Forklift Injury Sets Back Employer $164K in Fines

Had this employer provided some basic training on the use of forklifts, it could have saved alot of money.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) yesterday cited Hilti Inc.–a hardware merchant wholesaler–for exposing employees to struck-by hazards after an employee was injured while operating a forklift at a distribution center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Plano, Texas-based company faces penalties of $164,802.

OSHA inspectors determined that Hilti failed to provide forklift operator training and instructions to employees operating the vehicles, and ensure that employees performed daily forklift inspections. The company also exposed employees to corrosive materials; failed to provide eyewash stations and showers in the work area; failed to develop a written hazard communication program and data sheets for forklift battery electrolytes; and failed to notify OSHA within 24 hours of any incident that leads to an employee’s hospitalization, as required.

“Developing, implementing, and maintaining a safety and health program, and ensuring safety standards are followed can significantly reduce the chance of unfortunate incidents such as this one,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Director William Fulcher.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Valentines for Black Firefighters: $4.9M Settlement Against Fla. City in Promotions Case

Valentine’s Day this year proved sweet for a class of African-American firefighters in Jacksonville, Florida as their 7-year tussle with the city fire department over promotions came to an end.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced February 14 that it has resolved its race discrimination lawsuit against the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters, Local 122, IAFF. The EEOC’s lawsuit against the union was a companion case to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the City of Jacksonville (Case No.3-12-cv-451-J-32MCR), which alleged that the city’s promotional practices for various positions in the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition against race discrimination.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, filed April 30, 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (EEOC v. Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, Local 122, IAFF, 3:12-cv-491-J-32MCR), the union advocated for an unlawful promotional process that had a disparate impact on African-American promotional candi­dates. The EEOC said the union continued doing so after receiving an EEOC Commissioner’s discrimination charge against the union in February 2008, and after the city’s Human Rights Commission issued a report on Aug. 8, 2006 recommending changes to the JFRD promotional process.

The consent decree entered by the court resolves the claims of the DOJ and EEOC, as well as claims brought against the city and/or union by private plaintiffs the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Jacksonville Branch, and the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters. Through the decree approved by the court on Feb. 5, 2019, the city agreed that it would develop a new promotional examination for the selection of certain positions in the Fire and Rescue Department. In addition, the city will offer up to 40 settlement promotion positions for qualified African-Americans and will establish a $4.9 million settlement fund for eligible promotion candidates.

“We are pleased that the union has agreed with the city’s decision to make changes to the pro­motional process and provide relief to eligible African-American promotion candidates,” said EEOC District Director Michael Farrell. “The EEOC will continue to identify and fight promotional processes that operate as systemic barriers to employment based on legally protected characteristics.”

The EEOC’s Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa and San Juan EEOC offices, and has jurisdiction over Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Fishy Smell: Seafood Harvester Dredges Up $675K to Settle Harassment, Retaliation Lawsuit

The stench emanating from this Atlantic Coast fishery wasn’t from the catch but rather the way the company treated its women employees.

Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc. (ACF), a New Jersey-based shellfish harvester and processor, and BJ’s Service Co., Inc., a staffing agency located in New Bedford, Mass., will pay $675,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit charging sex-based harassment and retaliation filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced January 30.

According to the EEOC’s suit, women at ACF’s Fall River, Mass., facility have been subject to ongoing and egregious sex harassment since at least 2013. The sex harassment, which the EEOC alleged was perpetrated by male managers, line supervisors and co-workers, included unwanted touching, solicitations for sex, and crude comments about female workers’ bodies. Despite know­ledge of the pervasive harassment, neither ACF nor BJ’s made any efforts to stop the harassment or punish the harassers, the EEOC charged. Additionally, the two companies fired two of the women, Mirna Pacaja and Paula Carrillo, after they filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC, according to the lawsuit.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-11860) in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Sept. 27, 2017 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the four-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit, women who have worked at ACF’s Fall River facility at any time since January 2013 and who have experienced sexual harass­ment will be eligible to receive a portion of the settlement. The decree requires both employers to create and/or revise policies prohibiting sex discrimination (including harassment) and retaliation and provide related training to their managers and workers. The policies and training must be available in both English and Spanish, as most workers in ACF’s Fall River facility are Spanish speakers.

