Archive for April, 2016

Milking It: EEOC Sues Manufacturer for Repeatedly Not Promoting Qualified Woman

A milk manufacturer in Michigan is about to get a taste of what it looks like to face the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a sex discrimination case.

The EEOC filed suit today under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act against Country Fresh, a Grand Rapids-based milk and juice manufacturer, alleging it discriminated against a female employee by repeatedly denying her a promotion to various supervisor jobs.  The employee, who worked at the company’s Livonia, Mich., plant, worked in various production jobs throughout the plant, had decades of experience, and was repeatedly bypassed for promotions while male employees were selected for the jobs she sought, EEOC said.

“Failing to promote a qualified female employee because of her sex violates federal law and is completely unacceptable,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Nedra Campbell.

Read more about the lawsuit.

EEOC: Arbitrary Deadline to Request Exemption From Flu Vaccine Requirement Violates Title VII

A hospital’s setting of an arbitrary deadline for employees to request a religious exemption from a flu vaccination requirement has gotten it in trouble with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC announced today that it is suing Mission Hospital, Inc., a North Carolina corporation based in Asheville, claiming it violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it failed to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and fired them because of their religions.

According to EEOC’s complaint, Mission Hospital requires employees to receive a flu vaccination annually by no later than December. An employee may request an exemption to the vaccination requirement based on religious beliefs. However, the hospital requires that the request be made by Sept. 1, or it is subject to being denied.

EEOC said that employees Christine Bolella, Melody Mitchell, Titus Robinson, and other employees requested religious exemptions to the vaccination requirement, because of their various sincerely held religious beliefs, after the deadline, and were denied. Mission Hospital subsequently fired them. At least one employee was also suspended without pay prior to her termination, the EEOC charged.

“An arbitrary deadline does not protect an employer from its obligation to provide a religious accommodation,” said  Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.  An employer must consider, at the time it receives a request for a religious accommodation, whether the request can be granted without undue burden. This case demonstrates EEOC’s commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”

Read more about the EEOC’s lawsuit here.

DOJ Reminder on Paying Employment Taxes

If you employ other people, don’t forget to collect and pay taxes withheld from employees’ wages to the Internal Revenue Service.

That message brought to you today by the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued the reminder ahead of the April 30 deadline for first quarterly tax returns.

Employers in the United States are required to collect, account for, and pay over to the IRS tax withheld from employee wages, including federal income tax and taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), including old-age, survivors, and disability insurance taxes, also known as social security taxes, and the hospital insurance tax, also known as Medicare taxes. Employers also have an independent responsibility to pay their matching portion of social security and Medicare taxes.

Willful failure to pay over employment taxes is a crime punishable by imprisonment, monetary fines and restitution.

DOJ said it had recently prosecuted employers for these tax-withholding-related crimes:

  • using employment taxes for personal reasons;
  • using employment taxes to pay other creditors;
  • paying employees in cash to avoid employment taxes;
  • filing false employment tax returns.

Read more about this parade of horribles and penalties you could face for not paying employment tax.


$27K Settlement in Same-Sex Harassment Suit

A reminder in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit that same-sex harassment is as potentially costly as when an employee hits on a co-worker of the opposite sex.

The EEOC announced today that a restaurant in California has agreed to pay $27,500 to settle a lawsuit alleging same-sex sexual harassment.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Salum Revilla Enterprises, L.L.C., doing business as Achiote Restaurant, subjected young, male Mexican-American workers, aged 19-21, to sexual harassment, and retaliated against one of them after he complained. The harasser, a 24-year-old male, secretly videotaped younger male co-workers using the men’s bathroom, EEOC charged.

Further, EEOC said, Mario Campos, a harassment victim who complained, was subjected to unlawful retaliation when he was demoted to busing tables from a server position, his work hours were reduced, was given an unfavorable work schedule, and issued excessive and unwarranted discipline.

Read more about the lawsuit and settlement here.

New DOL Rule Guarantees Coal Miners’ Access to Latest Health Data Even If Not Put In Evidence

This was a good day for coal miners pursuing claims for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act.

Under a new U.S. Department of Labor regulation issued today, mining companies must share their latest information on miners’ health with the miners.

