Archive for June, 2020

Mo. Contractor Dinged $224K for Trench Collapse

Contractors, make sure you shore up your trench collapse prevention procedures.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Unnerstall Contracting Company LLC for violations of OSHA’s trenching and excavation standards after an employee suffered severe injuries when a 20-foot trench collapsed during excavation of Creve Coeur Sanitary Sewer Trunk in Creve Coeur, Missouri. OSHA cited the Pacific, Missouri-based company for three willful and four serious violations, and faces penalties of $224,459. The agency has placed the company in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA cited the company for failing to utilize adequate trench protective systems, permitting employees to ride in the bucket of hydraulic excavators, and allowing water to accumulate in the floor of the trench. OSHA also cited the employer for failing to provide a safe means of egress from the trench, protect workers from struck-by hazards, and place excavated soil piles an adequate distance from trench edges.

“Excavating and trenching operations are among the most hazardous occupations in the construction industry,” said OSHA St. Louis Area Director Bill McDonald. “A trench collapse can happen in just seconds causing serious injuries just as quickly. Injuries can be prevented when employers train workers on excavation hazards and ensure required protections are in place before workers enter a trench as required by the OSHA standard.”

OSHA’s trenching and excavation webpage provides resources to help employers and employees prevent trench cave-ins by sloping, shoring, or shielding trench walls.

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.

Deep Breaths: OSHA Details Enforcement Procedures for Silica Exposure at Workplace

The feds are ramping up their enforcement of silica exposure limits.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a compliance directive designed to ensure uniformity in inspection and enforcement procedures when addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry, maritime, and construction.

The new directive provides OSHA compliance safety and health officers with guidance on how to enforce the silica standards’ requirements, including:

  • Methods of compliance
  • Table 1 tasks and specified exposure control methods;
  • Exposure assessments;
  • Housekeeping;
  • Respiratory protection;
  • Regulated areas;
  • Recordkeeping;
  • Employee information and training;
  • Medical surveillance; and
  • Communication of hazards.

The directive also provides clarity on major topics, such as alternative exposure control methods when a construction employer does not fully and properly implement Table 1, variability in sampling, multi-employer situations, and temporary workers.

OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the construction standard in September 2017, with enforcement of the requirements for sample analysis starting in June 2018. Enforcement of most of the general industry and maritime standards began in June 2018, with enforcement of some medical surveillance requirements commencing on June 23, 2020. On June 23, 2021, OSHA will begin enforcing requirements for engineering controls for hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry.

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 www.osha.gov.

EEOC Alleges Retaliation at Fla. Doctor’s Office; Says Nurse Was Reassigned Following Complaint

Don’t compound alleged employment discrimination by punishing the accuser.

Pediatric Health Care Alliance, a Tampa-based pediatric medical practice, violated federal law when it retaliated against a female registered nurse for reporting that a doctor, who was also a company vice president, inappropriately touched her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed June 22. The employer transferred her to another location where her work conditions were intolerable so that she was forced to resign, the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the male doctor inappropriately touched the nurse twice. The employee reported the incidents to her supervisor, who agreed the behavior was inappropriate, and directed her to go to human resources. In retaliation for reporting these incidents, Pediatric Health Care Alliance transferred the employee to a different location, where many of her job duties as a nurse were taken away and her pay was reduced. The nurse was forced to resign as a conse­quence of this retaliation, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who object to such discrimination.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (EEOC vs. Pediatric Health Care Alliance, P.A., Case No. 8:20-cv-01428) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the discrimination victim, and injunctive relief.

“The EEOC will address employers who punish their employees for properly reporting in­appropriate conduct, making the victim even worse off,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “That is illegal retaliation and should not be tolerated.”

Evangeline Hawthorne, director of the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office, added, “The EEOC will not tolerate retaliation. Employees cannot be made to fear reporting inappropriate conduct; they should know their rights will be protected.”

The EEOC’s Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa, and San Juan offices and has jurisdiction over most of Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The EEOC’s Miami District employs multiple bilingual investigators who speak English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, French and Portuguese.

Joint Guidance From OSHA, CDC On Safety for Seafood Processing Workers During Coronavirus

Now it’s the seafood processing industry’s turn to receive guidance on safety during the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have released joint coronavirus-related interim guidance for employers and workers performing seafood processing operations in onshore facilities and aboard vessels offshore. The guidance includes recommended actions employers can take to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“It is imperative that workers in the seafood processing industry are protected from coronavirus exposure in their workplace,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA collaborated with the CDC and FDA to provide this guidance, which outlines steps employers can take to provide a safe and healthful workplace for workers in this vital industry.”

