Archive for June, 2018

OSHA: Injury Data Due From Employers July 1

Just 48 hours to go before an important deadline for certain industries to report their safety data to federal regulators.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers that the deadline for electronically submitting their 2017 Form 300A data to OSHA is July 1, 2018.

Electronic submissions are required of establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses.

For more information, and a link to the Injury Tracking Application, visit the Injury Tracking Application Electronic Submission of Injury and Illness Records to OSHA.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Staffing Co. Allowed Harassment of Women at N.M. Police Department, EEOC Charges in Suit

Temporary employment agencies are responsible for how their employees are treated when on assignment.

Real Time Staffing Services, Inc., doing business as Select Staffing in Albuquerque, violated federal law by allowing a group of female employees to be subjected to sexual harassment while they were working at the Inspection of Public Records Act Unit of the Albuquerque Police Department, the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed June 13.

In its suit, the EEOC alleged that Select Staffing allowed women, including Christella Sanchez, Barbara Houston, Roberta D. Archuleta, and Tiffany Dix, to be subjected to sexual harassment when they were placed at the Inspection of Public Records Act Unit of the Albuquerque Police Department. The EEOC also charges that, despite complaints, Select Staffing did nothing about the sexual harass­ment of its employees. The EEOC said that the women were subjected to pervasive unwelcome sexual comments, including comments about their breasts and buttocks, referred to them as “prostitutes” and “sluts,” and subjected them to unwelcome touching, which created a hostile work environ­ment for them.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico (EEOC v. Real Time Staffing Services, Inc., d/b/a Select Staffing, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00541-LF-KBM) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

The lawsuit asks the court to order these companies to provide all the affected women with appropriate relief, including back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further gender-discriminatory practices. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the work­place.

“We continue to see a significant number of sexual harassment cases affecting many employees in our district,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. “We are particularly con­cerned when sexual harassment happens at a workplace where a staffing agency places employees. The fact that this misconduct occurred in a police unit makes this case even more dis­tress­ing. These agencies have a legal duty to protect their employees from sexual harassment. When they fail to do so, the EEOC will prosecute such cases vigorously.”

EEOC District Director Elizabeth Cadle said, “Employers have an important responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. In the era of the #MeToo movement, we also recognize the bravery of women who come forward and share the abuse they have experienced so that workplaces can be safer for all employees.”

On Monday, the EEOC reconvened its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace for a meeting at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. Established in 2015, the task force concluded its work in June 2016 with the final report of its co-chairs, EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum and Commissioner and now-Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. The report includes recommen­dations and resources regarding leadership, accountability, policies and procedures, training, and devel­oping a sense of collective responsibility. Monday’s meeting delved into workplace harassment in light of the #MeToo movement, and discussed how employers can and have worked to better prevent and stop harassment.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is also one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

EEOC: Cleaning Co.’s Owner Repeatedly Hit on Female Employee, Fired Her For Complaining

This company’s owner allegedly stepped over the line with a female employees–and now the company faces suit by federal regulators.

Total Maintenance Solutions, Inc., a Cincinnati-based commercial cleaning and construction clean-up company, violated federal law by subjecting an employee to a sexually hostile work environment and retaliating against her for complaining, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed June 13.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Total Maintenance Solutions, through its owner, forced the employee to endure sexual harassment, including unwanted touching, sexual comments, overtures and ogling. TMS’s owner called an employee his “little young ass” and told her how sexy she looked. He hugged her, made sexual comments about her body and repeatedly called her at night at her home after work hours suggesting that they have a sexual relationship. The employee complained repeatedly about the sexually hostile work environment, and was subsequently fired in retaliation for her complaints, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 1:18-cv-00413-MRB) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Cincinnati Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In its suit, the EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages, back pay, and injunctive relief.

“It is unconscionable as well as unlawful to sexually harass employees in the workplace, especially where it is so severe or pervasive that it interferes with someone’s livelihood,” said Kenneth Bird, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Indianapolis District. “The EEOC is absolutely committed to the elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace.”

