Archive for May, 2019

OSHA Hits Ga. Tire Company With Hefty Fine

The work of tire manufacturing at this Georgia facility came at a price for workers’ safety.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a combined 22 citations to Kumho Tire Georgia Inc., Sae Joong Mold Inc., and J-Brothers Inc. after a follow-up inspection found safety and health hazards at the tire manufacturing facility in Macon, Georgia. The three companies collectively face $523,895 in proposed penalties.

OSHA cited Kumho Tire Georgia Inc. for exposing employees to fall, struck-by, and burn hazards; failing to follow hazardous energy control procedures when employees performed service and maintenance on machinery; failing to train employees on energy control procedures; and failing to provide machine guarding on various pieces of equipment throughout the facility. Proposed penalties total $507,299. OSHA initiated the follow-up inspection of the tire manufacturer after the Agency did not receive abatement documents regarding a June 2017 inspection and citations. The Agency has now placed Kumho Tire Georgia Inc. in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA cited Sae Joong Mold Inc. for using damaged slings and electrical hazards. Proposed penalties total $9,093. The Agency cited J-Brothers Inc. for exposing employees to smoke inhalation and burn hazards by failing to mount portable fire extinguishers and failing to perform annual maintenance on fire extinguishers. Proposed penalties total $7,503.

“Potential workplace hazards must be assessed and eliminated to ensure a safe work environment,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Director William Fulcher. “This employer exposed workers to multiple safety and health deficiencies that put them at risk for serious or fatal injuries.”

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.

Employer Came Up Short Under ADA in Firing Employee With Hearing Loss, the EEOC Asserts

Down in the Big Easy, this employer apparently eased right into an ADA violation with its handling of an employee with hearing loss.

Tamco Professional Coating Services, Inc. violated federal law when it discriminated against an employee because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in New Orleans on Tuesday. Tamco Professional Coating Services, Inc., (Tamco) which is based in Houma, La., performs sandblasting, painting, soda blasting, pressure washing, water blasting, cleaning, coating, and minor fabrication and repair services.

The EEOC’s suit charged that Tamco told the employee, a foreperson, that its insurance costs would increase because of the foreperson’s hearing loss. Soon after, it fired the foreperson, purportedly for failing to wear hearing protection. Tamco did so without following its own progressive discipline process. It has claimed that, apart from the foreperson, it has never fired anyone for failing to wear hearing protection.

Such alleged conduct violates Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-10775) today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC, which has authority to bring the suit on behalf of the public, has asked the court to permanently enjoin Tamco from engaging in future discrimination. It has also asked the court to order the company to pay the foreperson both punitive and compensatory damages, in addition to lost wages and benefits.

“Employers cannot make – and rely upon – unsubstantiated assumptions about an employee’s physical or mental impairments,” said Keith Hill, director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office.

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney of the Houston District Office, cautioned, “Employers cannot discharge an employee because they fear or suppose that their insurance costs will increase as a result of his mental or physical impairment.”

Scrivener Error: Company Settles With EEOC Over Job Offer Recall for Pregnant Applicant

In legal circles, the phrase “scrivener’s error” refers to correction of a typo in a legal document. It’s an easy fix. But when the employer took back a job offer to a pregnant scribe, the correction is more costly.

Portland-based medical documentation service Scribe-X Northwest will pay $80,000 and make significant changes to its policies and hiring practices to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s investigation, 28-year-old Brittany Frisby applied online for a scribe position, got an offer, and completed all pre-hiring screens. But when she told Scribe-X she was ex­pecting a baby several months later, the company’s CEO called her and rescinded the offer. The CEO told Frisby that she should have notified the company about her pregnancy because it would not have hired her had it known. She tried pleading for her job to no avail, the EEOC said.

Rejecting a qualified applicant because of pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, Case No. 3:17-cv-01520-SI, after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Isabel Jeremiah and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides Frisby with $80,000 in damages for emotional distress and lost wages, and calls for important changes to Scribe-X’s personnel practices. The company has agreed to implement policies that explain employee rights and responsibilities, provide anti-discrimination training to employees with the express commitment of leadership as well as separate training for upper management, and report to EEOC on consent decree compliance. The parties also settled the EEOC’s claim that Scribe-X failed to preserve employment-related records.

“Why assume that becoming pregnant suddenly cancels out all the strengths and skills I bring to the table?” said Frisby. “If anything, I was even more motivated to prove my value and excel at my job because of my pregnancy. I’m glad the EEOC defended my workplace rights, and happy to know Scribe-X will make significant changes to its practices.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley said, “Ms. Frisby sought to earn a steady paycheck at a stable job to support a new child. By bringing her story to the EEOC, she tried to right a wrong, and this positive outcome allows her move on and ensures positive changes for current and future employees at Scribe-X.”

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko added, “Pregnancy discrimination continues to be a serious workplace problem. This case raised awareness of pregnancy issues, and the settlement gives the company a chance to set the right example for all employers in the Portland Metro area.”

