Archive for March, 2017

Fired Employee With Spinal Cord Condition Receives $35K in Settlement of ADA Lawsuit

For $35,000, a baking company in Illinois won’t have to go to court over allegations it engaged in disability discrimination against an employee because of her spinal cord condition.

In an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed last August, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged that  Nashville, Tenn.-based American Blue Ribbons Holding, LLC dba Legendary Baking, violated federal law by denying light duty work to Patricia Hall, an employee at its Oak Forest, Ill., baking facility. Hall has CSP myelopathy, a condition affecting her spinal cord.

The company then fired Hall and refused to rehire her because of her disability, the EEOC charged.

$35,000 is the price the company has agreed to pay to settle the lawsuit.

“We appreciate Legendary Baking’s determination to work with the EEOC to quickly resolve the case by providing compensation to Ms. Hall and undertaking measures to assure future compliance with the ADA,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanou.

Read yesterday’s announcement of the settlement here.

$325K Payment Brings to Close National Origin, Race Bias Case Against Manufacturer in Illinois

Ouch. It’s going to cost an employer $325,000 to get out from under a lawsuit alleging national and race discrimination against a black employee of Puerto Rican origin.

That’s the price that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that Decatur, Illinois based King-Lar has agreed to pay to settle the commission’s Title VII lawsuit against it.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC accused King-Lar, which provides custom sheet metal and HVAC work, of allowing its white employees to verbally harass and threaten a black employee of Puerto Rican origin, which ultimately led to a brutal physical assault. The national origin and color harassment allegedly included slurs such as “s..c,” “n….r,” “Mexican n—-r,” and “wetback.” The EEOC also claimed that King-Lar management, including one of its owners, knew about the discrimination and failed to act to stop it.

Aside from the monetary relief, the settlement calls for the company to establish a system where employees can complain anonymously online or to a 1-800 number; train its employees on harassment and discrimination; and make clear that King-Lar will take allegations of discrimination seriously.

For more background on the lawsuit, click here.

EEOC Meeting April 5 on U.S. Workforce

If you’re in Washington, D.C. next Wednesday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission invites you to attend a meeting it is holding on “The State of the Workforce and the Future of Work.

The meeting on April 5 will run from 9:30 a.m. to  to 12:30 p.m., EDT, at agency headquarters, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington D.C.

The commission confirmed the following persons will participate in the meeting:

  • Dr. Aparna Mathur, Resident Scholar in Economic Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute
  • Michael D’Ambrose, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for Archer Daniels Midland Company
  • Kenneth E. Rigmaiden, President, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
  • Dr. Nicole Smith, Research Professor and Chief Economist/Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
  • Mason Bishop, Principal, WorkED Consulting, LLC
  • Montez King, Executive Director, National Institute for Metalworking Skills.

Find out more here.

For $100K, Employer Settles ADA Lawsuit Filed by the EEOC Over Its Inflexible Leave Policies

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sees it, Valley Life, a disability support services company in Arizona, dropped the ball when it came to employees who had used up their paid leave.

The EEOC filed suit against the company alleging it violate the Americans With Disabilities Act because it “had a practice of firing employees with disabilities who needed extended leave or reassignment rather than providing them with reasonable accommodations as required under federal law.”

According to the EEOC, ValleyLife simply terminated people who had exhausted their paid time off and/or any unpaid leave for which they were eligible under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rather than determine if there was a reasonable accommodation that would allow them to continue to work.

ValleyLife also did not engage in any kind of back-and-forth dialogue with the employees to explore whether reasonable accommodations were possible, the EEOC alleged. For example, the agency said ValleyLife could have reassigned the employees to other positions, provided additional leave, or provided other kinds of accommodations such as a shift change or assistance with lifting. The EEOC also alleged that ValleyLife commingled medical records in employee personnel files and failed to keep these medical records confidential.

The company agreed to pay $100,000 to four ex-employees victimized by this practice and “revise its policies to make clear that the company will consider reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities.”

For more on the settlement, click here.

Employer That Allegedly Retaliated Against Investigation Helper Pays $70K to Settle Suit

An employer has to be pretty dumb to fire an employee for helping in an investigation of sexual harassment at the company.

According to allegations in a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Rite Way Service, Inc., behaved quite stupidly indeed.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused Rite Way, a former Alabama corporation that provided janitorial cleaning services to commercial facilities in Mississippi and elsewhere in the Southeast, of violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by firing an employee in retaliation for participating in an internal investigation concerning a sexual harassment complaint made by a coworker,

Rite Way employed Mekeva Tennort to perform janitorial duties at Biloxi Junior High School. In August 2011, Tennort gave a statement to supervisors investigating a sexual harassment complaint by another employee. The Commission alleged that, soon afterward, Rite Way gave Tennort several written warnings about untrue supposed performance issues, and then fired her based on these unfounded accusations.

The EEOC announced last week that Rite Way has agreed to pay $70,000 to settle the lawsuit.

Wise move.