On Monday, the EEOC reconvened its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace for a meeting at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. Established in 2015, the task force concluded its work in June 2016 with the final report of its co-chairs, EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum and Commissioner and now-Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. The report includes recommendations and resources regarding leadership, accountability, policies and procedures, training, and developing a sense of collective responsibility. Monday’s meeting delved into workplace harassment in light of the #MeToo movement, and discussed how employers can and have worked to better prevent and stop harassment.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is also one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

Primed for Harassment? EEOC Alleges Trucking Comp. Didn’t Step Harassment of Female Driver

This employer allegedly didn’t prevent one of its female drivers from being harassed–and because of that it is being hauled into court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

New Prime Trucking, Inc., one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, violated federal law when it failed to take adequate steps to prevent the sexual harassment of a female truck driver, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed June 13.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the company, which does business as Prime, Inc., knew one of its independent contractor drivers, Eric Weekley, sexually harassed at least one female driver trainee. Prime stopped using Weekley as a trainer, but allowed him to continue driving for the company and continued providing him with Prime employees to work as co-drivers. When Weekley asked Melinda Huerta, a new Prime driver, to work as his co-driver, Prime allowed the match but did not warn Huerta about Weekley’s past misconduct or warn Weekley that he must not harass Huerta while she worked as his co-driver. The EEOC alleges that during the six weeks Weekley and Huerta drove together, Weekley continually talked about sex in graphic and violent terms and told Huerta she would lose her job and commercial driver’s license if she reported his behavior.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects workers from sexual harassment and discrimination. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. New Prime, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:18-cv-3177-SWH) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through the agency’s conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks monetary and injunctive relief for Huerta as well as injunctive relief to prevent future harassment of Prime employees.

“Every employer has an obligation to take adequate steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplace, whether that workplace is an office, a kitchen, or on a truck,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District. “When employers fail to take those steps, they fail all their workers and enable a cycle of abuse and sexual harassment to continue.”

James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District, said, “Sexual harassment in the workplace is not new, but in this age of #MeToo, no company can bury its head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. Employers must take steps to protect their workers from this sort of inexcusable misconduct.”

According to company information, Prime is one of the nation’s largest refrigerated, flatbed, and tanker carriers. It is based in Springfield, Mo., and employs over 2,000 persons. Prime provides truck-freight services to customers in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

On Monday, the EEOC reconvened its Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace with new witnesses and testimony on the workplace harassment problem. In 2015 and 2016, the Commission set up the task force to explore ways to combat this national menace. In June 2016, the task force co-chairs, EEOC Commissioner Feldblum and Commissioner and now-Acting Chair Lipnic, issued a final report that laid out a road map for “rebooting” harassment prevention in our nation’s workplaces.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is also one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

$3.2M to Settle EEOC Sex Bias Case Against CSX; Strength Testing Requirement Also Goes

You might soon see more women in railroad jobs typically held by men.

CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT) will pay $3.2 million and furnish other relief to settle a company-wide sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced June 13.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, CSXT conducted isokinetic strength testing as a requirement for workers to be hired for various jobs. The EEOC said that the strength test used by CSXT, known as the “IPCS Biodex” test, caused an unlawful discriminatory impact on female workers seeking jobs as conductors, material handler/clerks, and a number of other job categories. The EEOC also charged that CSXT used two other employment tests, a three-minute step test seeking to measure aerobic capacity and a discontinued arm endurance test, as a requirement for selection into certain jobs, and that those tests also caused an unlawful discriminatory effect on female workers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including the use of tests that are administered to all applicants and employees regardless of sex but that cause a discriminatory effect or impact on persons of a particular sex or any other demographic category. Employers using such tests must prove that those practices are necessary for safe and efficient performance of the specific jobs for which the tests are used. Even if this necessity is proven, such tests are prohibited by Title VII if it is shown that there are alternative practices that can achieve the employers’ objectives but have a less discriminatory effect.

