Archive for May, 2017

Fed Reserve Head Ascribes Low Economic Growth to Lack of Family-Friendly Work Policies

Family-friendly work policies could be the ticket for closing the nation’s jumpstarting economic growth, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin argued in a speech earlier this month.

Failing to address the needs of female workers for flexible time off policies to balance work and family responsibilities is a missed opportunity fir the economy, she said at a conference celebrating the admission of women to Brown University more than a century ago.

“A number of factors appear to be holding women back, including the difficulty women currently have in trying to combine their careers with other aspects of their lives, including caregiving,” she said.

As of 2010, the U.S. ranked 17th among developed nations in the female workforce participation rate. As much as 30 percent of this status loss can be explained by the dearth of family-friendly policies, according to a 2013 study from Cornell University economists.

Something to think about.

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$1.9M Settlement in EEOC Suit Charging Chicago Restaurant With Not Hiring African Americans

“Rosebud” was the last word spoken by the lead character in Citizen Kane, in reference to his beloved sled from his boyhood. But Rosebud means something else for African Americans in and around Chicago, as a business that won’t hire them.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced today that Rosebud Restaurants, Inc. will pay $1.9 million and furnish other relief to settle a class race discrimination lawsuit filed by the commission.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, 13 Italian restaurants operated by Rosebud in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs refused to hire African-Americans because of their race. The EEOC also charged that managers, including Rosebud owner Alex Dana, used racial slurs to refer to blacks.  At the time EEOC began investigating Rosebud’s hiring practices, many of its restaurants had no African-American employees at all.

The EEOC also asserted that Rosebud violated federal regulations by failing to maintain employment applications for one year and by failing to file employer information reports providing employment data by job category, race, ethnicity, and gender.

Race discrimination in hiring violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit against Rosebud on Sept. 17, 2013 (case number 13-cv-6656) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concili­ation process. The suit resulted from a charge of discrimination filed by former EEOC Commissioner Constance Barker.

The consent decree settling the suit, approved by Magistrate Judge Mary Rowland, calls for Rosebud to pay $1.9 million to African-American applicants who were denied jobs.  Additionally, Rosebud has agreed to hiring goals for qualified black applicants, with the aim that 11% of Rosebud’s future workforce be African-American.  In addition, the decree enjoins Rosebud from engaging in race discrimination or retaliation in the future. It also requires Rosebud to recruit African-American applicants, train employees and managers about race discrimination and retaliation, provide periodic reports to EEOC on compliance with the decree’s terms for four years, and post notices informing employees of the decree’s terms.

The restaurants covered by the suit include The Rosebud; Carmine’s; Rosebud on Rush; Rosebud Prime; Mama’s Boy; Rosebud Steakhouse; Rosebud Deerfield; Rosebud in Naperville; and the closed restaurants Rosebud Old World Italian; Rosebud Theatre District; Rosebud of Highland Park; Rosebud Burger & Comfort Foods; Rosebud Trattoria; Joe Fish; EATT; Bar Umbriago; and Centro.

EEOC Chicago District Director Julie Bowman said that she was pleased with the cooperation between EEOC and Rosebud in resolving the suit.

“Although it has been several years since the EEOC filed suit, the case was resolved after a lengthy negotiation process that occurred before any depositions were taken in the case and without significant pre-trial motions, sparing both sides from incurring substantial litigation expenses,” said Bowman.

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted, “African-Americans have faced and still face barriers in being hired at upscale restaurants, especially in visible, and often well-paid, positions such  as server. That is why the recruiting and hiring relief in this decree is so important. It will lead directly to qualified blacks being hired for front- and back-of-the-house positions, helping to remedy past discrimination by Rosebud and ensuring equal employment opportunities for future African-American applicants.”

Paid Vacation Often Going Unused, But Why?

On this Memorial Day, when many workers’ thoughts turn to taking paid vacation, some workers are leaving unused vacation hours on the table.

On average, workers took 16.8 days of vacation in 2016, which more than in recent years, years, but still below the average 20.3 day long-term average between 1976 and 2000, according to a survey of 7,331 Americans by Project Time Off: an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association.

Survey respondents said they get 22,6 days of vacation a year, meaning they are leaving about 2 days unused.

A survey by Glassdoor of 2,224 U.S. adults found that U.S. workers on average took 54 percent of their alloted vacation time.

There’s also a gender gap in the use of vacation time. 51 percent of young men reported they had used all their vacation days, compared with 44 percent in 2015, On the other hand, fewer than half of millennial age women (44 percent) took all their vacation time, compared to 46 percent the year before.

The increase in “paid-time-off banks” in which companies put vacation days, sick time and personal days into one bucket, may partly explain why fewer true vacation days are being used.

