Archive for September, 2018

EEOC Recovers $65K For Harassed Worker

Justice was done for this temporary worker who was allegedly the target of harassment and retaliation.

Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, Inc., which operates a roasting facility in Suffolk, Va., has agreed to pay $65,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced August 20. The EEOC had charged that Massimo Zanetti discriminated against a temporary worker when it subjected her to a sexually hostile work environment and then fired her for opposing the abuse.

According to the EEOC’s suit, LaToya Young was a temporary worker supplied by a third-party staffing agency to work at the Suffolk facility. The EEOC alleged that around February 2015, a male co-worker began harassing Young. The alleged harassment included requests for sex and sexual favors, as well as other crude sexual comments and gestures. Young reported the sexual harassment on at least three occasions, but the harassment continued. After Young’s third report to her supervisor, her assignment at Massimo Zanetti was terminated due to her complaints.

Such alleged conduct violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division (EEOC v. Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-499) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Young, Massimo Zanetti entered into a two-year consent decree requiring the company to conduct annual training for its Suffolk employees, supervisors, and managers on the requirements of Title VII and its prohibition against sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. Massimo Zanetti must also post an employee notice in the Suffolk facility and provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

“Employers must take appropriate action to stop harassment of all employees, including temporary workers,” said Kara G. Haden, acting regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “We hope that this case sends a clear message that the EEOC will hold accountable employers who fail to protect all employees from workplace harassment.”

OSHA Targets Trench-Related Injuries in New Series of Compliance Assistance Resources

The hazards associated with trenching in construction are well-known, and I have written about them extensively.

Now, federal regulators are upping their commitment to eliminate those hazards.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a series of compliance assistance resources to help keep workers safe from trenching and excavation hazards. OSHA’s goal is to increase awareness of trenching hazards in construction, educate job creators and workers on safe cave-in prevention solutions, and decrease the number of trench collapses. These resources, which continue the goals of the Department’s recently announced Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI), encourage and facilitate compliance evaluations.

Trench-related injuries are preventable when workers are properly trained and the required protections are in place. OSHA is working with industry stakeholders and providing new compliance assistance resources.

  • U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta recorded audio public service announcements in English and Spanish that highlight effective ways to stay safe when working around trenches and excavations. A 45-second video, “5 Things You Should Know to Stay Safe,” also highlights well-known and proven safety measures that can eliminate hazards and prevent worker injuries.
  • An updated trenching operations QuickCard provides information on protecting workers around trenches, including daily inspections, and trench wall safety.
  • OSHA’s revised “Protect Workers in Trenches” poster provides a quick reminder of the three ways to prevent dangerous trench collapses: SLOPE or bench trench walls, SHORE trench walls with supports, or SHIELD trench walls with trench boxes. The poster is available in English and Spanish.
  • An updated trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions.

OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program provides valuable services for job creators that are separate from enforcement. OSHA recently published an analysis demonstrating how the agency’s On-Site Consultation Program contributes $1.3 billion to the national economy each year. Job creators who implement workplace improvements can reduce lost time due to injuries and illnesses, improve employee morale, increase productivity, and lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

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 help 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 http://www.osha.gov.

OCI – housed within the Department of Labor’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy – fosters a compliance assistance culture within the Department designed to complement its ongoing enforcement efforts. This Office focuses on helping enforcement agencies more effectively use online resources to deliver information and compliance assistance to help the American people. In August 2018, OCI launched Worker.gov and Employer.gov to provide information about workers’ rights and the responsibilities of job creators toward their workers.

Drill Maker Faces ADA Suit Over Termination of Employee Who Took Cancer-Treatment Leave

Another employer is in federal enforcers’ sights because of its inflexible leave policy.

Stanley Black & Decker Inc., a global diversified industrial company, violated federal law when it terminated an employee with cancer who took leave for medical treatment related to her cancer, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced August 17.

According to the suit, an inside sales representative, who started working at Stanley Black & Decker’s Towson facility in March 2016, told her supervisor she had been treated for cancer and would have follow up doctor appointments throughout the year. In October 2016, when she needed further testing that included a biopsy, the employee spoke to the human resources representative about her options. The human resources representative told the inside sale representative that there were no available options since she had not been employed long enough to be eligible for medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The EEOC charges that Stanley Black & Decker fired the sale representative for poor attendance in December 2016, even though she exceeded her sales goals and quotas. Her absences were related to her prior cancer treatments or need for additional medical testing, and she had requested a reasonable accommodation. Stanley Black & Decker’s inside sales attendance policy does not provide exceptions for people who need leave as an accommodation to their disability, according to the suit. Moreover, the company did not follow its progressive discipline policy and fired the inside sales representative instead of giving her a final written warning as set forth in its attendance policy.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities, unless it is an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02525) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary, pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “Employers can run afoul of the ADA if they have a rigid attendance policy that penalizes employees taking leave as a reasonable accommodation for their disabilities.”

“This case should remind all employers that they have an obligation to make exceptions to ‘no fault’ attendance policies as a form of a reasonable accommodation unless doing so would be an undue hardship,” added EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson.

Addressing emerging and developing areas of law, including inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

$100K Settlement in ADA Suit Vs. Home Depot

Had Home Depot given this employee an emergency break, it might have saved itself alot of money.

Home Depot, the large national home improvement retailer, has agreed to pay a former employee $100,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced August 16.

According to the EEOC, Home Depot failed to provide an emergency break to an employee with irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia at its Peru, Ill., store. Instead of accommodating the employee, Home Depot fired her for allegedly violating company policy by leaving her post unattended, the federal agency charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities.

