Archive for July, 2016

Pay Gap Still Present in Media Jobs

The pay gap between men and women in the news media business has narrowed in the last quarter century but not gone away.

That’s the finding of recent analyses conducted by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.

The analyses centered on pay practices at Dow Jones, The New York Times and Philadelphia’s daily newspapers.

Through the end of 2015, women were being paid 86.8 percent of the salaries of male colleagues. Minorities at those companies also are making on average less than white men in comparable jobs or with similar experience.

Workers covered by union-negotiated contracts are paid equally based on years of experience. Managers, however, decide where new workers will fall on the scale. Employers also have the option of paying more than the minimum salaries the scales set. That’s where much of the pa disparity is found.

OSHA Issues Interim Guidance on Protecting Workers From Occupational Exposure to Zika

As the Olympic Games in Rio set to begin next week, concern is rightly over whether female athletes and spectators risk exposure to the Zika virus with potential harmful effects to pregnancy.

Here in the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is stepping up efforts to protect workers from on-the-job exposure to the virus.

Workers who are exposed on the job to mosquitoes or the blood or other body fluids of infected individuals may be at risk for occupationally acquired Zika virus infection, the OSHA announcement said.

To inform workers and employers on the hazards involved, OSHA issued two pieces of interim guidance: a Zika virus protection for outdoor workers OSHA Quick Card, and Interim Guidance for Protecting Workers from Occupational Exposure to Zika Virus OSHA-NIOSH Fact Sheet (Publication 3855), (2016).

This blog post was featured in the Aug. 5 weekly wrap-up in the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog.


Retailers Fined $103K for Safety Violations

Retail stores like to tout a pleasurable shopping experience for customers, but the same can’t always be said for the safety practices affecting their workers.

Macy’s and The Finish Line, which rents space in Macy’s stores were cited last week for safety violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA said that the citations were for blocked exits, obstructed access to electrical disconnect panels and using flexible cords instead of permanent wiring.

The violations were found in inspections of 42 stores since 2007, OSHA said.

The Finish Line, an athletic footwear, apparel and accessories retailer that rents space in Macy’s stores, was cited for 14 safety and health violations.

The retailers combined face $103,222 in penalties.

Here’s OSHA’s announcement of the citations against the retailers.

Contractors Docked $1M for Not Paying Prevailing Wage to U.S. Senate Cafeteria Workers

Contractors providing services to the Congress have to obey prevailing wage laws just like any other federal contractor. When they violate the law, they should expect to pay a heavy price to set things right.

The latest contractors to learn that lesson are two companies that prepare and serve meals for Capitol Hill lawmakers and their staffs in the U.S. Senate cafeteria.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Restaurant Associates and its subcontractor, Personnel Plus, will pay 674 workers $1,008,302 in back wage for violations of the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act.

DOL said its investigation revealed that the companies improperly classified workers– paying them for lower-paying jobs than they actually performed–and required employees to work prior to their scheduled starting times without compensation. Paying below the required rates also caused the companies to fail to pay the workers overtime at the proper rates, DOL said.

Investigators found that Restaurant Associates’ failure to pay workers proper overtime and failure to maintain a record of hours employees worked prior to their scheduled shifts also violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The SCA applies to every contract valued in excess of $2,500 entered into by the U.S. Government or the District of Columbia, the principal purpose of which is to furnish services in the U.S. using service employees. Contractors and subcontractors performing on covered service contracts must observe minimum wage and safety, health and welfare benefits and maintain certain records.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.

Here’s DOL’s Tuesday announcement of the investigation findings and monetary award.


EEOC Sues Oilfield Services Company for Denying Job to Diabetic Deemed “Fragile”

An employer can’t deny employment to an applicant based on a generalization that his medical condition makes him unsuitable for the job. Instead, the Americans With Disabilities Act mandates a fact-intensive assessment to determine if the applicant is qualified for the work.

Because it allegedly didn’t make that assessment, but instead relied on a generalization, Oilfield Instrumentation USA Inc. is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for violating the ADA.

The EEOC is accusing the company, which services oilfields, of violating the rights of an applicant with Type I insulin-dependent diabetes by rescinding a job offer to him on the basis that his condition made him “fragile” and not employable in the job.

This even after the doctor to whom the company sent the applicant for a physical examined him and  determined that he was in “good physical shape” and that his diabetes was “well-controlled.”

And after the applicant assured the doctor that he was on an insulin pump, that he had two years of previous experience working offshore as a diabetic, without incident, and that he took necessary precautions to ensure his safety.

According to the EEOC, Oilfield Instrumentation did not base its decision to withdraw the job offer on the type of fact-intensive assessment mandated by the ADA. Rather, the company simply revoked the offer on the basis of a sweeping determination that Type I insulin-dependent diabetics could not work offshore, regardless of whether the particular diabetic employee could perform the essential functions of his job.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

And here’s a primer from the EEOC on the do’s and dont’s of disability discrimination.

Brokerage Firm in Court Opposite EEOC Over Taking Back Job Offer From Pregnant Applicant

A brokerage company that rescinded a job offer to a pregnant job applicant after she inquired about maternity benefits has been sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

According to the EEOC, Brown & Brown, a Daytona Beach-based insurance brokerage firm extended a job offer to the applicant with two proposed starting dates. Upon receipt of the offer letter, the applicant emailed the department leader, affirming her interest and seeking to ask a few questions regarding the offer. About two hours later, the applicant spoke with the department leader’s assistant and inquired about maternity benefits because she was pregnant. The assistant immediately advised the department leader of the applicant’s pregnancy and, minutes later, the applicant received an email rescinding the job offer because, according to Brown & Brown, it “had a very urgent need to have somebody in the position long term …We appreciate you telling us beforehand.”

