Archive for March, 2019

HELP USA Settles Harassment Suit for $150K

Harassment of women is never “playful,” a lesson that this employer might now take to heart.

HELP USA, Inc., a nationwide provider of housing  and support services, will pay $150,000 and furnish other relief to settle a  lawsuit for sexual harassment filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced on Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a supervisor at the company’s Morris Avenue location in  the Bronx regularly directed unwelcome sexual advances to female employees,  made sexually offensive comments, and ogled women in the workplace. He also  treated female subordinates in a verbally abusive manner, shouting at them and  belittling them and their work. One employee’s repeated complaints about the supervisor’s  conduct went unheeded for months. A manager responded to one such complaint dismissively,  stating that the supervisor engaging in the harassment was just being  “playful.”

Such conduct  violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits  discrimination – including harassment – because of sex. Sex harassment may  include conduct that is openly sexual in nature, such as overtly sexual or  sexist comments or behavior. It may also include hostile or abusive treatment  that is not overtly sexual in nature but is targeted at members of one sex. The  EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New  York (EEOC v. HELP USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-07598) after first  attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.

“The EEOC is committed to eradicating sexual harassment in  the workplace,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “We will  continue to fight that kind of harmful misconduct everywhere we can.”

Under the consent decree resolving the  lawsuit, HELP USA will pay $150,000 in damages to the harassment victims. It also requires  HELP USA to maintain and distribute anti-discrimination policies to employees and to provide training to all employees at its Morris Avenue  location. Additionally, any complaints of Title VII discrimination made by HELP  USA employees, such as harassment complaints, will be reported to the EEOC.

Kevin Berry, Director of the EEOC’s New York District Office,  said, “Federal law clearly prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC will continue  to ensure that employers take this kind of abuse seriously — and employee  complaints about it.”

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.

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

Temp Subject to Harassment; Employer Forks Over $34K to Settle Resulting EEOC Lawsuit

The foreman couldn’t keep his hands of a female line employee. His employer didn’t stop the harassment. Its next stop was in federal court.

Premier Employee Solutions LLC, a Greensboro, Utah based company that provides temporary labor to a variety of industries, will pay $34,000 and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced March 26.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Sarah Isley began working for Premier around February 2016.  She was assigned as a temporary employee at the Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc. facility, in Whitsett, N.C.  From February 2016 to around April 2016, a male line lead employed by Premier subjected Isley to sexual harassment on a daily or near daily basis.  The sexual conduct included inappropriate comments, sexual gestures, and physical touching, including one occasion where the line lead grabbed Isley’s breasts.  Isley complained to Premier about the sexual harassment, but the harassment continued.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from allowing a sexually hostile work environment to exist in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Premier Employee Solutions LLC, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00823) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

Under the consent decree resolving this case, Premier agreed to implement an amended anti-harassment policy; conduct training for managers, supervisors, and employees at its Greensboro, N.C. facility and the Whitsett facility where Isley worked; post an anti-discrimination notice at both facilities; and periodically report compliance to the EEOC for the duration of the decree.

“Sexual harassment is always unacceptable and unlawful in any workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC takes a company’s failure to take appropriate action to stop sexual harassment very seriously and will prosecute cases where this kind of abuse occurs.”

EEOC Secures $31K for Telemarketer Trainee Denied Reasonable Accommodation for Dyslexia

Future applicants and employees with disabilities at this Maryland company now at least have a fighting chance of being treated properly under the law.

Protocall Communications, Inc., a company that markets energy price  protection in eight states, will pay $31,000 and furnish significant equitable  relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced March 26.

According  to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Protocall officials at its Laurel, Md., headquarters  asked the employee with dyslexia if she had a learning disability. When she  said she did, the director of human resources told her there was no point in  continuing the training and denied the employee’s request to be allowed to take  the script home to practice it and instead fired her, refusing to provide a  reasonable accommodation to a telemarketer trainee.