The EEOC originally filed the lawsuit (U.S. EEOC v. CSX Transportation, Inc. Case No. 3:17-cv-03731) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia in Huntington on Aug. 1, 2017. The EEOC and CSXT agreed to settle the EEOC’s disparate impact claims before any ruling by the federal court. The EEOC did not allege any intentional discrimination by CSXT in this case.

The consent decree settling the EEOC’s lawsuit, which has received approval by the federal court, requires CSXT to cease the physical abilities testing practices that the EEOC charged were causing a disparate impact against female workers. The decree also requires CSXT to pay $3.2 million into a settlement fund to pay lost wages and benefits to a class of women in over 20 states who were denied positions because of the testing. Under the decree, CSXT must also retain expert consultants to conduct scientific studies before adopting certain types of physical abilities testing programs for use in its hiring.

“We commend CSX Transportation for working collaboratively with the EEOC to address our concerns about the railroad’s physical abilities testing program,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “The company’s willingness to confer with the EEOC about the agency’s concerns and its agreement to cease the testing practices at issue reflect a corporate commitment to gender diversity and inclusion that will benefit both workers and the company.”

EEOC Pittsburgh Area Office Director Roosevelt Bryant said, “Railroad and other transportation occupations provide excellent career opportunities for women when sex-based barriers to their participation in those jobs are removed. The EEOC is committed to ensuring that all workers have an equal opportunity for hiring and advancement in such work.”

EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson said, “The EEOC will continue to carefully examine employer testing and screening practices to identify those that operate as systemic barriers to employment based on protected characteristics. Workers who believe they are being subjected to the discriminatory effects of such practices should bring them to the attention of the EEOC.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women and persons with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

According to company information, CSX Corporation, together with its subsidiaries based in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the nation’s leading transportation suppliers. CSX’s principal operating company, CSX Transportation, provides an important link to the transportation supply chain through its approximately 21,000 route-mile rail network, which serves major population centers in 23 states east of the Mississippi River, the District of Columbia and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. CSX serves more than 70 ocean, river and lake ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. CSX also serves thousands of production and distribution facilities through connections to more than 240 short line and regional railroads.

The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC’s Pittsburgh Area Office, one of four component offices of the agency’s Philadelphia District Office. The Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys of the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

Bad Service Will Send Your Customers Away

Want to send your customers to the competition? Then treat them badly. Impart to your employees the imperative of good customer service. It’s the difference between keeping your customers and driving them into the arms of your competitors, according to Robin Paggi, this blog’s resident guest columnist.

How to Send Your Customers to Your Competitors

“You can have everything you want, if you will help other people get what they want,” said motivational speaker Zig Ziglar. If you’re in business, you want customers. What do your customers want? Good customer service. In fact, according to a Customer Experience Report by RightNow, 86 percent of consumers surveyed said they stopped doing business with a company because of receiving bad service. I know I have.

Here are some key elements to providing good customer service:

Make eye contact, smile, and greet every customer. Seems easy, doesn’t it? However, lots of customer service representatives don’t do these simple things.

For example, I was recently at the grocery store and approached a check out stand at which the checker was involved in a personal conversation with the store’s security guard. I placed my groceries on the conveyer belt and the checker began to scan them while continuing to talk to her co-worker. She didn’t make eye contact with me nor acknowledge me until she finished her conversation. She then looked at me and asked, “How’s it going?”

Perhaps the checker doesn’t know that a lack of eye contact demonstrates a lack of interest and creates feelings of annoyance or general disliking from the ignored person. No doubt the checker thought that finishing her conversation with her co-worker was the polite thing to do before she turned her attention to me. She should be told that customers are more important than co-workers and to stop all personal conversations when a customer approaches.