In addition, the decree requires both employers to retain, track, and investigate complaints of sex harassment and to provide copies of those complaints to the EEOC for the duration of the decree. The decree also requires that ACF employ a human resources professional who is bilingual in English and Spanish.

The consent decree resolving the case, which was approved by the court today, enjoins ACF and BJ’s from violating Title VII by allowing sex harassment of employees to occur and by retaliat­ing against any individual who has opposed practices made illegal under the statute, including oppo­sition to sexual harassment.

“Even in the era of the ‘Me Too,’ movement, many employees, especially low-wage and immigrant workers, fear bringing complaints of sex harassment forward,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Sara Smolik. “The brave four women who filed discrimination charges with the EEOC in this case alerted the agency to widespread sex harassment that was adversely affecting them and many of their female co-workers in the facility. Because they had the courage to step forward, the EEOC was able to investigate and bring this lawsuit to improve the working conditions for every­one.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein said, “The decree ensures that ACF and BJ’s comply with the law and provide crucial training and policy changes that will educate their workforce about their rights under Title VII. We are hopeful that with these changes, ACF and BJ’s will exemplify best employment practices in the seafood industry on the Massachusetts South Coast.”

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, “All employers should be aware that they have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment of their employees. Employers must also make sure that they have multiple avenues for employees to complain about harassment and that those avenues of complaint are clear and shared with all staff.”

Sara Smolik and Adela Santos were the EEOC’s lead trial attorneys for this case.

EEOC’s New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Man Up: EEOC Recovers $30K For Men Spurned for Bartender Jobs With Buffalo Wild Wings

Men can be the victims of sex discrimination, too. In this case the EEOC came to the rescue of three men who sought bartender jobs at a popular local eatery.

R Wings R Wild, LLC, doing business as Buffalo Wild Wings, will pay $30,000 to three claimants who were denied jobs in Little Rock, Ark. and Del City, Okla., because they are male, as part of the settlement of a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commis­sion (EEOC), the federal agency announced January 29.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the company refused to hire males into bartender positions at locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Sex discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-624-BRW, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits, and an injunction against future discrimination.

While denying any wrongdoing, RWRW chose to resolve this matter prior to trial. The EEOC commends RWRW for working with it to resolve this lawsuit.

In addition to the monetary payment, the company will also conduct sex discrimination training for its management employees in Little Rock and Del City locations.

“Sex discrimination happens to both males and females, and Title VII protects both genders against this illegal misconduct,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “It is equally illegal to deny a male employment because of his gender.”

Buffalo Wild Wings, an Arkansas limited-liability company and owns and operates Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Bad Bread: N.Y. Subway Franchise Owners On Hook for $80K in Sexual Harassment Settlement

The next time restaurant franchise owners meet, they should put on the agenda the appropriate treatment of their workers.

Draper Development LLC, the owner-operator of over a dozen Subway franchises in the Albany and Schenectady area, will pay $80,000 and take other steps to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced December 18.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of New York (EEOC v. Draper Development, LLC Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-877), Nick Kelly, a former general manager at Draper’s Rotterdam Square Mall location, sent text messages to two female applicants offering a job in exchange for sex, both of whom were 17 years old at the time. In one case, Kelly’s text message said, “Bang my brains out, and the job is yours.” In both cases, when the young women did not comply, they were not hired.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual harassment, including requesting sexual favors in exchange for jobs, and refusing to hire applicants who do not comply with sexual advances.  The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to paying $80,000 to the two victims, Draper will: distribute a revised policy prohibiting sexual harassment; conduct anti-harassment training for managers and employees; post a public notice about the settlement; and report all sexual harassment complaints to the EEOC.

“No teenager who is just beginning to navigate the working world should ever have to deal with unwelcome sexual advances as part of the hiring process,” said Charles F. Coleman, Jr., the EEOC lead trial attorney. “The remedial provisions of the consent decree are designed to ensure such behavior never occurs again at this restaurant.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein said, “Conditioning hiring in exchange for sexual favors, known as quid-pro-quo sexual harassment, is exactly the type of behavior that has made the deserved momentum around #MeToo continue to grow stronger. The EEOC is determined to do its part to ensure sexual harassment of this kind is eradicated from the workplace.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office has jurisdiction over and is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and northern New Jersey.  The Buffalo Local Office of the EEOC investigated this case.

Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach is a national priority identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).  To learn more about EEOC’s strategic plan and enforcement priorities, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/EEOC/plan/sep.cfm.

EEOC: Harassment Rampant at 2 Calif. Eateries

I’m beginning to think that certain eating establishments think they can look the other way on sexual harassment because the public can’t see what goes on in the back of the shop.

Carmel eateries Porta Bella and Mediterranean Restaurants, both owned by JCFB, Inc., violated federal law by permitting employees to sexually harass male and female kitchen staff, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed January 31.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a male line cook at Porta Bella Restaurant suffered repeated groping of his private parts by the kitchen manager, cook and chef.  When he reported the conduct to Porta Bella’s owners, they dismissed the inappropriate touching by the kitchen manager and cook, claiming “they only play.”  But after he reported the chef grabbing his genitals, the chef became confrontational, yelling at the line cook, hitting him twice and aggressively scrutinizing and criticizing his plating of meals.  Porta Bella’s owners sought to discipline the line cook for leaving the restaurant after he became upset by the chef’s actions, so he quit due to the unchecked and ongoing harassment and hostility.

The EEOC also found a female dishwasher employed at Mediterranean Restaurant faced daily sexual comments and physical touching by the same kitchen manager who harassed the Porta Bella line cook.  The harassment included the manager sticking his tongue in her ear, sliding his hand up her shirt to grab her breast, and offering to pay her for sex.  Although she informed another manager of the harassment, the sexual comments continued.

Such alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.  The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. JCFB, Inc., Case No. 5:19-CV-0052) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process,. The EEOC seeks money damages for the two workers and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent sexual harassment from recurring at restaurants operated by JCFB, Inc.

EEOC San Jose Local Office Director Rosa Salazar said, “Employers must protect their workers from harassment and sexual abuse, no matter whether filed by a male or female employee.  These workers notified their management, but their employer failed to take prompt, effective action as federal law requires it to do.”

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney Roberta Steele said, “This bullet point from the EEOC’s Select Task Force on Workplace Harassment checklists for employersbears repeating: ‘take reports seriously’. Advising employees to ‘just ignore’ bad behavior and dismissing harassment as mere horseplay are red flags an organization needs to re-examine its workplace culture and anti-harassment policy.”

JCFB, Inc. is a private company owned by Bashar Sneeh and Faisai Nimiri that operates three restaurants in Carmel, California: Porta Bella, Mediterranean Restaurant and Dametra Cafe.

Fraudulent Behavior: Insurance Company Underpaid Female Investigators, EEOC Alleges

Remember this maxim: You have to pay your female workers the same as your male workers for doing the same work. State agencies are no exception.

The Maryland Insurance Administration, Maryland’s agency charged with regulating the insurance industry, will pay $36,802 in monetary relief and furnish important equitable relief to settle a federal pay discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced January 28.

The EEOC charged that the Maryland Insurance Administration had paid three female fraud investigators lower salaries than it paid to several male fraud investigators, all performing equal work. According to the lawsuit, the payments were based on gender, which is a violation of the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA).

The EPA prohibits pay discrimination based on sex. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Maryland Insurance Administration, Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-01091) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $36,802 in back pay and liquidated damages to the employees, the consent decree resolving the lawsuit provides equitable relief, including prohibiting the Maryland Insurance Administration from violating the EPA in the future. The agency must create policies to require specific non-gender-based criteria for setting wages. It will also post a notice specifically outlining its obligations under this statute and report to the EEOC on how it handles any future complaints of sex-based wage discrimination.

“We are pleased that the Maryland Insurance Administration worked closely with us to resolve this case, ensuring a fair result and avoiding further litigation costs,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “This settlement protects all employees from sex-based wage discrimination going forward.”

Jamie R. Williamson, district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, added, “Compensating employees without regard to sex benefits the entire workforce, as employees are valued for their work, and not for their gender. We are pleased that the Maryland Insurance Administration cooperated with the EEOC to provide a just resolution for these employees.”