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. The EEOC filed suit  (EEOC v. Protocall Communications, Inc., Civil  Action No. 8:18-cv-02535-TDC) in U.S. District Court for the District of  Maryland, Baltimore Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.

In  addition to the $31,000 in monetary relief to the employee, the two-year  consent decree resolving the suit provides substantial equitable relief,  including prohibiting Protocall from denying reasonable accommodations or  violating the ADA. The company will distribute its policies and procedures  prohibiting disability discrimination and addressing reasonable accommodations  to all employees and newly-hired employees. Protocall will train all managers,  supervisors and human resources personnel on the ADA and its reasonable  accommodation requirements. The company will report to the EEOC on how it  handled any internal complaints of discrimination. Protocall will post a notice  about the settlement and post notices required by EEOC regulations.

EEOC  Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “We commend Protocall Communications  for working with us to resolve this matter quickly and amicably. The settlement  not only compensates the employee for her lost wages and damages, but also  contains substantial equitable relief to protect all applicants and employees  from disability discrimination.”

“Employers  must provide a reasonable accommodation, when needed, including during the initial  training period,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson.  “Most accommodations cost nothing or have a typical cost of $500, according to  employer surveys conducted by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). EEOC and JAN  have free resources and guidance regarding reasonable accommodations on their  respective websites, www.eeoc.gov and https://askjan.org.”

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.

EEOC Retrieves $70K in Lost Wages for Employee Ousted Because of Lung Impairment

An employer’s assumption that a worker couldn’t do his job because of breathing issues got it into trouble under the ADA.

Mid South Extrusion, Inc., a flexible packaging company based in Monroe, La.,  has agreed to pay $70,000 in lost wages and damages and provide other  significant relief to settle a disability lawsuit filed last year by the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit,  Mid South fired Jeffrey Wyant because he has a lung impairment. The suit  alleged that in June 2015, Wyant began having breathing problems at work and  saw several doctors, as a result of which he learned that he had health issues,  including reduced breathing capacity in his lungs. In response, Mid South  became concerned with Wyant’s breathing issues and decided that working in a  plastics manufacturing facility would be harmful to his health. Immediately  after a coughing incident he had at work in September 2015, Mid South fired  him. The EEOC determined that Wyant was terminated on the basis of disability, about  one year after being hired.

Such alleged conduct violates  the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action  No. 3:17-cv-01229-TAD-KLH) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of  Louisiana, Monroe Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process. Mid South denied liability. The  parties agreed to resolve the dispute by entering into a two-year consent  decree.

On March  22, 2019, U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty signed and entered the decree. In  addition to the monetary award for Wyant, the decree provides for significant  non-monetary relief, including an injunction prohibiting any future  discrimination. Mid South is also bound under the decree to develop an  effective policy to protect applicants and/or employees from any form of  disability discrimination in the future, including making an intensive  individualized assessment in consultation with the employee, and, if need be, his  or her treating physicians, to determine if the employee can perform the  essential functions of the job and to determine if he or she is a safety  threat.

Additionally, the decree  requires that Mid South provide training about its policies and the ADA’s requirements.  Mid South will report to the EEOC on its compliance with the decree and post an  “EEO Is the Law” poster for the employees and/or applicants to be aware of  their rights.

“The law requires companies to  make an individualized assessment of an employee’s ability to perform the  essential functions of his job, and not to rely on assumptions,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for EEOC’s New Orleans and Houston offices. “The  EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people like Mr. Wyant whose rights against  disability discrimination are violated.”

Michelle Butler, senior trial  attorney for the New Orleans Field Office, added, “This settlement is the best  avenue to address the concerns raised by the EEOC and Jeffrey Wyant’s  complaints.”

Goodwill Ignored Janitor’s Need for Reasonable Accommodation, EEOC Charges in ADA Lawsuit

Passivity won’t cut it under the ADA when an employee needs a reasonable accommodation. Rather, the employer must engage the employee to see if an accommodation is possible that will allow the employee to continue working.

