Diabetic Job Applicant Awarded $35K in Settlement of EEOC’s Lawsuit Against University

Don’t turn someone down for employment because they have a disability.

That simple truism is the lesson from today’s settlement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of its Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit against Howard University, a college located in Washington, D.C.

According to the EEOC, Howard denied a veteran police officer  a security job at the university because he had diabetes–despite his qualifications.

The EEOC charged that Clarence Muse, who has diabetes that resulted in kidney failure, applied for and was interviewed for a protective services officer and protective services supervisor position with Howard University Hospital, a division of the university. During the interview, when asked about his shift preferences, Muse disclosed that he preferred the evening shift because of his dialysis schedule. Muse had over 40 years of experience as a police officer and security guard, including experience as a homicide detective and supervisor.

The EEOC charged that Howard University hired more than 40 security officers and supervisors but refused to hire Muse, despite his excellent qualifications, because of his disability.

Howard settled the lawsuit for $35,000.

Read more about the case.

Gawker Media Writers to Unionize–and the Company’s Got No Problem With That

When was the last time that an employer actually welcomed their employees joining a union?

Just the other day actually. Gawker Media announced on Thursday that its mostly 20-something staff is planning to join the Writers Guild of America.

And the company isn’t resisting. It’s not cheerleading either for the workers to unionize–but it is accepting it, which is noteworthy in and of itself.

A media account I read suggested that “just as many dated fashions come back into vogue, unions have taken on a retro cool among millennials. And corporations that depend on attracting that demographic–as a workforce and as a readership–might figure that trying to bust a union could pose too great a risk their brand.”

Businesses Back Lifting of Sex-Sex Marriage Bans; Urge High Court to Recognize Right

U.S. businesses have staked out their ground on same-sex marriage; they’re in favor of it.

The most recent evidence is a friend-of-the-court brief filed last month in the U.S. Supreme Court, ahead of the argument later this month on whether gay and lesbian couples can marry in all 50 states.

Nearly 400 of the country’s best-known companies–including Google, Amazon.com, General Electric and Walt Disney–urged the high court to strike down the remaining sex-sex marriage bans and provide every member of their workforce “equal dignity.”

Currently same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and Washington, D.C.–which is also where 70 percent of Americans live and a lot of companies operate.

Corporate America has gotten behind the same-sex bandwagon for pragmatic reasons. Companies don’t want to be subject to different legal requirements in different states. It’s bad for employee recruitment and morale. Or as the companies’ brief puts it, the “fractured legal landscape breeds unnecessary confusion, tension and diminished employee morale.”

And this patchwork legal landscape also can be misery for HR and benefits departments. In states where same-sex marriage is banned, corporate officers must struggle to manage shifting rules on tax policies, employee benefits and other administrative complexities governing same-sex partners and their families.

But not just that. Not having same-sex marriage accepted in every state limits companies’ ability to redeploy workers, open new offices and pursue other strategies.

A conundrum formulated this way by Sears Roebuck:

“Say your star employee’s married to his partner in New York and you want to move him to Georgia, where not only is it legal to fire him if he’s gay and his marriage isn’t recognized by the state, but you’re potentially putting him in a hostile situation.”

And you’ve got to keep your customers happy too and not alienate them by taking a stance with which they disagree. Sixty percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, according to recent public opinion polls.

And there’s also this: 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies now offer protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Add it all up and it becomes clear why  so many well-known companies (and undoubtedly some not as well-known companies) want to see the legal battle over same-sex marriage.

Check back here later this month for a report on the argument in the same-sex marriage case.

The list of the 379 companies signing on to the brief is here.

EEOC Proposed Rule Shows Employers How to Operate Wellness Programs Consistent With ADA

Employee wellness programs could be on firmer legal footing as a result of a regulation proposed today by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The rule, if finalized, points the way for these programs to be operated in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

As readers of this blog know, the EEOC has sued two employers for alleged ADA violations stemming from the operation of  wellness programs that it believes discriminate on the basis of disability and coerce employees into participating by penalizing them if they don’t participate.

The new rule potentially paves the way for more employers to offer these programs.

Here are the new proposed ground rules for employee wellness programs.

1. If an employee health program seeks information about employee health or medical examinations, the program must be reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease.

2.  Employees may not be required to participate in a wellness program, and they may not be denied health coverage or disciplined if they refuse to participate

3.  Under the ADA, companies may offer incentives of up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage in connection with wellness programs.

4. These programs can include medical examinations or questions about employees’ health (such as questions on a health risk assessment).

5. Medical information collected as a part of a wellness program may be disclosed to employers only in aggregate form that does not reveal the employee’s identity, and must be kept confidential in accordance with ADA requirements.

6. Employers must provide employees a notice that describes what medical information will be collected, with whom it will be shared, how it will be used, and how it will be kept confidential.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register on Monday the 20th and the public will then have until June 19 to comment.

Here’s today’s EEOC announcement of the proposed rule.


OSHA Asks Public Input to Improve Worker Safety in Communications Tower Industry

If you would like to weigh in on how to make working conditions safer  for workers who build and maintain communications towers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to hear from you.

“Public input will assist the agency in determining what measures are needed to prevent worker injuries and fatalities,” the agency’s announcement said.

Workers in this industry face a gamut of risks, including falling from great heights, structural collapses, electrical hazards, and hazards associated with inclement weather, OSHA said.

All because of the nation’s demand for wireless and broadcast communication.

OSHA recorded 13 communication tower worker deaths in 2013 — the deadliest year for these workers since 2006. In 2014, 12 workers were killed which was double the number of deaths in 2011 and six times the total number in 2012.

The comment period ends on June 15.

Here’s the request for information filed by OSHA.

EEOC Open Meeting Tomorrow in Miami; Solutions to Workplace Barriers on Agenda

If you’re in Miami, Florida tomorrow, stop on by Miami Dade College where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be holding a forum open to the public to view the commission’s deliberations.

EEOC commissioners and a group of invited panelists will consider discuss solutions to workplace barriers in hiring, pay, promotion and retention.

“The multicultural and ethnically diverse population of South Florida provides a fitting lens through which to examine these issues, which affect workplaces across our nation,” the EEOC announcement of the meeting said.

Typical of these meetings, the panelists are a hodgepodge of practitioners from the public and private sectors, including:

• Barbara Arnwine, President, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
• Iliana Castillo-Frick, Vice Provost HR, Miami Dade College
• Donald R. Livingston, Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
• Kathleen Lundquist, President and Chief Executive Officer, APT Metrics, Inc.
• Victoria Mesa-Estrada, Attorney, Mesa & Coe Law, P.A.
• William Spriggs, Chief Economist, AFL-CIO
• Robert Weisberg, EEOC Regional Attorney, Miami District Office

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

Eye Clinic to Pay $150,000 To Settle Title VII Lawsuit Over Firing of Transgender Employee

Expect to see more suits alleging bias against transgender individuals now that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission equates transgender bias with sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In one of its first transgender bias lawsuits, the EEOC announced today it has settled transgender bias claims against Lakeland Eye Clinic, a Florida-based organization of health care businesses. According to the lawsuit, the clinic fired the Director of Hearing Services after she began to present as a woman and informed it that she was transgender, even though her job performance for her entire tenure was satisfactory.

The EEOC said that the clinic had based the action on the fact that the former director was transgender, was transitioning from male to female, and because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based stereotypes.

To settle the lawsuit, the clinic agreed to pay $150,000 and adopt a new gender discrimination policy that prohibits discriminating against anyone for those reasons.

Read more about the lawsuit and the settlement.


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