Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Guaranteed Paid Sick Leave Comes to Maryland

Maryland on Friday joined the ranks of states that have enacted laws requiring private sector companies to provide paid sick leave for employees.

The high job approval ratings for Republican Governor Larry Hogan were no match for the Democratic-majority legislature that overrode the governor’s veto last year of the sick leave bill.

Under the new law, companies with 15 or more employees must provide five days of paid sick or safe leave each year. Sick leave can be used for one’s own serious illness or a family member’s serious illness.

Safe leave gives workers time off to seek help with domestic abuse or sexual assault.

Republicans criticized the Democrats’ bill for its lack of flexibility for businesses and a provision allowing employers to ask employees why they need time off, which they said didn’t adequately protect employees’ privacy.

Hogan still has a bill pending that he wants the legislature to consider that would require companies with 25 or more employees to offer paid sick leave, phased in over three years.

Maryland joints eight other states that have paid sick leave laws: Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington and Rhode Island.

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Expanded Drug Testing for UI Benefits Eyed

The Labor Department wants to expand states’ ability to do drug testing on persons applying for unemployment benefits.

Last year, the Congress disapproved of an Obama-era rule establishing, for State Unemployment Compensation (UC) program purposes, occupations that regularly conduct drug testing.

That category included airplane pilots, flight crews and air traffic controllers, commercial and public transit drivers and any job requiring an employee to carry a firearm.

Republicans in Congress and the Trump DOL apparently feel that list is too limiting.

So in its fall 2017 regulatory agenda, a semiannual roadmap for the administration’s rulemaking plans, the DOL said it will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that “will identify the occupations that regularly conduct drug testing,” presumably a bigger list than those occupations that require drug testing.

N.C. Restaurant Pays Up in Transgender Bias Suit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to take up the banner of transgender employees who experience discrimination in the workplace.

Bojangles’ Restaurants Inc., a North Carolina corporation operating a chain of fast food restaurants in the Southeast, will pay $15,000 and provide other relief to settle a sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the EEOC, the federal agency announced Dec. 20. The EEOC charged that Bojangles’ violated federal law when it subjected a transgender employee to a hostile work environment because of gender identity and then illegally fired the employee in retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Jonathan (De’Ashia) Wolfe, a transgender woman who worked at a Fayetteville, N.C. Bojangles’, was repeatedly subjected to offensive comments about her gender identity and appearance. Managers and assistant mangers demanded Wolfe, who identifies and presents as a woman, to behave and groom in ways that are stereotypically male since Wolfe was born male. Although Wolfe reported the comments on at least two occasions, the harassment continued. Shortly after Wolfe’s complaints, she was fired in retaliation, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from sex discrimination, including harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bojangles Restaurants, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:16-cv-00654-BO) after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As part of the settlement, Bojangles’ is required to pay Wolfe $15,000. In addition, the company has entered into a two-year consent decree which requires it to provide annual live-presenter training to all specified area directors, unit directors, assistant unit directors, and shift managers on Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex and retaliation; to redistribute its anti- harassment/discrimination and retaliation policies to all employees at specified restaurants; and to report to the EEOC any complaints of harassment based on gender identity or gender expression at specified restaurants.

“All employees have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment and gender stereotypes,” said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Federal law provides transgender employees protection from sex discrimination in the workplace.”

Smooth(er) Sailing: EEOC Collects $50K for Cruise Director Fired After Harassment Complaint

A cruise company is charting a better course for its employees who bring sexual harassment complaints to management.

Memphis-based cruise company American Queen Steamboat Company will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a lawsuit charging retaliation filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Dec. 18.

The EEOC charged that in May 2015, American Queen fired a cruise director in retaliation for his submitting a written complaint about the ongoing sexual harassment of a co-worker. The cruise director’s complaint specifically faulted a high-ranking manager, a friend of the alleged harasser, for his handling of the victim’s initial sexual harassment complaint. That high-ranking manager then confronted the cruise director about his complaint and threatened his job. When the cruise director reported the retaliatory conduct to his own supervisor, his supervisor took no action, and American Queen subsequently fired the cruise director.

