Archive for April, 2013

Goodwill Toward Men: Charity to Pay $130K on Allegations Its Hiring System Favored Women

If you start seeing more men staffing entry-level positions at Goodwill Industries of Southern California, you can credit the U.S. Department of Labor, which recently announced it has settled a complaint that the organization unfairly favors women in hiring for those jobs.

Goodwill Industries has contracts with several branches of the U.S. military and government agencies in California, which subjects it to nondiscrimination requirements under Executive Order 11246.

DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which enforces those requirements through complaint investigations and enforcement actions, “determined that Goodwill’s hiring process favored female applicants for entry-level positions as attendants at local donation centers, in part because of perceptions that women have better customer service skills. The investigation concluded that 200 qualified men were denied the opportunity to advance to the offer stage.”

Under the terms of the settlement Goodwill will pay $130,970 in back wages to the affected individuals and as openings occur will make 18 job offers to qualified men who were not previously offered positions, OFCCP said. Goodwill also has agreed to undertake extensive self-monitoring measures and training to ensure that all hiring practices fully comply with Executive Order 11246, the federal law that prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Read more from the OFCCP.

Prison Operator Settles Sexual Harassment Suit For $140,000; EEOC and Arizona Civil Rights Division Co-Litigated

When there’s employment discrimination in one part of an organization, it often seeps into other parts. A prison is no different. Unlawful conditions at one institution may be replicated at others.

A lawsuit bringing these conditions to light can be a forcing mechanism for change.

So prison operators should heed a settlement announced today between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Florida-based GEO Group in a sexual harassment lawsuit over behaviors at the company’s prison facility in Florence, Arizona. According to the EEOC, “male managers at GEO sexually harassed numerous female employees and fostered an atmosphere of sexual intimidation and harassment. The sexual harassment included serious verbal harassment and physical harassment of the female employees.”

This suit went to trial, where last Friday U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton signed a consent decree ending the litigation.

Under the terms of the decree, GEO will pay $140,000 to two victims of the harassment, and take other actions, including training its managers, to make sure that the harassment doesn’t recur.

The Arizona Civil Rights Division co-litigated the case with the EEOC.

Read more.

High Today, Gone Tomorrow: Colo. Appeals Court Says OK to Fire Employee Who Uses Pot Off-Duty

It’s legal in Colorado to smoke marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, but that doesn’t mean an emnployee can’t be fired for marijuana use, even when it’s off-duty.

The Colorado Court of Appeals last Thursday upheld an employee’s firing for testing positive for using marijuana for medicinal purposes. The court determined that there is no employment protection for medical marijuana users in the state because the drug remains barred by the federal government.

Colorado, like many states, has a statute that protects employers from taking adverse action against employees because of off-duty activities. But that didn’t help the employee avoid discharge in this case.

“While we agree that the general purpose of (the Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute) is to keep an employer’s proverbial nose out of an employee’s off-site off-hours business,” Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janice Davidson wrote in the opinion, “we can find no legislative intent to extend employment protection to those engaged in activities that violate federal law.”

Here’s the court’s ruling in full.

Settlement Nets EEOC $230,000 in Racial Harassment, Retaliation Suit Under Title VII

A Utah-based construction company will pay big time for allowing its site superintendent to run roughshod over the rights of African-American employees. The EEOC announced earlier this month that it has pried $230,000 from Holmes & Holmes Industrial Inc., whose site superintended subjected the African American employees to a string of racial epithets–which in the interests of good taste I will not repeat here.

The company’s anti-harassment policy was also deficient under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, because it required the offended employees to complain to the perpetrator without any means of going around him.

Ultimately a lose-lose proposition for the company.

Read more.

Rhode Island Poised to Become Last State in New England to Enact Same-Sex Marriage

Don’t look now, but by summer time gay couples may be flocking to New England to get marriage licenses. If, as expected, Rhode Island follows through on allowing same-sex marriage, companies in the region will find it easier to administer same-sex benefits across state lines.

This morning came the news that the Rhode Island senate passed a same-sex marriage bill yesterday. The bill had already passed the state house, and the senate was considered the tougher of the two chambers when it came to this issue.

Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, is expected to sign the bill when it arrives on his desk, which is expected to happen next week. The law is expected to take effect August 1.

Until now, Rhode Island, a heavily Catholic state, was the last holdout in the New England region to approve same-sex marriage.

But starting this summer, if all goes according to plan, Massachusettws, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire all will allow same-sex couples to marry.

Four other non-New England states (Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, and Iowa) plus the District of Columbia also allow same-sexc marriage.

Staffing Agency Retaliated Against Recruit, EEOC Suit Alleges

It’s no less retaliation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for a recruitment agency to refuse to send someone out on assignment because he or she has filed an employment discrimination against it than it would be for the company where the person is assigned to do so.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made that point clear yesterday when it announced it has filed a Title VII lawsuit agianst Hire Dynamics, a major staffing and professional recruitment agency headquartered in Duluth, Georgia. According to the commission’s suit, Hire withheld job assignments from a qualify auditor whom it had orginally assigned to one of the agency’s clients.

However, the EEOC charged, after the auditor was suspended for one week, following which he sued Hire for employment discrimination. Hire gave him no further work opportunities or assignments. The EEOC says that retaliation was the reason.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding. But still let this be a reminder to staffing agencies that the EEOC has them within its sites.

“When an employee files a discrimination charge with the EEOC, an employer has no right to punish him for exercising his rights,” said EEOC District Director Bernice Williams Kimbrough. “In today’s employment climate, the importance of protecting workers who utilize the charge filing process is greater than ever.”

HR, often the first line of defense for employers in these matters, should also note that preventing retaliation is one of EEOC’s six national priorities identified by its Strategic Enforcement Plan.

Read more.