Archive for March, 2018

EEOC Hits School District Over Retaliation

Employers can’t exact retribution on employees who file employment discrimination claims. That truism may have eluded this Michigan school system.

The Waterford Public School System, a school district located in Waterford, Mich., violated federal law when it failed to recall a tenured teacher back to work in retaliation for his having filed a charge alleging age discrimination, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed Thursday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a former history and social studies teacher was subjected to a layoff. Because the teacher believed he was laid off because of his age, he filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC. Since then, the school district has recalled other teachers to work full time and hired a full-time social studies teacher, but has not recalled this teacher to his former position.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). After attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Michigan (EEOC v. Waterford Public School System, Case No. 2:18-cv-11015). The agency seeks to recover monetary compensation for the employee and an injunction prohibiting the school district from engaging in retaliation in the future.

“Employees who oppose discriminatory practices have the right to do so without incurring harm to their careers and their livelihood,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird.

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.

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U.S., Philippines Renew EEO Cooperation

Nowadays the news about the U.S. and the Philippines centers on President Trump’s expressed admiration for the tough policies of Philippine President Duerte on combating drugs.

But as the following development shows, there’s more to the countries’ relationship than that. They are also allies in fighting employment discrimination.

The EEOC and the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines have officially committed to continuing to work together to combat employment discrimination, the EEOC announced March 28. In a ceremony at the Philippine Embassy today, EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic and Philippine Ambassador to the United States José Manuel G. Romualdez signed the renewal of the national memorandum of understanding (MOU), first signed on Feb. 12, 2015, continuing the partnership between local consulates and EEOC field offices nationwide. Under its terms, the EEOC and the Philippine Embassy will work together to regularly provide information on workplace discrimination through joint educational sessions to Philippine nationals.

“Filipinos and Americans share the crucial core values of freedom and fairness,” said EEOC Acting Chair Lipnic.  “That’s why the EEOC and the Philippine government are renewing this agreement to cooperate to fight employment discrimination and advance justice and opportunity for Filipinos in this country.”

Ambassador Romualdez remarked, “We value this partnership as a vital component of our efforts to assist the over 3.9 million Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the United States in protecting their rights and facilitating the creation of safer and fairer work environments. The Embassy looks forward to furthering our cooperation with the EEOC in ensuring that Filipino workers in the United States are treated fairly and accorded the rights due them under U.S. law.”

The agreement will carry forward the ongoing collaborative relationship between these two entities to provide Philippine nationals with information, guidance and access to education and training resources to help them exercise their workplace rights

Too Hot for Comfort: Dallas Sport Bar Settles Pregnancy Bias Suit Over Tight Clothes Rule

Patrons at this Texas sports grill will have to get used to seeing their pregnant employees in attire other than tight, body-hugging shirt and short hot pants.

Off the Air, II, Inc., which does business as Nick’s Sports Grill, a sports bar in Rowlett, Texas, will pay $24,000 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Tuesday.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the mandatory uniform at Nick’s Sports Grill consisted of a tight, body-hugging shirt and short hot pants. The suit alleges that when Taylor King, a bartender, started wearing capri pants instead of the usual hot pants uniform and added a second layer of clothes to the usual tight top because of her pregnancy, the general manager told her that the owner would not approve, and forced her off the job.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Case No 3:16-CV-3328, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade on March 27, 2018, prohibits future discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it. Also, in addition to the monetary relief for King, the decree requires the company to disseminate specific parts of its employee handbook to all employees; provide annual training on pregnancy and other forms of discrimination; report all complaints of discrimination to the EEOC for the decree’s term; impose discipline up to termination on any manager who discriminates based on sex or permits such conduct to occur under his or her supervision; and post a notice on employee bulletin boards about the decree, explaining procedures for reporting discrimination.

“Even bars and clubs with provocative uniforms cannot discriminate by using the dress code requirement to oust a pregnant employee,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Toby Wosk Costas. “When the short, tight outfit no longer worked, Taylor King no longer had a job. She could have continued to work at Nick’s had she not become pregnant. Under civil rights laws, that’s pregnancy discrimination, which is a form of discrimination based on sex.”

King said, “Just because you look different as a pregnant woman, it doesn’t mean you can’t do your job. I want people to know that if you feel you are being discriminated against, you should do something about it.”

Robert A. Canino, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, added, “Expecting mothers typically need to continue to earn an income as their family grows. This is another example of how myopic views by some employers about the value of women in the workplace operate to limit opportunities to females who are perfectly qualified and able to work.”

The EEOC’s Dallas District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

 

Cargo Handler Trips Over Unpaid Leave Forced on Pregnant Driver at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

You can’t deny light-duty assignment to a pregnant worker when your policy is to give such assignments to other employees temporary restricted in what work they can do.

Simplicity Ground Services, P.C., an airline-ramp and cargo-handling company in Detroit, violated federal law by forcing an employee onto unpaid leave because of her pregnancy, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Raylynn Bishop was employed as a tow team driver for Simplicity Ground Services, a company responsible for transferring baggage on and off commercial flights at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport. As a tow team driver, her job primarily consisted of driving a vehicle, and her job description contained no lifting requirement. The EEOC alleged that upon learning that Bishop was pregnant and had a 20-pound lifting restriction, Simplicity informed her she must go on unpaid leave and attempted to make her sign an amended job description which added a 70-pound lifting requirement. Simplicity also forced other pregnant employees to take unpaid leave because they were pregnant and refused to accommodate their pregnancy-related lifting restrictions with light-duty work. Non-pregnant employees with similar restrictions, however, were routinely granted light duty.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 2:18-cv-10989 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Bishop and the other pregnant employees, as well as injunctive relief designed to end the discriminatory practice for the future.