Another possible explanation is that workers would rather forfeit some vacation than use all it and return to work with a big to=do list waiting for them,

For more findings from the Time off report, click here.

Transgender Employee’s Complaint on Glassdoor.com Led to Firing, EEOC Alleges

Federal law prohibits retaliating against employees because they complained online about their companies’ policies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asserts in a lawsuit filed last week.

In a lawsuit filed on May 24, the EEOC alleged that Educational technology company IXL Learning Inc. violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act by retaliating against an employee for accusing the company of discriminatory practices on Glassdoor.com,

According to the EEOC’s complaint, IXL fired product analyst Adrian Scott Duane within minutes of confronting him about a negative review he had posted on Glassdoor.com, a job recruiting and ratings website.

Fueled by a belief that IXL was discriminating against him, the 32-year-old transgender man,, had written, “If you’re not a family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball – then you’re likely to find yourself on the outside … Most management do not know what the word ‘discrimination’ means, nor do they seem to think it matters.”

In addition to facing inappropriate questions about his gender identity and orientation from co-workers, Duane felt IXL treated his request to telecommute (due to post-operative recovery after gender confirmation surgery) differently from similar requests by two coworkers (due to situations related to their opposite-sex spouses). Given these experiences, Duane posted on Glassdoor.com in opposition to what he regarded as discrimination, and was fired for doing so.

The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Retaliation is the No. 1 basis for charges filed with the EEOC, comprising over 45% filings nation­wide,” said William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director. “Under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, it is a priority to defend employees’ rights to speak out and challenge practices that they believe to be illegal discrimination.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi added, “While the platforms for employees to speak out against discrimination are evolving with technology, the laws against retaliation remain constant. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal discrimination occurred, the EEOC will vigorously defend that worker’s right to raise the issue, whether they do so by filing a charge with our agency, notifying company management or posting in a public arena such as Glassdoor.com.”

According to www.ixl.com, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company’s K-12 learning program is used by 1 out of every 9 U.S. students and in more than 190 countries.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

DOJ: Farm in New Mexico Unlawfully Preferred Hiring Foreign Visa Holders Over U.S. Citizens

We tend to hear more about s non-U.S. citizens who suffer discrimination at the hands of U.S. employers who prefer to hire citizens than the reverse.

But this week we had a case of an employer allegedly discriminating against U.S. citizens in favor of foreign workers.

The U.S. Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it has reached a settlement agreement with Carrillo Farm Labor, LLC (Carrillo Farm), an onion farm in Deming, New Mexico. The settlement resolves the department’s investigation of complaints that Carrillo Farm discriminated against U.S. citizens due to a hiring preference for foreign visa workers.

After investigating complaints filed on behalf of two U.S. citizens, the Justice Department determined that Carrillo Farm denied U.S. citizens employment in 2016 because it wanted to hire temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. Under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. citizens because of their citizenship status.

The settlement agreement requires Carrillo Farm to pay civil penalties to the United States, undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements. In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Carrillo Farm agreed to pay a total of $44,000 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.

“U.S. workers are the backbone of our economy, and the Justice Department will not tolerate employers discriminating against them because of their citizenship status,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. “The department is wholeheartedly committed to challenging discriminatory hiring preferences that disfavor U.S. workers. We commend Texas RioGrande for bringing the matter to our attention and applaud Carrillo Farm for cooperating with the department to implement the corrective actions necessary to resolve this matter.”

 

U.S. House Subcommittee Hearing Raps EEOC Over Knuckles for “Overreach,” Wrong Priorities

Members of a U.S. House subcommittee took the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to task at hearing on Tuesday as part of its oversight of the commmission’s activities. Basically, the committee’s chair and witnesses criticized the EEOC for not paying enough attention to its obligation to enforce the law, and instead over-reaching, including asking for more pay data from employers.

Below is a text of a press release the subcommittee sent out about Tuesday’s oversight hearing,

The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, chaired by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the need for more responsible regulatory and enforcement policies at the EEOC, As part of the committee’s ongoing oversight efforts, members reviewed the agency’s overreach in recent years and highlighted opportunities to change course under new leadership.

“Republicans and Democrats agree our nation’s non-discrimination laws must be properly enforced, and the EEOC plays a critical role in doing just that,” Chairman Byrne said. “We wouldn’t be doing our job here in Congress if we didn’t hold the EEOC accountable when it has fallen short of its important responsibilities.”

Chairman Byrne expressed concern over the EEOC’s flawed enforcement efforts under the Obama administration, noting that, “At the end of 2016, the EEOC had more than 73,000 unresolved cases. Thousands of individuals were still waiting for answers on the discrimination charges they filed. This is completely unacceptable. These are men and women who turned to the federal government for help and got lost in an inefficient bureaucracy.”