While the seafood products these workers handle do not expose them to the coronavirus, their work environments – processing stations and other areas in busy facilities where they have close contact with coworkers and supervisors – may contribute to their potential exposures.

The interim guidance includes information regarding:

  • Modifying the alignment of workstations, so that workers are at least 6 feet apart in all directions;
  • Staggering workers across shifts to limit the number of employees on site at any given time;
  • Adding additional clock in/out stations, or staggering times for workers to clock in/out to reduce crowding in these areas;
  • Providing temporary break areas and restrooms, or staggering breaks, to avoid crowding in these areas;
  • Analyzing sick leave and incentive program policies to ensure that ill workers stay home and are not penalized for taking sick leave if they have the coronavirus; and
  • Screening and monitoring workers, and creating a system for workers to alert their supervisors if they have signs or symptoms of the coronavirus or had recent close contact with a suspected or confirmed case.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 www.osha.gov.

EEOC Says Women Harassed at Car Dealership

Would you buy a car from this dealership? Maybe not if you had evidence that the manager was harassing the female employees.

James Cars of Hamburg, LLC, doing business as James Mitsubishi Hamburg, and its parent company James Auto Management LLC, 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 yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the general manager of the Hamburg dealership and two other dealerships owned by the parent company in Rome and Greece, N.Y., made numerous unwelcome sexual advances and comments to two female employees. The manager’s unwelcome conduct included repeatedly staring at and making com­ments about their bodies and asking them to join him in his hotel room. According to the lawsuit, the general manager mimed sex acts in front of a female employee and told her that he imagined waking up next to her in bed. The EEOC further alleges he engaged in inappropriate physical contact with the female employees, including giving unwelcome massages.

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges the general manager’s behavior was well-known throughout the dealership, including by the Vice President of Human Resources, who witnessed and encouraged the harassment. Ultimately, one female employee was forced to quit because James Mitsubishi Hamburg took no action to stop the harassment. 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. James Cars of Hamburg LLC d/b/a James Mitsubishi Hamburg, and James Auto Management LLC, Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-00780) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Buffalo Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages for both affected emp­loyees, back pay for the employee forced to resign, and injunctive relief designed to prevent future sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Employers who are aware of sexual harassment in the workplace have a legal obligation to quickly end it,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC will continue to take action against businesses who fail to protect their employees from unlawful harassment.”

Judy Keenan, director of the New York District Office, said, “No employee should be forced to choose between enduring sexual advances and comments and earning a living. Ending sexual harassment in the workplace remains 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 James Bobseine and EEOC supervisory trial attorney Nora Curtin.

Open Wide: Pa. Dental Practice Pays $100K to Settle Age Case Involving Ousted Hygienists

Young people might make better dental hygienists, but it should be based on merit not age considerations.

Capital City Dental Care, a dental practice headquartered in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania suburb of Camp Hill, will pay $100,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal age discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced yesterday.

EEOC charged that after a new owner purchased the dental practice, it fired eight out of nine dental hygienists older than 40, based on their ages. Capital City Dental Care later replaced the older hygienists with 14 employees, 13 of whom were under age 40.

Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination against people who are age 40 or older.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Michael A. Sisk, DDS, LLC, d/b/a/ Capital City Dental Care, Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-00804-SHR) in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s investigation began when five of the terminated dental hygienists filed charges with the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

In addition to providing lost wages and other monetary relief, the four-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Capital City Dental Care from engaging in age discrimination and retaliation. The dental practice will implement an updated policy against discrimination, with an emphasis on preventing age discrimination, and a complaint procedure. The company will provide training on the ADEA, post a notice of employee rights under the ADEA, and report to the EEOC on its compliance with the consent decree.

“Capital City Dental Care worked with us to resolve this matter amicably,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “In addition to the monetary relief, this settlement has meaningful policy changes to protect workers from age discrimination.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “Workers should be judged on their abilities, not age. This resolution reminds employers that the EEOC is committed to ending age discrimination in the workplace.”

The EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office 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 Packages Data in New Online Visuals

Now you can see how the EEOC’s workpile stacks up–with a click of your mouse.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has created new data visualizations to illustrate existing online employment discrimination data found here, the federal agency announced Monday.

The purpose of these visuals, created by the EEOC’s Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics (OEDA), is to display enforcement data in a simple, comprehensible, and visually appealing way for all the EEOC’s stakeholders.

“These data visualizations will help illustrate statistics for employment discrimination charges and resolutions for the general public as well as specialists in anti-discrimination law,” said EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon. “Additionally, these new visual tools are part of the agency’s broader effort to bring greater transparency to EEOC’s operations.”

