Archive for September, 2019

EEOC: Outpatient Center Violated Law in Refusing New Mom More Leave Following Birth

Under the law, if you give nonpregnant employees additional time off to deal with medical issues, you have to do something similar for pregnant employees.

Dallas-based Greenhouse Outpatient Center and its parent company, American Addiction Centers, violated federal law when they fired a Behavioral Health Technician after she requested an extra 30 days of leave to recover from childbirth by cesarean section, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed last Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee was hired in October 2015 and notified human resources of her need for maternity leave in February 2016. She was granted a 30-day leave of absence for childbirth and delivered her baby by cesarean section. The employee’s doctor subsequently told her she would need eight weeks to recover from the surgery before returning to work. When she notified human resources of her need for an additional four weeks of leave, she was told her position could not be held open past the initial 30 days that had been approved. Because she could not return at the end of the 30-day leave period, she was fired, even though Greenhouse Outpatient Center has granted leave past 30 days to non-pregnant employees for reasons unrelated to pregnancy.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from firing workers because they are pregnant.

The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 3:19-CV-2302-D, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.  The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages and back pay, as well as injunctive relief.

“If an employer accommodates portions of its workplace, it must offer those same accommodations to pregnant employees,” said Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “In this case, the employer granted exceptions to its leave policy for non-pregnant employees but did not afford its pregnant employee the same opportunity. This woman was put in the untenable position of having to choose between fully recovering from her C-section and keeping her job.”

“Not providing a brand-new mom adequate recovery time ordered by her doctor is an employment practice that may come under the scrutiny by the EEOC if other employees are allowed exceptions or greater opportunity to recover from their injuries or illnesses,” said Dallas District Office Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino. “The resulting loss of wages for an employee when their family is growing is a harm that may need to be remedied under the law.”

Power System Company in ADA Scuffle With EEOC Over Firing of Employee Seen as Liability

An employer that claimed an employee with multiple impairments was a “liability” will have some explaining to do in court.

Pirtek USA LLC, a fluid power system company based in Rockledge, Fla., violated federal law by firing an employee because of a perceived disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit filed Sept. 26.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the Pirtek employee of approximately 10 years was responsible for cutting and transporting hydraulic hoses. In late 2015, the employee was hospitalized for several weeks with pancreatitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia. As of March 2016, the employee’s physician cleared him to return to work without restrictions. Nevertheless, Pirtek terminated him, claiming he was a “liability” and that it was afraid he would get injured on the job, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division (EEOC v. Pirtek USA LLC, Case No. 6:19-cv-01853-CEM-GJK), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the discrimination victim, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

“The ADA is designed to prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on their actual and/or perceived disabilities,” said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District. “Employment decisions based on stereotypes or unreasonable assumptions relating to disability are unlawful, and the EEOC will fight for those subjected to such unfair treatment.”

Michael Farrell, director of the EEOC’s Miami District, said, “No one should be subjected to disability discrimination at their place of work. The EEOC stands with victims of discrimination and remains committed to eradicating it from the workplace.”

The EEOC’s Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa, and San Juan EEOC offices, and has jurisdiction over Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

EEOC Hauls Store to Court for Out-of-Hand Rejecting Applicant With Tourette’s For Job

A person with a facial tic has as much right to be treated fairly in the hiring process as does anyone else.

Home Service Oil Company, doing business as Express Mart, violated federal law when its Cedar Hill, Mo., convenience store manager refused to hire an applicant for a part-time store clerk position due to his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit yesterday.

According to the EEOC, the applicant, who has a facial tic caused by Tourette’s syndrome, applied for a part-time store clerk position at the Cedar Hill Express Mart in 2017. The applicant was a frequent customer at the store. The EEOC alleged that, after he submitted his application, the store manager made a derogatory comment to the assistant manager about the applicant’s facial tic, indicated she did not want someone like him working at the store, and threw his application in the trash.

Such alleged conduct violates the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from refusing to hire qualified job applicants because of physical or mental disabil­ities. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Home Service Oil Co. d/b/a Express Mart, Civil Action No. 4:19-cv-02645), in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri after attempting to resolve the case through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief and a store clerk position for the applicant, an order prohibiting future discriminatory conduct in hiring, and other relief.

“Hiring discrimination is one of the most difficult types of employment discrimination to eliminate because applicants generally do not know the reason they were not hired for a job,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s Regional Attorney in St. Louis. “But the EEOC is committed to ensuring all workers have the freedom to compete for jobs without consideration of their disabilities or other unlawful factors.”

Jack Vasquez, director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District office, said, “Refusing to hire an individual with an obvious disability based on his or her appearance is precisely the type of unlawful conduct the ADA was designed to prevent. Unfortunately, this type of blatant discrimination persists nearly 30 years after the passage of the ADA.”

NY Restaurant Allowed Harassment of Female Employees, EEOC Alleges in Title VII Lawsuit

Women employees allegedly harassed at this restaurant have an ally in the federal government, which has sued the establishment to put a stop to this behavior.

Green Lantern Inn, Inc., doing business as Mr. Dominic’s on Main in Rochester, violated federal law by subjecting two female employees to a sexually hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Paul Dowlatt, the head chef and kitchen manager at Mr. Dominic’s on Main, sexually harassed the charging party, Rachel Clifford, and another female employee throughout their employment. Dowlatt’s conduct included inappropriate physical contact and explicit requests for sex. Further, Dowlatt made repeated sexually inappropriate, hostile, and offensive comments to Clifford and the other employee.