As for smiling, experimental data shows that smiling is not only expected during the formation of new relationships (such as interacting with a customer), it is necessary. Smiling indicates whether someone is friend or foe. Additionally, we instantly return a smile, which causes the secretion of endorphins (our internal happy drug) and makes us feel good about the person who smiled at us.

When we experience social pain – like being ignored – the feeling is as real as physical pain.  That’s why no eye contact, no smile, and no greeting often lead to no repeat business.

Seek out customer contact. This means that customer service representatives approach customers to offer help instead of customers having to solicit it. Here’s an example of what not to do.

I was in an electronics store trying to buy a TV and couldn’t get someone to wait on me. An employee rushed by and assured me that someone would be right there. After a few minutes, another employee told me the same thing. Finally, a third employee approached me and asked, “What’s up?”

Having to ask to be waited on was ridiculous, especially when I was about to spend hundreds of dollars. Then being greeted so casually just added fuel to the fire. There are plenty of other places in town to buy a TV the next time I want one.

Provide immediate fixes to problems. An experience I had at a local print shop illustrates a poor attempt at that process.

I ordered hundreds of bookmarks from the print shop and made arrangements to distribute them with some fellow Rotarians at a local elementary school on a Friday about noon. When I placed the order, I was promised it would be ready that Friday. When I arrived Friday morning around 10:00 to pick it up, the order was not ready. My bad – I should have asked for a specific time. I told the print shop owner about my predicament; he said my order would be completed that day as promised, but he couldn’t tell me when. So, I cancelled with the school and the Rotarians and felt stupid because of having to do so.

An hour later I received a call from the print shop telling me my order was ready. I don’t know whether the owner felt bad after I left and decided to rush the order or whether it would naturally have been completed by then. What I do know is that a little effort on his part would have solved my problem and I wouldn’t have had to cancel with everyone. Because he made no effort, I’ll go to a different print shop next time.

Thank every guest. One of my favorite poor customer service stories happened at a bookstore. After silently handing me my change, the cashier pushed my purchase across the counter toward me and just looked at me.  No “thank you,” “have a nice day,” “don’t let the door hit you on the way out” – nothing. I finally said to her, “no thank you?” She asked, “thank you for what?” She genuinely did not understand why she should thank me for shopping at the store where she is employed. Although there are not a lot of bookstores to shop at anymore, Amazon makes buying books really easy and even thanks me for my business.

My husband thinks I’m too nitpicky about customer service because I teach customer service classes. So, I conducted my own survey to see if the people in my world have stopped doing business with companies because of receiving poor customer service. Either the people I surveyed are too nitpicky too or receiving poor customer service really does drive people away.

Business owners, managers, and their employees need to know that customers can get similar goods at similar places all over town or on-line. The distinguishing factor between businesses is usually only the service they provide, and failure to provide good customer service is a sure way to send your customers straight to your competitors.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

For other columns by Robin Paggi, search “paggi” in the blog search box.

 

OSHA: Fla. Contractor Guilty of Safety Violations

This utility contractor in South Florida evidently still hasn’t gotten the message that it needs to do better on worker safety.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Douglas N. Higgins Inc., a South Florida utility contractor, for exposing employees to cave-in and other hazards at a Naples worksite. The company faces $18,659 in proposed penalties.

OSHA inspected the worksite as part of the Agency’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. OSHA inspectors cited Higgins for allowing employees to work in a trench without cave-in protection, and for failing to maintain a safety and health program on excavation hazards. OSHA cited the contractor for violations in January 2017 when three employees succumbed to toxic gases while working in a manhole, and again in May 2018 after a steel plate fell on and fatally injured an employee.

“Despite being recently cited for violations that contributed to four worker fatalities, this employer continues to disregard well-known safety and health requirements,” said Condell Eastmond, OSHA Fort Lauderdale Area Office Director. “Employers involved in excavation work must follow safety procedures to ensure that workers are properly protected from a trench collapse and other trench hazards.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

POSTSCRIPT: This post was featured in the June 29 weekly roundup of the Ohio Employer Law Blog.