$7M in Grants for Displaced Ky. Coal Miners

The DOL announced yesterday $7 million in grants for the Bluegrass State’s laid off and displaced coal miners. $4 million of that is to assist workers hurt by layoffs by three eastern Kentucky coal mining operators.

The other $3 million is to help workers affected by layoffs by businesses affected by the decline of the coal industry in Kentucky.

Did Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul pull strings to help free up this money? It’s perfectly understandable if they did. They want what is best for their workers. I would hope they would apply that same generosity of spirit for other workers suffering job loss or dislocation.

Employer Out $110K in Settlement With EEOC Over Mistreatment of Muslim Afghan Woman

An employer that allegedly discriminated against a Muslim Afghan female employee and then retaliated against her when she complained agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a Title VII lawsuit brought on her behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the commission announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC. KASCO, LLC, a St. Louis company which manufactures and sells butcher supplies and meat processing equipment, discriminated Latifa Sidiqi, because of her adherence to Islam and her Afghan descent, and then firing her for complaining about it. When Sidiqi was written up for a job performance issue–wan admonition she thought unjustified–during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, she submitted a written rebuttal to human resources, pursuant to company policy. In that rebuttal, she wrote that the write-up had “everything to do with [her] coming from a Muslim background.”

Within three weeks of this rebuttal, Sidiqi was terminated for allegedly “falsifying time records.” Sidiqi claimed, and the EEOC agreed, that this “time record” issue was pretextual, since other employees used “flex time” in the same manner Sidiqi did, but only she was fired for it.

“Employers need to ensure that their policies and practices, like the federal laws they must follow, not only protect employees from discrimination, but also protect them against retaliation when they complain,” said James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office.

Staffing Agency Settles Title VII Suit Over Termination of Male Ultrasound Technician

No reason a man can’t be employed as an ultrasound technician. Stereotyping a man as incapable of doing that job can get an employer in trouble under employment discrimination laws.

So take note any employer out there that thinks that are some jobs men shouldn’t do.

One such employer, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was Nevada Health Centers, which it sued last year along with an agency that placed a male technician at its facilities.

According to the EEOC, from 2010 to 2013, Nevada Health Centers and Ultracare Las Vegas had a service contract whereby Ultracare agreed to provide Nevada Health Centers with ultrasound technicians. In November 2012, Ultracare hired David Matlock as an ultrasound technician and placed him at Nevada Health Centers.

Within weeks of his placement, Nevada Health Centers asked Ultracare to remove Matlock from the assignment. Ultracare promptly accommodated Nevada Health Center’s request, terminating Matlock’s work assignment during the first week of January 2013.

The EEOC announced today that Ultracare agreed to settle this sex discrimination lawsuit for $15,000. The lawsuit against Nevada Health Centers continues.

“Sex-role stereotypes deprive qualified individuals from equal employment opportunities,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Las Vegas in its jurisdiction. “Customer preference is not a defense for discrimination. Placement companies must comply with the law even when a client openly expresses an illegal gender preference.”


EEOC Sues Company for Not Accommodating Truck Driver Who Refused to Work on Sabbaths

A South Carolina company is taking heat from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for terminating a driver who refused to work on his Sabbath.

The EEOC said it filed suit yesterday against  J.C. Witherspoon Jr. Inc., for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in its treatment of  Leroy Lawson, a Hebrew Pentecostal for approx­imately 35 years. As a Hebrew Pentecostal, he holds the sincere religious belief that he must not engage in labor during the Biblical Sabbath, which, in Lawson’s faith, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

According to the EEOC,  in March 2012, Lawson was hired as a truck driver at the company’s Alcolu facility. During a pre-hire interview, Lawson informed the truck supervisor and foreman that he observes the Sabbath on Saturdays, and would need an accommodation of not working on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.  In or around April 2012, just weeks after Lawson’s hire, all drivers were required to work on a Saturday, the EEOC said. Although Lawson worked that day, at the end of the day Lawson told the foreman he would not work on a Saturday, his Sabbath, ever again because of his religious beliefs.  The company did not require Lawson to work on a Saturday again until around Dec. 27, 2013.