DOL Proposes Delaying New Mine Safety Inspection Rule Effective Date Until July

Add to the list of regulations the Trump Administration wants to put on hold an Obama-era rule to beef up government inspections of the nation’s mines.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration on Friday proposed that his rule, scheduled to go into effect May 23 be instead be pushed back to July 24.

The 60-day delay, the agency says,  will “assure that mine operators and miners affected by the final rule have the training and compliance assistance they need.”

The rule, which would affect mine safety in three primary areas, was issued just prior to President Obama leaving office in January.

Read my writeup on the rule and what it would do here.

$7M in Grants for Displaced Ky. Coal Miners

The DOL announced yesterday $7 million in grants for the Bluegrass State’s laid off and displaced coal miners. $4 million of that is to assist workers hurt by layoffs by three eastern Kentucky coal mining operators.

The other $3 million is to help workers affected by layoffs by businesses affected by the decline of the coal industry in Kentucky.

Did Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul pull strings to help free up this money? It’s perfectly understandable if they did. They want what is best for their workers. I would hope they would apply that same generosity of spirit for other workers suffering job loss or dislocation.

Employer Out $110K in Settlement With EEOC Over Mistreatment of Muslim Afghan Woman

An employer that allegedly discriminated against a Muslim Afghan female employee and then retaliated against her when she complained agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a Title VII lawsuit brought on her behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the commission announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC. KASCO, LLC, a St. Louis company which manufactures and sells butcher supplies and meat processing equipment, discriminated Latifa Sidiqi, because of her adherence to Islam and her Afghan descent, and then firing her for complaining about it. When Sidiqi was written up for a job performance issue–wan admonition she thought unjustified–during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, she submitted a written rebuttal to human resources, pursuant to company policy. In that rebuttal, she wrote that the write-up had “everything to do with [her] coming from a Muslim background.”

Within three weeks of this rebuttal, Sidiqi was terminated for allegedly “falsifying time records.” Sidiqi claimed, and the EEOC agreed, that this “time record” issue was pretextual, since other employees used “flex time” in the same manner Sidiqi did, but only she was fired for it.

“Employers need to ensure that their policies and practices, like the federal laws they must follow, not only protect employees from discrimination, but also protect them against retaliation when they complain,” said James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office.

Staffing Agency Settles Title VII Suit Over Termination of Male Ultrasound Technician

No reason a man can’t be employed as an ultrasound technician. Stereotyping a man as incapable of doing that job can get an employer in trouble under employment discrimination laws.

So take note any employer out there that thinks that are some jobs men shouldn’t do.

One such employer, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was Nevada Health Centers, which it sued last year along with an agency that placed a male technician at its facilities.

According to the EEOC, from 2010 to 2013, Nevada Health Centers and Ultracare Las Vegas had a service contract whereby Ultracare agreed to provide Nevada Health Centers with ultrasound technicians. In November 2012, Ultracare hired David Matlock as an ultrasound technician and placed him at Nevada Health Centers.

Within weeks of his placement, Nevada Health Centers asked Ultracare to remove Matlock from the assignment. Ultracare promptly accommodated Nevada Health Center’s request, terminating Matlock’s work assignment during the first week of January 2013.

The EEOC announced today that Ultracare agreed to settle this sex discrimination lawsuit for $15,000. The lawsuit against Nevada Health Centers continues.

“Sex-role stereotypes deprive qualified individuals from equal employment opportunities,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Las Vegas in its jurisdiction. “Customer preference is not a defense for discrimination. Placement companies must comply with the law even when a client openly expresses an illegal gender preference.”

 

EEOC Sues Company for Not Accommodating Truck Driver Who Refused to Work on Sabbaths

A South Carolina company is taking heat from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for terminating a driver who refused to work on his Sabbath.

The EEOC said it filed suit yesterday against  J.C. Witherspoon Jr. Inc., for violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in its treatment of  Leroy Lawson, a Hebrew Pentecostal for approx­imately 35 years. As a Hebrew Pentecostal, he holds the sincere religious belief that he must not engage in labor during the Biblical Sabbath, which, in Lawson’s faith, begins at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

According to the EEOC,  in March 2012, Lawson was hired as a truck driver at the company’s Alcolu facility. During a pre-hire interview, Lawson informed the truck supervisor and foreman that he observes the Sabbath on Saturdays, and would need an accommodation of not working on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.  In or around April 2012, just weeks after Lawson’s hire, all drivers were required to work on a Saturday, the EEOC said. Although Lawson worked that day, at the end of the day Lawson told the foreman he would not work on a Saturday, his Sabbath, ever again because of his religious beliefs.  The company did not require Lawson to work on a Saturday again until around Dec. 27, 2013.

On December 27, 2013, Lawson was notified that he would have to work the next day, a Saturday.  Lawson refused.  The EEOC alleges that when the Owner of the company learned that Lawson refused to work on Saturdays, the Owner instructed the Foreman to terminate Lawson’s employment.  The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

The EEOC contends that on Dec. 28, 2013, the company terminated Lawson because he would not work on Saturdays.

“Under federal law, employers have an obligation to endeavor to fairly balance an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of the company,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District Office.