Archive for May, 2015

EEOC Recovers $75K for Female Employee Fired by Nonprofit Group Under “No Pregnancy” Policy

Enforcing a “no pregnancy in the workplace” policy came at a cost to a Houston-based nonprofit, which this week was ordered by a federal judge to pay $75,000 for this violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., which provides housing and residential care to persons with disabilities, refused employment to any pregnant applicant who sought a resource technician position, including one Shamira Johnson, whom it fired from her resource technician job because she was pregnant.

United defended the firing by saying it was necessary to ensure her health and that of her unborn children and the safety of the residents, though it admitted that there was no problem with Johnson’s job performance, nor any medical restrictions on her ability to do the job.

Ruling for the EEOC, the court held that among other things, that United Bible failed to show that all or substantially all pregnant women would be unable to safely and efficiently perform the duties of a resource technician.

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the court’s ruling.

CA3: Overnight Hospital Stay Not FLMA Eligible

When does an overnight stay in a hospital not constitute “inpatient care” that would entitle the person to leave under the Family and Medical Care Act?

When the person checks in after midnight and checks out before midnight that same day.

So ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on May 22 in Bonowski v. Oberg Industries Inc.

In this case Bonowski walked off the job, and complaining of chest pains checked himself into a local hospital.

Under the FMLA a “serious health condition” includes inpatient care. However, U.S. Department of Labor regulations don’t define inpatient care very well.

In a 2 to 1 ruling, the Third Circuit held that for FMLA purposes, an overnight stay is considered impatient care only when it lasts from one calendar day to the next as measured by the individual’s time of admission and time of discharge.

And since Mr. Bonowski checked in a few minutes after midnight–and was discharged before 12 a.m. that day–he’s out of luck in being able to bring an FMLA suit.

 

Pregnancy Bias Ban Added to Florida Law

If you’re an employer in Florida, there’s no doubting now that pregnancy discrimination is illegal under the state’s Civil Rights Act.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) made it official when he signed legislation on May 21 adding pregnancy as a prohibited grounds of discrimination along with race, gender, religion, and national origin.

His action codifies in law what had been a precedent of the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in April 2014 that pregnancy bias is a form of sex discrimination under the civil rights act.

SB 982 also prohibits pregnancy discrimination in public lodging and food establishments.

Labor Department Proposes Guidance to Implement Fair Pay, Safety Executive Order

Federal contractors, take note.

The U.S. Department of Labor today issued proposed guidance on enforcement of an executive order signed last summer by President Obama requiring all government contractors to comply with fair pay and workplace safety rules.

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order requires prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts.

The guidance is intended to assist contracting agencies and the contracting community in applying the order’s requirements, including evaluating the severity of labor violations.

DOL’s announcement said that under the guidance “most federal contractors will only have to attest that they comply with laws providing basic workplace protections; for those contractors that report violations, designated Labor Compliance Advisors will coordinate with the relevant enforcement agency experts to help them come into compliance.”

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal.

Here’s the DOL announcement.

DOJ, Contractor Settle Citizenship Bias Charges

A federal subcontractor in Bethesda, Maryland, has settled U.S. Department of Justice claims that it engaged in hiring discrimination in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

According to DOL charges, the Data Entry Company on two occasions removed a U.S. citizen from its job applicant pool because she was a dual citizen.

The INA’s anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from engaging in hiring discrimination on the basis of citizenship, DOJ said.

Under the settlement agreement announced on May 8, the company will pay $7,007.75 in back pay to the charging party and will also pay a civil penalty to the United States.  The company also will undergo training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA.

To read more about the case, click here.

Honor Returning Veterans by Hiring Them

On this Memorial Day, the day set aside to remember the soldiers who have died in our country’s wars, let’s honor their memory by giving their returning comrades a fair shot at gainful employment.

Wal Mart Inc. has done just that. In 2013, the company committed to hiring 100,000 veterans nationwide by 2018. Last week, the company expanded that commitment, pledging to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020.

According to Omaha.com, the retailer hired 800 veterans over the past two years at its stores in Nebraska.

There’s more good news when it comes to hiring veterans. In a report last March, DOL Secretary Thomas Perez noted that 2014 was the 4th straight year of declining unemployment for veterans.

And here’s a prior posting I did on federal laws affecting veterans’ employment.

Religious-Freedom Bill Spat Continues in La.

As of now, companies in Louisiana that want to deny services to gays and lesbians do so at their own legal risk–at least that’s what the state’s proponents of a “religious freedom” bill would have us believe.

The legislation stalled in the state legislature this week.  Acting under his executive authority, Governor Bobby Jindal (R) issued an executive order applying the law’s protections to executive branch employees in the state government.

Meanwhile, New Orleans Mayor Landrieux signed his own order declaring his city open for business to anyone.

Jindal, who this week formed an exploratory committee ahead of a likely bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, has been wooing social and religious conservatives, so his support of the religious freedom bill is no surprise.

Louisiana does not allow same-sex marriage nor offer legal protections to gays and lesbians.

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.