On December 27, 2013, Lawson was notified that he would have to work the next day, a Saturday.  Lawson refused.  The EEOC alleges that when the Owner of the company learned that Lawson refused to work on Saturdays, the Owner instructed the Foreman to terminate Lawson’s employment.  The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

“Under federal law, employers have an obligation to endeavor to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of the company,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.

Sewing Company in Massachusetts to Pay $890K to Settle Wage Claims Filed Against it by US DOL

It’s going to take government action to stand up for the common man or woman. So thank goodness for the U.S. Department of Labor, which just brought an action to make sure that employees at a Massachusetts sewing company got their fair wages.

The DOL announced on March 10 that it had reached an agreement with UnWrapped, Inc.,  allowing employees of the Massachusetts sewing factory to recover $890,021 in back wages and liquidated damages to resolve past violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

UnWrapped failed to pay proper overtime rates to 327 piece rate and hourly workers between April 2014 and April 2016, and failed to keep accurate records, Wage and Hour Division investigators found.

Who knows? You might be sleeping on an Unwrapped-sewn product tonight., UnWrapped is a Lowell, Mass., company that produces products, such as mattress covers, pillows, tote bags and custom items, under contract

The division’s investigation was part of a joint enforcement effort with the Fair Labor Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. The state’s investigation identified alleged violations of Massachusetts law involving failure to pay minimum wage, failure to provide earned sick time and retaliation against two workers who cooperated with the investigation, for which the company will pay $293,170.

Under the terms of the Wage and Hour Division agreement, UnWrapped will complete payment of back wages and damages to the workers by no later than March 15, 2017, and will submit proof of payment to the division. The company has paid a civil money penalty of $8,350 for a child labor violation and also agreed to refrain from retaliation against any employees for filing a complaint or testifying in a matter related to the FLSA.

EEOC Goes Digital With Online Inquiry and Appointment Systems in Five U.S. Cities

Residents of five cities across the United States can now go online and inquire and schedule appointments with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about their particular situations.

Initial inquiries often lead to the filing of formal charges with the agency–in nearly half of all cases.

The EEOC receives about 200,000 inquiries per year through the mail, in person, and by phone. About 90,000 of those inquiries become formal charges of discrimination filed with the agency, making the charge-filing process the agency’s most common interaction with the public. This new online system is part of the EEOC’s ACT Digital initiative to improve service to the public, streamline the administrative process, and reduce the use of paper submissions and files.

The EEOC launched the new Online Inquiry and Appointment System on March 13 in the following five offices: Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix and Seattle.

People living or working within 100 miles of these EEOC offices will be able to use the online system to submit an inquiry and schedule an intake interview. Individuals can access the Online Inquiry and Appointment System at https://publicportal.eeoc.gov/Portal/ or from EEOC’s website at https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/online_inquiry.cfm. The agency plans to evaluate the public’s experience with the new system in these five offices prior to a nationwide rollout later this fiscal year.

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement on this development.

Disney Pays $3.8M to End DOL’s Case Over Deduction of Workers Costumes From Pay

The Walt Disney Company does its best to project a wholesome image at its theme parks and resorts. But like any company sometimes this behemoth slips up and doesn’t comply with labor laws.

An agreement the company reached with the Labor Department, announced today, puts a stop to the company’s practice of deducting a uniform or “costume” expense, causing some employees’ hourly rates to fall below the federal minimum wage, the division said. The resorts also did not compensate employees performing duties during a pre-shift period before the designated start of their shifts, and during a post-shift period, the DOL alleged. Additionally, the resorts failed to maintain required time and payroll records.

Under the agreement, back wages will be paid to 16,339 employees of the Disney Vacation Club Management Corp. and the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts U.S. Inc., both in Florida.

Here’s DOL’s announcement of the settlement.