“The EEOC’s investigation showed that pregnant employees were repeatedly treated as ineligible for light-duty assignments, a benefit that was otherwise a possible solution for temporary work restrictions,” said Kenneth Bird, regional attorney for the Indianapolis District Office. “This case presents an opportunity to remind employers that they cannot exclude pregnant workers from a benefit available to others with similar work limitations, unless there is a legitimate, non-discriminatory justification for doing so.”

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohi

Wyo. Agency Liable for Sexual Harassment

Note to public sector employers: The U.S. Justice Department has you in its sights when it comes to sexual harassment.

The Justice Department announced last Friday that on March 21, 2018, a federal district court in Casper, Wyoming, found that the Wyoming Military Department (WMD) discriminated against former employee Amanda Dykes by subjecting her to sexual harassment and constructively discharging her.  The verdict was returned after a July 2017 bench trial during which the Justice Department produced evidence that the defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.

The evidence produced at trial showed that Dykes was subjected to sexual harassment by her direct supervisor, former employee Don Smith, when both worked at WMD’s Wyoming Youth Challenge Program.  Smith subjected Dykes to persistent, unwelcomed conduct including poems, songs, and emails professing his affection and love for her as well as constant visits to her office.  These intensified to such a degree that Dykes asked her subordinates to help her avoid being left alone with her supervisor.

Dykes reported the supervisor’s conduct to her employer’s human resources department as well as to his direct supervisor, but received no assistance in remedying the harassment.  The court found that harassing behavior persisted for over 18 months despite Dykes’ numerous complaints, that no reasonable employee could be expected to remain in her job under these circumstances, and that Dykes had no choice but to resign her position in September 2011 to avoid the continued harassment.

The district court ordered WMD to pay $221,030.62 to Dykes for the salary and benefits she lost as a result of her constructive discharge.

This judgment represents the first successful sexual harassment trial verdict obtained in a Title VII case since the launch of the Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative (SHWI), which focuses on workplace sexual harassment in the public sector.

As part of the Initiative, the Justice Department will continue to bring sex discrimination claims against state and local government employers with a renewed emphasis on sexual harassment charges.  The Department will also work to develop effective remedial measures that can be used to hold public sector employers accountable where Title VII violations have been found, including identifying changes to existing employer practices and policies that will result in safe work environments.  More information about the Civil Rights’ Division’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Initiative can be found here.

“The Justice Department vigorously enforces Title VII to ensure that people can work free from sexual harassment and retaliation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore  of the Civil Rights Division.  “The verdict sends the clear message that this Justice Department will continue to effectively combat sex-based discrimination whenever it occurs in a public sector workplace.”

Dykes originally filed her sexual harassment charge against the WMD with the Denver Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigated and determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discrimination had occurred and referred the matters to the Department of Justice.

More information about Title VII and other federal employment laws is available at the division’s Employment Litigation Section website.  The continued enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Civil Rights Division.  Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is available on the division website.

DOL Extends Diesel Comment Period One Year

The Trump administration touts American miners, but it’s in no particular hurry to make sure they are adequately protected from breathing diesel fumes in the mines.

As the U.S. Department of Labor continues to protect the health and safety of America’s miners, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced March 23 that it will reopen the public comment period regarding the Agency’s Request for Information (RFI) on Exposure of Underground Miners to Diesel Exhaust.

On June 8, 2016, MSHA published an RFI seeking information and data on the effectiveness of the Agency’s existing standards and policy guidance on controlling miners’ exposure to diesel exhaust to preserve miners’ health. The RFI’s comment period closed on Nov. 30, 2016. As a result of collaboration at a partnership meeting in December 2016, the comment period was reopened until Jan. 9, 2018. Since then, MSHA has received additional stakeholder requests to provide additional time for all stakeholders to share input and data to best protect the health and safety of America’s miners. Comments must be received on or before midnight Eastern Standard Time on March 26, 2019.

Veteran Harassed Over His PTSD to Get $75K in Settlement of EEOC ADA Suit Against Employer

Any employer out there who employs a military veteran beware that the federal government won’t tolerate mistreatment of him and her because they have service-related trauma.

Mine Rite Technologies, LLC, a Buffalo, Wyo.-based manufacturing company, will pay $75,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, employee Jason Kaufman, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was harassed by his supervisor because of his condition. The EEOC said the supervisor referred to Kaufman as a “psycho” to his coworkers. The supervisor also made comments about “Psycho Thursday,” because that was the day of the week when the employee attended therapy sessions to treat his PTSD. The EEOC further charged that when the harassment became intolerable, Kaufman was forced to quit to avoid further abuse.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination and harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, Case No. 2:17-cv-00063-SWS, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The consent decree announced today resolves the EEOC’s lawsuit and the underlying discrimination charge filed with the EEOC. In addition to monetary relief, the three-year decree includes an injunction against future discrimination based on disability and a requirement that Mine Rite create and implement equal employment opportunity policies. The decree also requires Mine Rite to train its employees and to provide Kaufman with a letter of apology and a letter of recommendation.

“A veteran should never be ridiculed because of PTSD,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “This man gave his all for this country, came back suffering, and was brave enough to get help from the Veterans Administration for his condition. Our veterans deserve better than this. Furthermore, mental health is a significant problem in this country, and such mistreatment only makes things worse.”

Elizabeth Cadle, the EEOC’s Phoenix District director, added, “Employers must ensure that all kinds of workplaces are free from discrimination and harassment. The resolution of this lawsuit should serve as a reminder to employers that unlawful harassment because of a mental health condition will not be tolerated. We are pleased that the company’s owner worked cooperatively with us to resolve this case. We are also gratified that Mine Rite will be creating and implementing policies that will help its employees understand their rights under the ADA.”

The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).