Witnesses shared this concern and detailed the EEOC’s misplaces priorities.

“The agency’s self-imposed pressure to ‘fish’ for large, class-based claims has undermined the quality and effectiveness of its overall enforcement efforts and has distracted from ensuring that litigation remains an option of last resort,” said Rae Vann, vice president and general counsel for the Equal Employment Advisory Council.

Vann described the EEOC’s strategy as one based on “the assumption that widespread workplace discrimination is present in every district and region — and at every company — across the country.” She added that, “Rather than focusing on increasing its systemic litigation docket, the EEOC should do more on the front end to ensure that all discrimination charges it receives are properly categorized, investigated, and resolved.”

Instead of improving its enforcement efforts, the EEOC spent its time and resources pursuing misguided regulatory schemes. For example, witnesses highlighted the consequences of the EEOC’s expansive changes to the Employer Information Report EEO-1 under the Obama administration. The changes increased by 26 times — from 128 data points to 3,360 data points — the amount of employee information employers are required to file.

Lisa Ponder, vice president and global human resources director for MWH Constructors, Inc., questioned whether the agency can even use the information to identify pay discrimination in the real world.

“The number of women engineers in the baby boomer generation is approximately 5 percent in our industry, so we have very few senior women engineers,” she said. “However, the number of women engineers in the millennial generation is closer to 20 percent in our industry, so we have many more junior women engineers. There is no way to show that in reality we pay our senior engineers more than we pay those with much less experience.”

Ponder continued, “There will appear to be a pay differential based on gender when in fact the pay differential is based on years of experience … Not having the ability to counter the imbalance of the male-to-female ratio in the engineering field leads to a false narrative that could discourage women from pursuing a career in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields.”

Camille Olson, a labor and employment attorney, echoed concerns over how the EEOC would even use the massive amount of new data from this overreaching regulatory regime.

“Despite the excessive burden imposed on employers, the EEOC failed to articulate a clear benefit associated with its proposed collection,” Olson said. “In addition to the problems inherent in the data that the EEOC proposes to collect, its proposed statistical approach will also be unhelpful in identifying discrimination.”

Olson also emphasized the need for stronger privacy protections for workers and employers, saying, “In the hands of the wrong people, the original pay data from the EEO-1 report could cause significant harm to EEO-1 responders and subject employees to potential violation of their privacy … Unfortunately, although it is statutorily required to do so, the EEOC has failed to set forth appropriate steps or protocols to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of EEO-1 data.”

In closing, Chairman Byrne called on the EEOC to turn its focus toward proper enforcement of non-discrimination policies.

$250K in Mine Safety Grants Awarded

Whether or not coal jobs ever return to Appalachia, as President Trump has promised, the federal government is trying to make good on its commitment to improve working conditions in existing mines.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration announced yesterday it has awarded $250,000 to five organizations to develop training programs and materials to better identify, avoid and prevent unsafe working conditions in and around mines.

A provision in the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 established the Brookwood-Sago grant program to promote safety and honor 25 men who died in Brookwood, Alabama, in 2001 at the Jim Walter Resources #5 mine, and in Buckhannon, West Virginia, in 2006 at the Sago Mine.

The recipients of the 2017 grants:

  • Colorado Department of Natural Resources in Denver is receiving $50,000 to promote and provide innovative and realistic mine rescue training through skills training events, mine emergency response development exercises, contests and individual special topic training. The program will focus on the benefits of risk-readiness and self-assessment.
  • Illinois Eastern Community College in Olney is receiving $50,000 to provide advanced mine rescue and basic firefighting techniques for mine rescue teams, and basic mine rescue techniques for fire brigade teams. The curricula will incorporate training in a new simulated mine (with gear, both in and out of smoke), a burn tunnel and a newly constructed facility with live video of all simulated mine training.
  • Oconee Fall Line Technical College in Sandersville, Georgia, is receiving $50,000 to develop and provide confined space training that will focus on recognizing, evaluating and controlling safety and health hazards associated with confined space entry. The training materials can be replicated across the country and available to other trainers.
  • Pennsylvania State University in University Park is receiving $50,000 to develop education and training materials for MSHA instructors and new underground stone miners. Mine instructors will use the updated and improved training materials during 40-hour new miner training to help miners better understand the hazards posed by the mining process.
  • Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy in Big Stone Gap is receiving $50,000 to provide training and educational materials designed to prevent unsafe working environments, with a special emphasis on state and federal standards, high-risk activities and hazards. The training will be based on the requirements of  30 CFR 48.5 that will help the new miner understand proper mining procedures, terminology, basic safety and health hazards, and safety procedures prior to entering the mine.