D.C. One Step Closer to Paid Leave Law

A bill to grant paid leave law to all workers in the District of Columbia moved a step closer to final passage on Tuesday when the city council voted its approval of the measure.

If enacted, the bill would be one of the most generous paid leave laws in the country, providing workers two months off of paid leave to care for newborn or adopted children; six weeks of paid leave to help sick family members; and two weeks of personal sick leave per year.

Benefits would be paid for by an increase in employer-paid payroll taxes by 0.62 percent.

The bill is a scaled-back version of legislation proposed in 2015 that would have granted 16 weeks of paid parent leave.

To become law, the bill must undergo a final council vote o Dec. 20. Then it goes to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature or veto.

 

Amerprise Financial in $128K Settlement With DOL For Underpaying Black Account Processors

Most attention is paid to women and men receiving unequal pay, but here’s a case where the differences in pay were due to race.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that Ameriprise Financial, one of the country’s leading financial companies, will pay $128,200 in back wages and interest to 20 black employees in unlicensed service professional positions, after an OFCCP compliance review found the company violated Executive Order 11246 by paying black employees who processed routine account service requests less than their similarly situated white counterparts.

The Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs conducts review of federal contractor operations.

At the time of the compliance evaluation, the company under review was known as Ameriprise Bank, FSB, which subsequently reorganized as Ameriprise National Trust Bank and is now known as Ameriprise Financial, Inc. With a nationwide network of 10,000 financial advisors, the company currently offers asset management, advisory and insurance services. The client service delivery unit provides services and transaction processing for advisors and clients. Ameriprise Financial, Inc. is based in Minneapolis.

The agency invited other possible victims of this pay discrimination to come forward and join the class. The invitation went out to class members who worked in an unlicensed service professional position between Feb. 19, 2013 and Feb. 18, 2014 at Ameriprise Financial, Inc. reporting to Minneapolis.

Transport Company Settlement With OSHA Includes Safety Improvements in 26 States

Forklift operators at freight terminals operated by Central Transport LLC will have safer working conditions as a result of a settlement announced today between the company and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The DOL announcement said that inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified a disturbing pattern of defective forklifts being used to move, handle, load and unload freight in at least 11 Central Transport LLC shipping terminals in nine states. Their use exposed employees to hazards that could cause crushing or struck-by injuries at multiple locations, including Central Transport’s Billerica terminal.

The settlement agreement commits the company to improving forklift safety at over 100 terminals in 26 states in which the company has terminals.

Under the agreement, Central Transport must hire an independent third party monitor to evaluate, update and improve the company’s existing procedures for preventive maintenance repairs, operator inspections and safe operation of powered industrial trucks.

Central Transport must also:

  • Assign a corporate internal monitor to facilitate effective implementation of the settlement agreement, conduct random, unannounced visits of at least 20 terminals and work with the third party monitor to prepare and submit reports for each terminal assessed, seek employee feedback and monitor progress.
  • Work with the third party monitor to assess and monitor compliance with the agreement and seek feedback from employees. This will include unannounced monitoring visits of at least 10 terminals by the third party monitor, including two terminals assessed by the internal monitor.
  • Submit written compliance reports to OSHA and allow OSHA to conduct monitoring inspections to measure compliance.
  • Remove any damaged, defective and unsafe powered industrial trucks from service.
  • Pay a total of $165,400 in penalties.

To read the DOL’s announcement of the settlement, click here.

Next up for OSHA: New Rules on Violence Prevention in Healthcare, Social Services?

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration signaled today that rules might be forthcoming addressing workplace violence in healthcare and social service settings.

The government’s chief workplace safety regulator signaled this intention through a Request for Information on whether to propose such standards, and the follow-up of a public meeting on the topic on Jan. 10  of next year.

According to a  recent Government Accountability Office report, the rate of workplace violence against employees providing healthcare and social assistance services is substantially higher than private industry as a whole, OSHA said

In the report, GAO also recommended that OSHA assess the need for rulemaking to address this hazard. This RFI seeks public comments on the extent and nature of workplace violence in the industry and the effectiveness and feasibility of methods used to prevent such violence.

The public meeting is intended to supplement written comments by allowing workers, employers and other stakeholders to describe their experiences with workplace violence, as well as allowing for discussion among stakeholders.

Read OSHA’s announcement here, including on registering for the Jan. 10 meeting..

Construction Safety Recommendations Unveiled

Construction jobs can be hazardous to workers’ health and safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is working to help construction contractors make their workplaces safer.

On Dec. 1, OSHA issued Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction to help industry employers develop proactive programs to keep their workplaces safe. The recommendations may be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized contractors who lack safety and health specialists on staff.

The recommended practices for a safety and health program are flexible and can be adjusted to fit small and large construction companies handling short-term or multi-year projects.

Safety and health programs encourage finding and fixing workplace hazards before they cause injuries, illnesses and deaths. Implementing these programs also helps reduce the financial difficulties these events can cause for workers, their families and their employers.

Contractors can create a safety and health program using a number of simple steps that include:

  • training workers on how to identify and control hazards;
  • inspecting the jobsite with workers to identify problems with equipment and materials; and
  • developing responses to possible emergency scenarios in advance.

“The recommendations outlined in this document will help contractors prevent injuries and illnesses on their construction sites and make their companies more profitable,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

Working with employees to implement a program can offer other benefits including improvements in production and quality; greater employee morale; improved employee recruiting and retention; and a more favorable image and reputation among customers, suppliers and the community.

These recommendations are advisory only and do not create any new legal obligations or alter existing obligations created by OSHA standards or regulations.

USDA On Hot Seat With Congress for Lazy Response to Harassment of Female Wildlife Fires

Moms and Dads may want to think twice about letting their daughters work out in the field for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Department officials received scathing criticism Thursday at a meeting of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for their response to allegations of harassment from female wildfire fighters who worked for the U.S. Forest Service.

Or, more aptly, put, nonresponse.

A firefighter who said she was repeatedly groped by a fire supervisor who was a known bully said that nobody in authority did anything about it.

After several years of allegedly harassing women the supervisor was allowed to retire with government benefits.

Another female firefighter–with 31 years of experience–said “the groping started as soon as I took the job”, at age 18, also that she had been passed over for promotions 40 times.

The federal government is supposed to be a model employer, one that the private sector looks to emulate.

Private sector employers should look elsewhere than the U.S. Forest Service for positive example-setting.

DOL Sues Bakery for Overtime Violations

Current and former employees at a Texas bakery will split the dough from any recovery the U.S. Labor Department gets for them in an overtime pay lawsuit filed yesterday.

The suit filed by the DOL names as defendants Tango Bakery Inc. – doing business as Tango Bakery – and its two owners, Adrian Gordillo-Ross and Sergio Mendoza.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants failed to pay 20 current and former employees $75,218 in overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Investigators from the division’s Dallas District Office found the Garland, Texas-based bakery failed to pay its bakers, baking helpers and front sales workers properly because they paid straight time for all hours worked and failed to pay overtime at time and one-half for hours worked over 40 in a work week. The company also failed to pay some employees for all of the hours they worked.

Additionally, on the occasion that the employer did pay overtime, they failed to include bonuses employees received for working late in the work day in the overtime rate payment made on those days. Investigators also determined the company failed to keep accurate time and pay records and falsified others, violating the FLSA’s recordkeeping requirements.

DOL is seeking $150,437 in back wages and liquidated damages for workers.

The defendants are getting it from another side also. DOL also said that it had filed an action with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges seeking $7,700 in civil money penalties assessed against the employer and its two owners for willful violations of the Act.

Here’s the announcement of the lawsuit.