All parties must exchange any medical information that they develop in connection with a claim, even if they do not intend to submit the information into evidence. Previously, parties generally kept any medical information that they did not submit into evidence confidential.

Parties who fail to share any medical data they develop about the miner are subject to sanctions. Additionally, the final rule reinforces coal mine companies’ obligations to pay benefits under existing orders while the modification proceedings to challenge orders are underway.

The rule allows coal companies one year from the last payment of benefits to seek reconsideration of an effective order awarding disability or survivor’s benefits. Although they are legally obligated to pay benefits while challenging these awards, coal companies commonly refuse to do so. The final rule requires the operator to pay before they can challenge the award through the act’s modification procedures.

The Federal Register published the Final Rule today, April 25, 2016, and it is available at:

OSHA Issues Food Law Retaliation Rules

Food service workers and their employers now know the rules of the game for the government’s handling of retaliation complaints.

Last Monday the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published a final rule establishing procedures for handling retaliation complaints under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. The final rule also explains the burdens of proof, remedies and statute of limitations similar to other whistleblower protection statutes that OSHA administers.

The new regulations enforce Section 402 of FSMA, signed into law January 2011, which protects employees who disclose information about a possible violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act from retaliation by employers that manufacture, process, pack, transport, distribute, receive, hold or import food.

This law is one of 22 that OSHA has responsibility for enforcement of the prohibition against retaliation against workers who report violations of the law.

The agency last issued a set of rules on retaliation complaints under the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010.

PostScript: This blog post was cited by attorney Jon Hyman in his weekly wrap up on the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog.

San Antonio Enacts “Ban the Box” Law

Job applicants in San Antonio, Texas, will no longer have to fill out the box on the application indicating whether they’ve ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. The city council became the first city in the deep South to pass “ban the box” legislation last month.

Under the law, employers won’t be able to delve into the question until after a condition offer of employment.

The law applies to any business with 15 or more employees. The ban applies to criminal history questions for many types of “employment,” including temporary and seasonal work, contract and contingent employment, work through a temporary or other employment agency, and participation in a vocational, apprenticeship, or educational training program

San Antonio joins 100 U.S. cities and 19 states that have adopted laws delaying criminal background checks until later in the hiring process.

EEOC: Halliburton Broke Mediation Agreement

Why would a major oil and gas company stiff the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after signing an agreement to settle a discrimination charge?

That’s what a federal district court will try to find out when it hears the EEOC’s lawsuit against Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. and Boots & Coots, LLC, an oil and gas exploration services company with headquarters in Houston.

According to the EEOC, the mediation agreement obligates Halliburton to hire a disabled job applicant subject to successful employment screening. But even though the applicant has complied with the terms of the settlement, the company has not hired him for any position, the suit alleges.

So the company violated the mediation agreement as well as Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the commission claims.

EEOC and Halliburton entered into the agreement in 2014.

Read more about this development here.

U.S. Lagging in Paid Parental Leave

The United States shares this distinction with Oman and Papua New Guinea. None of these countries guarantees paid parental leave to its workers.

That and other interesting information is contained in an infographic sent to me by Priscilla Brown, who is  content coordinator of

The infographic is entitled An Approved Absence: A Look at Paid Parental Leave.

Among other interesting tidbits:

  • 12 percent of adults in the U.S. have access to paid parental leave;
  • two in five women do not qualify for FMLA leave, because they haven’t worked at least 1,250 hours a year for an employer with 50 or more employees; and
  • Great Britain and Iceland have the most generous paid maternity and paternity leave programs, respectively.

Read the infographic here.


EEOC Issues New Digest of EEO Law, Including Employee/Independent Contractor Distinction

The employee versus independent contractor distinction is of interest to persons who perform work for the federal government just as in the private sector.

And so a new article on the topic contained in EEOC’s new digest of law will be of interest to those workers and the agencies that use their services.

The latest edition of its federal sector Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law is available online

The EEO Digest, a quarterly publication prepared by OFO, features a wide variety of recent Commission decisions and federal court cases of interest. The Digest also includes hyperlinks so that stakeholders can easily access the full decisions which have been summarized.

For more on other subjects discussed in the digest, see EEOC’s announcement about the new digest.