The bottom line: “Pregnant women have the right to seek jobs and not be denied employment because they are pregnant,” said Robert Weisberg, EEOC’s Miami regional attorney.

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

$1.4M Settlement in EEOC Lawsuit Alleging Harassment, Retaliation by California Farm

Farms provide the food we put on our table each day, but it is sometimes at a frightening cost to the men and women who work for them.

Consider the behavior that occurred at Fresno, California-based Z Foods, a processor of dried fruits.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Z Foods allowed male supervisors to sexually harass a class of female employees and fired male and female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment.

That’s right. Both men and women complained about the behavior.

As part of a settlement of the case, Z Foods agreed to pay $1.47 million to the harassment victims.

The court found that two supervisors for the Madera, Calif.-based company subjected multiple female farmworkers to ongoing sexual harassment. The sexual harassment took the form of conditioning promotions and employment on sexual favors, continuous sexual advances, stalking female employees and unwanted physical touching and leering.

Male employees who witnessed the egregious harassment complained about the abuse alongside their female employees. These employees were retaliated against and discharged soon after their complaint.

Three cheers for the men who spoke up against this outrageous behavior.

“EEOC continues to see sexual harassment and retaliation in the agricultural industry,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District. “The solidarity that male employees displayed here in supporting and speaking up along with their female co-workers about the severe harassment is a critical component of remedying the pervasive problem of sexual harassment. The court’s findings vindicate the courage it took for these workers to stand up and demand a workplace free of sexual harassment.

For my prior posts on sexual harassment cases against agricultural employers, click here. Also here and here.

EEOC Issues Fact Sheet on Religious Bias; Younger Workers Are The Target Audience

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wants to make sure young workers understand their rights and responsibilities under federal laws prohibiting religious discrimination.

So today it put out a one-page fact sheet intended to do just that.

The document, titled “Religion and Your Job Rights,” starts off with some examples of scenarios that young workers might face at their workplace, than provides information on how to file a complaint along with other factors to “keep in mind” when faced with issues of religion.

The fact sheet is available at EEOC’s Youth@Work website, which presents information for teens and other young workers about employment discrimination.

The EEOC also announced it will change the collection of demographic data from individuals who file charges with the agency. These changes will allow EEOC to collect more precise data about the religion of the individual alleging discrimination – allowing the agency, as well as the public, to recognize and respond to trends in charge data.

The EEOC received 3,502 charges of religious discrimination in 2015.

Here’s the fact sheet.

OSHA Pleads Case for Poultry Industry Workers

If you eat chicken-or even if you don’t–attention must be paid to the plight of poultry workers in our economy.

OSHA head Dr. David Michaels took to the Internet today to plead the case of poultry industry workers and to remind employers of these workers’ rights.

The beginning of his essay is bleak enough: “For some workers, a simple trip to the bathroom could result in the loss of a job,” he writes.

According to Michaels, some poultry industry workers are  disciplined for taking bathroom breaks and have taken to wearing diapers or limiting their liquid intake so they don’t have to leave the production line and take those breaks.

“No one should have to work under these conditions. All workers have a right to a safe workplace, and that includes access to readily available sanitary restroom facilities on the job,” writes Michaels.

This treatment violates federal safety standards, which “require[s] employers to provide , all workers with sanitary restrooms and prompt access to the facilities when needed,” he says.

OSHA has found workers exposed to serious hazards in poultry processing plants, including exposure to dangerous chemicals and biological hazards, high noise levels,unsafe equipment, and slippery floors.

Poultry workers are twice as likely to suffer serious injuries on the job as other private industry workers and almost seven times more likely to contract a work-related illness. They are also at particularly high risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders from the repetitive motions they perform on the job, with workers twice as likely to have a severe wrist injury and seven times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than the average U.S. worker.

I hope that Michaels’ pleas on behalf of these workers, who put so much of our food on our plate, will not go unheard by their employers and the public.

Read his entire blog post here.

My blog post on this was featured in the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog weekly roundup on July 29.

Feds: 99% Compliance With Coal Dust Rule

I remember the phrase “get the lead out” in reference to refining cleaner gasoline. When it comes to coal mines, the mantra now should be “get the dust out”–and hopefully that means fewer respiratory ailments for the nation’s miners.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration reported earlier this week that approximately 99 percent of the respirable coal mine dust samples collected from April 1, 2016, through June 30, 2016, were in compliance with the agency’s coal mine dust standards.

In 2014, the department published a final rule  that closed many loopholes in the dust-sampling program that had left miners exposed to the unhealthy dust. The landmark rule also included requirements for more frequent sampling of the mine air and use of a new sampling device and other reforms.

For the recent sampling, the agency analyzed more than 20,000 underground coal mine operator samples using the new, cutting edge Continuous Personal Dust Monitor that provides miners with dust results in real time during the working shift. About 99 percent were in compliance. These results correspond to the respirable dust samples collected from Aug. 1, 2014, through Jan. 2016, during Phase I, when 87,000 dust samples were collected from surface and underground coal mines by MSHA and coal mine operators. Nearly 99 percent of those samples met the dust concentration limit.

Here’s the agency’s news release.