The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. The Home Depot/Home Depot, U.S.A, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-06990, on Sept. 28, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

The consent decree, entered by Judge Robert Gettleman on August 16, 2018, prohibits disability discrimination and retaliation at Home Depot’s Peru store. In addition to monetary relief of $100,000, the consent decree requires Home Depot to provide training on the ADA to all managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel in the Peru store regarding their responsibilities in the reasonable accommodation process under the ADA, including the duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, policies and procedures for requesting and providing accommodations to employees for disability-related absences, and the range of potential accommodations at Home Depot facilities. Home Depot will also communicate to all other employees their rights under the ADA and provide information on whom to report requests for accommodations or disability-related complaints. Over the next two years, Home Depot will also keep a record of all accommodation requests and disability-related complaints at that store and provide a report to the EEOC every six months.

“The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities that enable them to perform their jobs,” said Greg Gochanour, the regional attorney of EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “It is regrettable that instead of working with the employee to help secure coverage of her post in the event of a disability-related emergency restroom break, Home Depot fired her when, despite her best efforts, she was unable to find coverage.”

“We are pleased with today’s settlement, which will both compensate the victim and provide ADA training to Home Depot’s employees at its Peru store,” said Julianne Bowman, EEOC’s district director in Chicago. “Training employees on their rights and responsibilities under the ADA is an essential piece in maintaining an accessible workplace.”

EEOC Trial Attorneys Ann Henry and Kelly Bunch and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason litigated the case against Home Depot.

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

EEOC Sues Employer for Religious Harassment

This New Jersey employer is in trouble with federal regulators over its alleged harassment of a Catholic employee.

Hackensack Meridian Health, a New Jersey health care network, violated federal law when a manager engaged in the harassment of a Catholic employee because of the employee’s religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed August 16.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Hackensack was aware of but failed to stop a hostile work environment at its Edison, N.J., facility. Shortly after the employee was hired to perform clinical data analytics work, his manager learned he was Catholic and reacted negatively upon seeing a crucifix in the employee’s office. Since then, the manager regularly belittled him, screamed at him, and ridiculed his work in front of others.

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on religion, which includes subjecting employees to hostile or abusive treatment because of an employee’s religious beliefs. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (EEOC v. Hackensack Meridian Health, Civil Action No. 2:18-CV-12856) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“All employees are entitled to work in an environment free from unlawful harassment,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “That includes hostile treatment motivated by an employee’s religious beliefs.”

“Equal opportunity in the workplace requires respect for the diversity of the American workforce,” said EEOC’s New York District Director Kevin Berry. “People of all religions are entitled to go to work and do their jobs without fear of harassment.”

The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

EEOC: Employer Violated ADA in Not Allowing Stroke Victim to Return to Work Post-Leave

This employer compounded its first ADA violation–not allowing an employee to return to work following a medical absence–with a second violation in retaliating against him after he complained, according to federal regulators.

Custom Fabrication & Engineering, doing business as Midwest Automation Custom Fabrication, Inc., located in Fort Smith, Ark., violated federal law when it refused to allow a long-time employee to return to work following a medical leave of absence, based on a perceived disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed August 15. The company then fired him because he filed an EEOC charge.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the long-term employee suffered a stroke in October 2016. Following a recuperative period, the company refused to return the employee to work, even though the employee had obtained releases required by the company. Further, when the employee attempted to return to work, the company owner asked him why he had filed a charge with EEOC and told him the job was “not going to work out.”

Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, the ADA protects employees from retaliation for complaining about discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-02143, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits, and an injunction against future discrimination.

“Federal law protects employees from unlawful discrimination based on false perceptions, stereotypes and perceived disabilities,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi. “Furthermore, an employer cannot terminate an employee for choosing to exercise his rights by filing a charge with the EEOC.”

In June of 2018 Custom Fabrication & Engineering of Fort Smith, Ark., merged with Midwest Automation of Arkoma, Okla., to form Midwest Automation Custom Fabrication, Inc. The company is a totally integrated fabrication company that designs, engineers and installs structural steel for commercial and industrial companies across North America.

Florida Bridge Collapse Triggers OSHA Fines

You may recall this incident over the summer when a pedestrian bridge collapsed in Miami.

Now the construction companies that build the bridge are being called to account for their alleged recklessness and indifference to safety standards.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Friday, September 14, cited multiple contractors for safety violations after one employee suffered fatal injuries and five other employees sustained serious injuries when a pedestrian bridge at the Florida International University campus in Miami collapsed. The five companies collectively received seven violations, totaling $86,658 in proposed penalties.

OSHA cited Figg Bridge Engineers Inc., a civil and structural engineering company; Network Engineering Services Inc. (doing business as Bolton Perez & Assoc.), a construction engineering and inspection firm; Structural Technologies LLC (doing business as Structural Technologies/VSL), specializing in post-tensioning in bridges and buildings; Munilla Construction Management LLC, a bridge and building construction company; and The Structural Group of South Florida Inc., a contractor specializing in concrete formwork.

OSHA’s investigation determined that the companies failed to protect workers when indications of a potential bridge collapse were evident. Violations included exposing employees to crushing and fall hazards; and allowing multiple employees to connect to an improperly installed lifeline.

“Collectively, these employers failed to take appropriate action and provide the necessary protections to their employees while they were working on the bridge on the day it collapsed,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Kurt A. Petermeyer.

Read the citations for Figg Bridge Engineers Inc., Network Engineering Services Inc., Structural Technologies LLC, Munilla Construction Management LLC, and The Structural Group of South Florida Inc.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the 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.