Goodwill  Industries of New York and New Jersey, which provides job opportunities to  people with disabilities, violated federal law when it failed to provide  reasonable accommodations that would have allowed an employee to continue  working as a janitor in New York City-owned buildings, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Monday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit,  the employee, as a result of his cognitive disability, had trouble navigating  certain interactions with other employees and members of the public and needed  additional training or job coaching to properly understand the rules he was  required to follow. Instead, the EEOC said, his supervisor gave him written  warnings, which the employee was unable to read or understand. When the  employee said that he needed someone to explain the warnings to him, the  supervisor disregarded the request. As a result, the employee continued to  experience the same difficulties and was ultimately fired, the agency charged.

Under the Americans with  Disabilities Act (ADA), when an employer is aware that an employee with a  disability needs an accommodation in order to perform the essential functions  of his job, it must provide an accommodation, unless doing so would be an undue  hardship. An accommodation may in­clude job coaching, additional training,  modifications to the employer’s standard operating procedures, or other  measures that would allow the employee to do his job successfully. The employer  is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine  if there is a way to accommodate the employee’s disability.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S.  District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Goodwill Industries of New York & New Jersey, Civil  Action No. 1:19-CV-01674) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s litigation effort  will be led by Trial Attorney Sebastian Riccardi and supervised by Supervisory  Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

“The law is clear:  Employers must reasonably accommodate the  known disabilities of their employees,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney  Jeffrey Burstein.

EEOC Trial Attorney  Sebastian Riccardi said, “An employer cannot simply ignore an employee’s need  for a reasonable accommodation of a disability. The ADA requires that the  employer engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if  there is a way to accommodate the employee’s disability and allow the employee  to continue doing his job and earning a living.”

EEOC New York District  Director Kevin Berry added, “Employers cannot ignore their obligations under  the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations. The ADA’s accommodation  requirement applies to workers with both physical and, as here, intellectual  disabilities.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office  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.

$188K Safety Fine Awaits Ammo Producer

Lax safety standards at a Florida ammunition manufacturer proved explosive for the company as well as its workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited ammunition manufacturer AMTEC Less Lethal Systems Inc. for exposing employees to explosive hazards after an explosion fatally injured two workers at the company’s Perry, Florida, facility. The company faces $188,290 in penalties for multiple serious violations, and a willful violation that carries the maximum penalty allowed.

OSHA cited AMTEC Less Lethal Systems Inc. – which operates as PACEM Solutions International LLC – for failing to develop and implement management of change procedures when they increased the maximum explosive limits of pyrotechnic flash powder failing to develop and implement management of change procedures when they increased the maximum explosive limits of pyrotechnic flash powder in or near the blast booths from 200 grams to 500 grams. OSHA also cited the company for failing to maintain the engineer’s specifications for the blowout panels installed on the blast booths; using blast booths that did not comply with good engineering practices; and failing to train employees on the operating procedures for work in the diversion section production room.

“When employers disregard safety standards, they place their employees at risk,” said OSHA Jacksonville Area Director Michelle Gonzalez. “This tragedy could have been prevented if AMTEC had complied with OSHA standards.”

The company has 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.

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 https://www.osha.gov

Safety Violations Cost Ohio Employer $1.3M

Hopefully this Ohio metal company has seen the light and will come up to code in its workplace safety practices.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed penalties of $1,326,367 to Dowa THT America Inc. – a metal heat treatment company based in Bowling Green, Ohio – after the company exposed employees to atmospheric, thermal, electrical, and mechanical hazards as they performed maintenance inside heat-treating furnaces. In addition to the penalties, OSHA placed the company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA cited the company for 25 willful, serious, and other-than-serious violations for hazards related to confined spaces, falls, machine guarding, respiratory protection, chemical exposures, and electrical equipment. The company also failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment, and train their employees on hazards in the facility.

“The violations identified exposed employees to serious, and potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Employers have a legal obligation to assess their workplaces for hazards, and establish appropriate safety and health programs to protect their workers.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and 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.

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 https://www.osha.gov.