EEOC alleges that female employees complained about Dowlatt’s abusive conduct to Mr. Dominic’s owner, John Tachin, and general manager, Anthony Barbone, but the company failed to take appropriate measures to end the harassment. Ms. Clifford quit because Mr. Dominic’s took no action to stop the harassment, and the other employee was fired shortly after she complained to management about Dowlatt, the EEOC said.

Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Green Lantern Inn, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:19-cv-06704) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Rochester Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the affected emp­loyees, as well as injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Employers who are on notice of sexual harassment in the workplace have a clear duty to quickly put an end to the harassment,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC will continue to hold employers accountable for failing to protect their employees from unlawful harassment.”

Kevin Berry, director of the New York District Office, said, “Sexual harassment in the restaurant industry, or any industry, is unacceptable. Ending sexual harassment in the workplace has always been, and continues to be, a priority for the EEOC.”

The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The agency’s Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.

The case will be litigated by EEOC Trial Attorney Elizabeth Fox-Solomon and EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Kimberly Cruz.

Book Him, Danno: Ohio Court Sentences Roofing Contractor to 3 Years Following Worker’s Death

Maybe some time behind prison walls will persuade this contractor to not ignore workplace safety violations.

An Ohio county court has sentenced Jim Coon – a roofing contractor based in Akron, Ohio – to prison after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 39-year-old employee who fell from a three-story roof while working without required fall protection in November 2017. The court’s action follows an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that found the contractor failed to install fall protection systems.

On September 6, 2019, Summit County Judge Alison McCarty sentenced Coon – owner of Jim Coon Construction – to three years in prison for ignoring safety hazards, and failing to provide workers’ compensation coverage as required. In addition to his incarceration, the court ordered Coon to pay $303,152 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation after he pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud.

“Falls continue to be the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry, which makes the use of proper protection essential,” said Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “Jim Coon willfully disregarded OSHA fall protection regulations that could have prevented this tragedy. This case should serve as a reminder to all employers to comply with their legal obligation to provide required safety equipment, and protect employees on job sites.”

OSHA offers compliance assistance resources on how to prevent falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs on the Fall Protection webpage at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/fallprotection.

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.

By the way, Book Him Danno is an expression from Hawaii Five-0.

Good Bet: Employer in Vegas Settles Harassment, Disability Lawsuit for $925K

What happened in Las Vegas didn’t stay there for this employer, but instead bloomed into a big scuffle with federal civil rights officials.

The Miami-based travel and entertainment company Entertainment Benefits Group (EBG) has settled sexual harassment and disability lawsuits for $925,000 and injunctive relief with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced yesterday.

According to one EEOC lawsuit, EBG failed to provide accommodations to employees with disabilities and failed to engage in the interactive process required by law, often claiming that doing so would jeopardize its relationships with EBG’s business partners. In a second lawsuit, the EEOC charged EBG with failing to investigate allegations of third-party harassment and not taking corrective actions to cease the harassing behavior. The EEOC further contends that EBG retaliated against employees who requested accommodations, were associated with someone with a disability or who complained about harassment.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada (U.S. EEOC v. Entertainment Benefits Group, Case No: 2:19-cv-01134-GMN-VCF and 2:19-cv-01135-RFB-EJY) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agree­ment through its conciliation process. After conciliation, the parties reached an early settlement leading to the simultaneous filing of the complaints and consent decree settling the suit.

Pursuant to the decree, EBG will provide $925,000 in monetary relief to the victims. In conjunction with the monetary relief, EBG will develop a centralized tracking system for employee requests for disability accommodations; create a procedure for the handling and investigation of employees’ harassment complaints; and provide effective ADA and Title VII training for human resources, management and other personnel. The court will maintain jurisdiction of the case for the decree’s four-year term.

“Customer or partner preference is not a justification for non-compliance with the ADA or Title VII,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Las Vegas in its jurisdiction. “We commend EBG for resolving this complaint and for putting in place measures to prevent discrimination within its workforce.”

Patricia Kane, acting local director of the EEOC’s Las Vegas local office, added, “Employers should take every opportunity to review their practices to ensure they are complying with federal law. The EEOC is committed to creating workplaces free of discrimination and harassment. Under this decree, EBG has taken steps to change their practices and create a more inclusive work environment for all employees.”

According to the company’s website, www.entertainmentbenefits.com , EBG is an e-commerce company that specializes in live entertainment and travel.

Cabinet Maker in Trouble With EEOC Over Denial of Intermittent Leave to Employee With Epilepsy

All the employee in this case was asking for was two additional days of leave to deal with her disabilities; what she got in return was the loss of her job.

American Woodmark Corporation, a wood cabinetry manufacturer, violated federal law when it denied a quality auditor in its Jackson, Georgia manufacturing plant a reasonable accommodation for her epilepsy, migraines, and heart condition, then fired her because of her disabilities and in retaliation for requesting two days of unpaid leave, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit.

According to the EEOC’s suit, American Woodmark denied the employee’s request for two days of unpaid leave to treat symptoms related to her disabilities. Instead, American Woodmark assessed attendance infraction points to the employee under its rigid attendance policy. They then fired her for exceeding the permissible number of attendance points, despite her providing a doctor’s note and updated Family Medical Leave Act forms proving she was absent for purposes of treatment and recovery relating to her disabilities.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual’s disability. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 5:19-cv-00381-TES) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, front pay, compensatory, and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

“The use of intermittent medical leave for treatment of a medical condition deemed to be a disability under the ADA is widely recognized as a reasonable accommodation,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “Here, the employee’s request could easily have been granted, but American Woodmark failed to effectively engage in the interactive process and fired her, a 16-year employee of the company, instead of accommodating her.”

Darrell E. Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “The EEOC is committed to ending disability discrimination in Georgia and across the country. An employee should not be forced to risk termination for seeking medical leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.”