EEOC Recovers $100K From Ruby Tuesday in Settlement of “Men Need Not Apply” Case

Restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday has come to its senses and agreed to settle a Title VII lawsuit claiming it refused to hire men to work as servers in the busy resort town of Park City, Utah in the summer of 2013.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Ruby Tuesday posted an internal announcement within a nine-state region for temporary summer positions with company-provided housing and the chance for greater earnings (Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, and Utah). However, the announcement stated that only females would be considered, purportedly because of concerns about housing employees of both genders together. Ruby Tuesday only selected women for those summer jobs, therefore blocking two male employees from transferring to the resort, the EEOC charged.

Yesterday the EEOC announced that the company agreed to pay the two male employees $100,000 to settle the lawsuit.

Read the EEOC’s announcement here.

And here’s my write up of the suit filed last January.

Company Settles EEOC Racial Harassment Suit Over Incidents at Restaurant That It Operated

The behavior of two senior officials for an Arkansas consulting company at one of the restaurants under their operations landed the company in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission–and has now led the company to settle the lawsuit that those officials’ behavior triggered.

According to the EEOC, when these officials from H2H Enterprises visited one of their restaurants in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, they subjected a black employee to offensive and unwelcome racially derogatory name-calling.  Their use of racially derogatory slurs was witnessed by other employees, the EEOC alleged. When the employee complained about the name calling, H2H failed to take any action or address the complaint, the EEOC said.

And that prompted the EEOC to sue the company for racial harassment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The company agreed to settle the EEOC’s lawsuit for $15,000 and to take other actions to prevent such misbehavior from occurring again, including training its workforce on racial harassment.

The alleged Title VII violation took place at Huddle House #60, one of three restaurants owned by H2H Enterprises Inc. and a franchise partner of Huddle House Inc.

Read more about the settlement.

Safety Regulators Publish Toolkit on Protecting Hospital Workers From Respiratory Hazards

Hospitals don’t have to go it alone in trying to keep their employees safe from the risks presented by their exposure to respiratory hazards and airborne transmissible infectious diseases.

Last week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a manual to help hospitals and other health care employers meet their obligation under federal law to protect their worker from these hazards.

The Hospital Respiratory Protection Toolkit izcovers respirator use, existing public health guidance on respirator use during exposure to infectious diseases, hazard assessment, the development of a hospital respiratory protection program, and additional resources and references on hospital respiratory protection programs. Appendix D is an editable document that each hospital can customize to meet its specific needs.

To supplement the toolkit, The Joint Commission, an accrediting body for more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the United States, developed an educational monograph, Implementing Hospital Respiratory Protection Programs: Strategies from the Field, to assist hospitals in implementing respiratory protection programs.

Here’s OSHA’s announcement of the toolkit’s release.

Wyoming Company Charged in Equal Pay Suit

Female accounting clerks in 12 states were illegally underpaid in comparison to their male counterpart for doing substantially similar work in similar working conditions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged yesterday in a lawsuit against True Oil, LLC, a company headquartered in Casper, Wyoming.

The commission filed the Equal Pay Act lawsuit against True Oil and 9 associated companies, though the commission’s announcement didn’t specify which states the companies operate in.

“Enforcing the Equal Pay Act and closing the pay gap is a priority for the EEOC,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill.  “By enforcing the EPA, the EEOC ensures that women will be paid an equal and fair wage.  Unfortunately, Wyoming has the largest pay disparity between men and women in the country according to a 2014 report by the American Association of University Women.”

Read more about the lawsuit.

Employer to Pay $10K to Settle Title VII Pregnancy Harassment Suit Filed by EEOC

Did personnel at ACR Mechanical Inc. harass a pregnant employee, then fire her from her job, as the EEOC alleges? Or was it just simpler to settle the case without contesting the commission’s allegations in court?

We may never know the answer to those questions, but what we do know is that the Las Vegas-based refrigerator services contractor agreed to pay $10,000 to settle the case brought on behalf of a former female dispatcher.

The EEOC’s announcement of last Friday’s settlement is light on details, though it appears that management was deficient in harassment training and internal reporting procedures, both of which will be special areas of focus under the court-supervised settlement.

The bottom line: Pregnancy-based harassment is just as illegal as any other harassment against a protected class under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. So be sure to have policies in place that make it clear such behavior will not be tolerated and make sure you have procedures in place for  alleged victims to complaint.

Read more about the lawsuit and settlement here.