Scribe-X Northwest has about 140 employees and, according to http://www.scribe-x.com, serves physicians and other health care providers by providing real-time documentation of physician-patient interactions in outpatient settings.

Safety Violations Set Back Employer Half-Mill

When the rubber met the safety road at this worksite, the outcome wasn’t pretty for the workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Custom Rubber Products LLC – based in Houston, Texas – for failing to properly guard machinery and exposing employees to severe injury and amputation hazards. The company faces $530,392 in fines, the maximum penalty allowable by law.

OSHA cited Custom Rubber Products LLC for four egregious willful violations for machine guarding and caught-in hazards, and the company remains in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA cited the company for similar hazards in 2014 after another employee was severely injured.

“Employers are required to assess potential hazards, and make necessary corrections to ensure a safe workplace,” said OSHA’s Acting Regional Administrator in Dallas Eric S. Harbin. “The inspection results demonstrate workplace deficiencies existed putting workers at serious risk of injury.”

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 http://www.osha.gov.

EEOC: Health Services Co., Staffing Agency Liable for Harassment of Black Employees

Succeed together, sink together. When a staffing agency assigns workers to a racially hostile workplace, both the agency and the employer can be held liable.

Cardinal Health, a global health care services and products company, and staffing agency AppleOne violated federal law by subjecting employees to racial harassment and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit filed May 21.

According to the EEOC, African American employees assigned by AppleOne to Cardinal Health’s Ontario, Calif., facility, along with black employees directly hired by Cardinal Health, were subjected to ongoing and unwelcome harassment based on their race. The EEOC contends that such harassment was perpetrated by co-workers, supervisors, and managers, and included daily use of racial epithets, degrading racial comments and racially derogatory graffiti. When employees complained, neither Cardinal Health nor AppleOne took immediate and corrective action regarding the harassment. This lack of action allowed the hostile work environment to fester, according to the EEOC. Additionally, employees who did complain were fired as retaliation.

Racial discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Cardinal Health and Howroyd-Wright Employment Agency dba AppleOne Employment Services; Case No.: 5:19-cv-00941) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks monetary damages for a class of employees, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent and correct discrimination.

“The EEOC continues to see too many complaints of harassment in the workplace,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Under federal law, employers must promptly take action when harassment is reported.”

Rosa Viramontes, the EEOC’s Los Angeles District director, added, “It is important for staffing agencies and employers to understand their responsibilities when an employee reports discrimination or harassment. In a joint-employer relationship, both entities are responsible to stop and address reported harassment.”

According to its website, www.appleone.com, California-headquartered AppleOne provides employment services both domestically and internationally.

According to Cardinal Health’s website, www.cardinalhealth.com, the Dublin, Ohio-based company is global, integrated health care services and products company which provides customized solutions for hospitals, health systems, pharmacies, ambulatory surgery centers, and physician offices worldwide.

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).

Harassment, Retaliation Claim Sets Back Chicago Fitness Club $45K in Settlement With the EEOC

Allowing sexual harassment to go unchecked is bad enough; retaliating against the complaining employee only digs the employer a deeper hole.

Lakeshore Sport and Fitness, a fitness club in Chicago, will pay $45,000 and provide other relief to settle a sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a Lakeshore employee filed a discrimination charge against the company alleging she had been sexually harassed by another employee while working in the club’s restaurant and that her complaints were ignored. The employee claimed that the company fired her for making the complaints. Two other female employees also claimed that they were sexually harassed by the same employee.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. LHC Operating LLC d/b/a Lakeshore Sport and Fitness, No. 1:17-cv-06803) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago on Sept. 20, 2017 after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gilbert on May 9, prohibits future sex harassment and retaliation and provides that Lakeshore will pay $45,000 to three former employees; post a notice of the settlement; and train its managers and supervisors regarding employer obligations and the rights of employees under Title VII.

“Particularly in this era of #metoo, employers must recognize the importance of taking claims of sexual harassment seriously,” said Julianne Bowman, district director for the EEOC’s Chicago District.

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District, added, “Sex harassment in restaurant environments is sadly not uncommon. Without a clear mechanism for reporting and investigating complaints, the behavior can go on unchecked. We appreciate Lakeshore’s willingness to strengthen its policies to prevent this from recurring.”

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

Pa. Employer Fined $678K Over Arm Amputation

Too late for this worker who lost his hand on the job, but maybe this penalty will spare future workers from this same ill fate.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Champion Modular Inc. for exposing employees to safety and health hazards at its Strattanville, Pennsylvania, facility. The company faces $687,650 in penalties.

OSHA initiated an inspection after an employee suffered an amputation in November 2018. The Agency issued willful and serious citations for failing to use machine guarding, provide fall protection, and train workers on hazard communication and hearing conservation.

“Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries if they are not safeguarded,” said OSHA Erie Area Office Director Brendan Claybaugh. “Employers’ use of machine guards and devices is not optional. Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that machine operators are protected.”

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 American working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov.

My thanks to Jon Hyman for linking to this post in his May 31 weekly round up of employment and HR blogs for the Ohio Employer Law Blog.