Retaliation for opposing the sexual harassment of a co-worker violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. American Queen Steamboat Company, Civil Action No. 17-cv-02669) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

On December 15, 2017, Judge Sheryl H. Lipman entered a consent decree resolving the case. In addition to a $50,000 award for lost wages and other damages, the decree requires multiple steps to prevent future discrimination, including an injunction against further retaliation, Web-based and live anti-discrimination training, and monitoring by the EEOC.

“The EEOC is committed to protecting employees who stand up and complain when they see a co-worker being unlawfully sexually harassed,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “We are pleased that this employer will be taking steps to ensure that its managers are fully aware of their obligation not to retaliate and that employees are protected from retaliation in the future.”

Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York District director, said, “2017 has been a groundbreaking year for exposing sexual harassment in the workplace. For sexual harassment to end, we need to make sure that the victims of harassment and their allies are not penalized for coming forward.”

Restaurant Dishes Out $35K in Settlement With EEOC in Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

This restaurant has committed itself to rid pregnancy discrimination from the menu.

Ichiban Japanese Restaurant, LLC, a hibachi-style restaurant doing business as Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse in Jackson, Mich., will pay $35,000 and commit to training its employees to resolve a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Dec. 15.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an employee who worked at the restaurant as a server and bartender was fired because she was pregnant.

Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Michigan (EEOC v. Ichiban Japanese Restaurant, LLC, dba Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse, Case No. 2:17-cv-13164) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree resolving this case requires the company to pay $30,000 to the employee who filed a complaint with the EEOC, and $2,500 each to two other women who the EEOC also determined had been harmed by Ichiban’s personnel practices when they became pregnant while working for the company.

“Employers who fire employees because they are pregnant are violating federal law,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Nedra Campbell. “Ichiban should be commended for agreeing to an early resolution of this case and committing to training its staff on pregnancy discrimination laws.”

The restaurant company has other locations throughout southeastern Michigan.

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio.

Open Windows: Microsoft Drops Mandatory Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Complaints

It’s a new day for workers at Microsoft Inc. who believe they’ve been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The tech giant announced in December that it will allow employees to sue the company for sexual harassment, dropping language from employment contracts that requires employees to bring those claims to private arbitration.

We will have to see if other companies follow Microsoft’s lead in dropping arbitration requirements. Right now it is in the minority in having done so. According to a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, more than half of U.S. workers have signed away their right to sue their employee for sexual harassment, gender or racial discrimination.

As it announced its new policy, Microsoft put its rhetorical muscle behind a bill pending in the U.S. Congress to ban companies from forcing such disputes into closed-door arbitration.

Rental Store in Hot Seat Over Alleged Hostile Work Environment Against Black Employees

We’d like to believe this kind of workplace doesn’t exist anymore in this country, but if believed the allegations of what transpired at a Queens, NY rental store tell a different story.

Aarons, Inc., a nationwide chain of rent-to-own stores, violated federal law when supervisors engaged in race-based harassment of black employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed Dec. 13.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Aarons subjected black employees to a race-based hostile work environment at its Jamaica, Queens warehouse. The mistreatment included the regular and open use of slurs such as “n—-r” and “monkey” by managers at the warehouse. African-American workers were also assigned more difficult tasks and generally treated worse than others at the warehouse.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, which includes subjecting employees to a racially hostile work environment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. Aaron’s, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-07273) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Sebastian Riccardi and Katie Linehan, supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

“Employees have a right to work in an environment free of racial harassment.” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “Racial harassment is against the law, and employers must know that this type of conduct cannot be tolerated.” EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, “The law is clear: Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are free from racial harassment and cannot ignore racist behavior by their managers.”

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.