The visuals illustrate data over five years for charges of employ­ment discrimination and resolutions for:

  • All Charges
  • Retaliation Charges
  • Sexual Harassment Charges

“OEDA is pleased to provide these new tools for the public,” said Chief Data Officer Dr. Chris Haffer. “Data visualizations, such as those released today, are just one example of the products OEDA is developing as part of its effort to build a 21st century data analytics office at the EEOC.”

Manufacturer Hit With $259K OSHA Fine for Safety Violations That Resulted in Finger Loss

We tout American manufacturing. Let’s at least make it safe for the workers involved.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Bravo Pak Inc. for failing to abate hazards at its Pennsauken, New Jersey, facility. The company owes $259,760 in penalties.

In June 2019, OSHA cited the shipping supplies manufacturer after an attempt to clear a jammed machine resulted in an amputation of a worker’s fingers. Investigators found Bravo Pak Inc. failed to develop and implement a lockout/tagout program to address the unexpected start-up of a machine during servicing and failed to ensure proper machine guarding. The company agreed to correct the hazards. When Bravo Pak Inc. failed to provide OSHA with verification of the hazards’ corrections, the agency initiated a follow-up inspection on Sept. 30, 2019.

“This employer’s failure to follow required safety standards continues to put workers at risk for serious injuries,” said OSHA Marlton Area Office Director Paula Dixon-Roderick.

“Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that workers are provided necessary workplace safety and health protections,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.

OSHA’s lockout/tagout and machine guarding webpages include compliance assistance resources to protect workers from these hazards.

The company had 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. Bravo Pak did not contest or otherwise respond to the citations and penalties, which by law becomes a final order. The company has failed to pay any of the associated penalties, which the Department may refer for debt collection.

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/.

EEOC: Female Welder Harassed, Retaliated Against at Pa. Steel Manufacturing Company

Women still have a tough go of it in professions where men dominate.

Moore & Morford, Inc., a steel manufacturing company in South Greensburg, Pa., violated federal law by subjecting a female welder to sexual harassment as well as retaliation when she reported the harassment and filed a charge with the the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Com­mis­sion (EEOC), the federal agency charged in a lawsuit it filed Friday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Moore & Morford subjected a former employee, the com­pany’s only female welder at the time, to a hostile work environment because of her sex when male employees repeatedly called her by sexist epithets and made offensive hand gestures toward her. Co-workers also dirtied her bathroom and personal belongings and engaged in other sexually offensive and threatening conduct, the EEOC says.

The EEOC charges that Moore & Morford’s managers and owners knew about the sexual harassment and failed to stop it. The agency says that after the female welder complained about the harassment, her foreman repeatedly yelled at her, increased surveillance of her, denied her tools and equipment that she needed to do her job, forced her to clean up the bathroom that her co-workers had dirtied, and gave her an unfavorable reassignment. Four days after telling the owners that she had contacted the EEOC and was filing a charge of discrimination against the company, they fired her, the EEOC says.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids sexual harassment in employment and prohibits retaliation for opposing such conduct, contacting the EEOC, filing charges of discrimination, or other­wise participating in EEOC proceedings. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Civil Action No. 2:20-cv-00892), after first attempting to reach a pre-suit settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

“No worker should ever have to endure sexually degrading and humiliating work conditions in order to earn a living,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the agency’s Philadelphia District Office. “The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce the laws prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation for opposing and reporting it.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson added, “When employers learn about sexual harassment in the workplace, they must take prompt action reasonably calculated to stop the harassment and prevent it from reoccurring, and they must not retaliate against workers who complain about sexual harassment or who communicate with the EEOC. All too often we see employers retaliate against the victim of discrimination rather than take necessary steps to stop the perpetrator.”

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

OSHA Issues “General Principles” for Nonessential Businesses and Return to Work

Again OSHA has waded into the Covid-19 waters with advice as economy reopens.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance to assist employers reopening non-essential businesses and their employees returning to work during the evolving coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance supplements the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ previously developed Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. The guidelines provide general principles for updating restrictions originally put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. During each phase of the reopening process, employers should continue to focus on strategies for basic hygiene, social distancing, identification and isolation of sick employees, workplace controls and flexibilities, and employee training.

Non-essential businesses should reopen as state and local governments lift stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders and follow public health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal requirements or guidelines. Employers should continue to consider ways to use workplace flexibilities, such as remote work and alternative business operations, to provide goods and services to customers.

OSHA recommends that employers continually monitor federal, state, and local government guidelines for updated information about ongoing community transmission and mitigation measures, as well as for evolving guidance on disinfection and other best practices for worker protection.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 www.osha.gov.