out” in reference to refining cleaner gasoline. When it comes to coal mines, the mantra now should be “get the dust out”–and hopefully that means fewer respiratory ailments for the nation’s miners.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration reported earlier this week that approximately 99 percent of the respirable coal mine dust samples collected from April 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, were in compliance with the agency’s coal mine dust standards.

In 2014, the department published a final rule  that closed many loopholes in the dust-sampling program that had left miners exposed to the unhealthy dust. The landmark rule also included requirements for more frequent sampling of the mine air and use of a new sampling device and other reforms.

For the recent sampling, the agency analyzed more than 20,000 underground coal mine operator samples using the new, cutting edge Continuous Personal Dust Monitor that provides miners with dust results in real time during the working shift. About 99 percent were in compliance. These results correspond to the respirable dust samples collected from Aug. 1, 2014, through Jan. 2016, during Phase I, when 87,000 dust samples were collected from surface and underground coal mines by MSHA and coal mine operators. Nearly 99 percent of those samples met the dust concentration limit.

Here’s the agency’s news release.

EEOC Sues Store for Transgender Bias

Anyone doubting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission means business when it comes to protecting transgender employees from discrimination should take note of a lawsuit the commission announced today on behalf of a transgender person who worked at a Rent-A-Center store in Rantoul, Illinois.

The EEOC says that its’ investigation found that the store’s managers fired the individual because they disapproved of her gender transition.

So the store better have had a nondiscriminatory reason for its decision or it will be found liable under Title VII.

EEOC has made it clear that discrimination against employees or applicants because they are transgender, because of their gender identity, and/or because they have transitioned (or intend to transition) is sex discrimination and violates Title VII.

“All people deserve the opportunity to earn a living and be judged on the quality of their work, rather than on sex-based considerations,” said John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “That includes transgender employees, and the EEOC is committed to making sure such individuals’ rights under Title VII are protected.”

Here’s today’s announcement of the lawsuit.

Court Socks Staffing Co. With $179K Judgment For Not Hiring Women as Trash Can Collectors

If a woman wants to work in a job typically held by men–like garbage collector–more power to them. Employers have no right under the law to dissuade women from applying that men usually fill.

It was with that in mind that a federal district court judge ruled against a Mississippi staffing company, finding that it violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by failing to  hire six women for residential temporary trashcan collector (RTCC) positions in Harrison County, Miss., because of their gender.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s lawsuit, a representative of Workplace Staffing Solutions LLC told one female applicant that the position was a “male-only” job. The court also found that Workplace Staffing denied at least five other qualified women the opportunity to apply for such positions because of their sex. Workplace Staffing told one woman it had only “industrial jobs that are usually for men,” while another was told that the RTCC job was “more of a job for a guy.

For this bit of foolishness and illegality, the court entered a $179,000 default judgment against the company, which didn’t respond to the lawsuit or contest the charges.

Read more about the lawsuit and judgment here.

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