Facebook Photo Prompts Firing

This “vet of the year” award winner went too far online–and as a result she lost his job. Our resident blogger Robin Paggi explores the legalities of the employer’s action.

Facebook Photo Prompts Firing

The latest Facebook post that got an employee fired was a picture of the employee holding a cat with an arrow through its head along with these words: “My first bow kill lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s (sic) head! Vet of the year award…gladly accepted.”

Vet of the year award? What’s that about? Turns out the employee was a veterinarian who worked for The Washington Animal Clinic in Brenham, Texas. The vet’s post went on to say: “And no I did not lose my job. Psshh. Like someone would get rid of me. I’m awesome.” Except that after the post went viral and, according to a story on http://www.kbtx.com, the animal clinic received over 500 phone calls in one day about it, she was gotten rid of.

Was it legal for the clinic to fire her? Yes, for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is because a post like this one is not protected. Many employers are aware that Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ Facebook posts when they discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. Because such discussions are considered to be “protected concerted activity,” employers may not discipline employees for them. Therefore, it is generally illegal to fire employees when they post things like “I’m overworked and underpaid,” or “my boss is an idiot,” or that type of thing.

However, many people have come to believe that employers may not fire employees for any of their Facebook posts. Not true. The farther a post strays from talking about the terms and conditions of employment, the less likely it is protected. Thus, bragging about killing a cat – not protected. (Regardless, consult an attorney before firing for Facebook posts).

The second reason is because the vet presented a conflict of interest for her employer. It is generally illegal for employers to discipline employees for conduct that occurs during nonworking hours away from the workplace. One exception to that is if the nature of the conduct disrupts the employer’s operations. For example, having to answer 500 phone calls, or to lose business because of the employee’s actions.

As Dr. Bruce Buenger, a representative of the clinic, said, “Our goal now is to go on and try to fix our black eye and hope that people are reasonable and understand that those actions don’t anyway portray what we’re for here at Washington Animal Clinic. We put our heart and soul into this place.” (Again, consult an attorney before firing).

Despite the controversy, the vet still has some supporters, such as one who said, “She’s amazing. She’s caring. She’s a good vet, so maybe her bad choice of posting something on Facebook was not good. But I don’t think she should be judged for it.”

Oh, but she is being judged for it. Especially because an animal rescue group has since determined that the cat that the vet killed was not feral after all, but was owned by an elderly couple.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

Robin last wrote for us on making it OK for employees to ask for your help and before that on working in Family-Run Businesses. Before that she wrote on There’s More to Motivating Than Money;  Love at Work: How Should Employers Respond, and prior to that about lessons for employers in the Brian Williams matter.  Prior to that she wrote about giving employees a second chance. Before that she wrote about making sure the applicant is a good fit for the job and before that about  cure for inappropriate behavior at work. Before that she wrote about cyberloafing, on business lessons from a Christmas story and before that about cell phone policies at work. She has also written for us on rules for holiday parties at work and before that about preventing workplace bullying.

Breathing Easier: Fired Asthmatic Employee to Get $58K in Settlement of EEOC’s ADA Lawsuit

Don’t ever rule out allowing an employee to work at home as a reasonable accommodation for a disability, especially a disability that is exacerbated by the office environment. Otherwise, you’re liable to find your company on the wrong end of an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced yesterday that it had come to terms with Baker Concrete, a construction company in Houston, Texas, which it sued under the ADA for its treatment of terminated payroll manager Maria Castilla.

According to the EEOC, Baker Concrete terminated Castillo in 2013 because of her disability, asthma, when the company refused to provide her with a reasonable accommodation of working at home for a period after she had a bad reaction to chemical dust in the workplace. After Castillo, a nine-year employee of the company, was denied a reasonable accommodation, she was fired by two human resource officials, who told her that she was disabled, could no longer perform her job, and would just become ill again if they gave her permission to work at home for a period because the building was old and she would continue to have breathing problems upon her return, the EEOC said.

To settle the lawsuit, Baker Concrete agreed to ay $58,000, implement  EEOC-monitored training at its facility on employment discrimination law, including the ADA, and implement an ADA policy which includes permitting telework as a reasonable accommodation in appropriate circumstances.

All Ms Castillo wanted was to continue to do her job at home for a while because of her asthma flare-up due to dust in the office,” said EEOC’s Houston District Office Regional Attorney Jim Sacher. “As Congress had wanted, this resolution will enable employees and the company to fairly consider a broader range of options to accommodate disabled workers.”

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

 

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