Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

$75K Settlement in ADA Parking Spaces Suit

This employer in Maryland allegedly took away preferential parking spots for persons with disabilities–and bought itself an ADA lawsuit as a result.

Cloverland Farms Dairy, the major milk producer in the Baltimore/Washington market, will pay $75,000 in monetary relief and furnish important equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Sept. 19.

The EEOC said Cloverland Farms Dairy had allowed three maintenance mechanics with disabilities working at its Baltimore facility to park in parking spots reserved for individuals for disabilities throughout their lengthy employment, which ranged from eight years to 22 years. In July 2017, Cloverland forbade the employees from using the parking spots designated for individuals with disabilities. Instead, Cloverland required them to park at the employee parking lot farther away from the entrance, and then allowed others without disabilities to use the parking spaces reserved for individuals with disabilities that the three employees previously used, according to the suit.

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, unless it is an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Cloverland Dairy Limited Partnership, t/a Cloverland Farms Dairy, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-02759) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $75,000 in compensatory damages to the employees, the two-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit provides significant equitable relief, including prohibiting Cloverland from violating the ADA in the future. The two complainants still working for the dairy will be allowed to park in the designated parking spaces for individuals with disabilities so long as they have a valid disability parking permit issued by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Cloverland will provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors, and human resources personnel. The company will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any future complaints of disability discrimination and will also post a notice regarding the settlement.

“We are pleased that Cloverland Farms Dairy worked closely with us to resolve this case promptly and without incurring litigation costs,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “This settlement protects all employees from disability discrimination going forward.”

Jamie R. Williamson, district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, added, “Research shows that most reasonable accommodations are free, as in this case, or inexpensive. We are pleased that Cloverland Farms Dairy cooperated with the EEOC to provide the reasonable accommodations needed by these long-term employees.”

Addressing emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

The EEOC’s Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the EEOC’s 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.

OSHA: Safety Hazards Abound at Alabama Plants

This Alabama committed a multitude of workplace hazard sins, according to federal investigators.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Sabel Steel Service Inc. – based in Montgomery, Alabama – for exposing employees to amputation, fall, and other hazards at four of the company’s facilities. The manufacturer faces $320,261 in penalties.

OSHA conducted separate inspections at the company’s facilities in Montgomery, Dothan, and Theodore, Alabama; and in Newnan, Georgia. OSHA cited the company for exposing employees to amputations hazards; failing to use safety procedures to control the release of hazardous energy during machine maintenance or servicing; provide fall protection; conduct medical evaluations to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator; and improperly storing oxygen, propane and acetylene cylinders; and electrical and fire hazards. The inspections are part of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Amputations.

“Employers are required to conduct regular assessments of their workplaces to identify safety hazards that can put employees at risk for serious or fatal injuries,” said OSHA Mobile Area Office Director Joseph Roesler.

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.

$165K Settlement Concludes EEOC’s Race Bias Lawsuit Against Wash. Sporting Goods Retailer

This sporting goods retailer concluded it wasn’t worth it to further fight race bias and retaliation claims.

Sporting goods retailer Big 5 Corporation will pay $165,000 and provide other relief to settle a racial discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Sept. 18.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Big 5’s store manager and assistant managers in Oak Harbor, a town on Whidbey Island, Wash., subjected management trainee Robert Sanders to ongoing racial harassment and death threats. Sanders was the only African-American employee at the Whidbey Island location. Sanders was called “spook,” “boy,” and “King Kong” and was told that he had the “face of a janitor.” The litany of unremedied racial comments escalated when an assistant manager allegedly said, “We will hang you. We will seriously lynch you if you call in again this week.”

The EEOC said that another assistant manager asked Sanders if he was “ready to commit suicide,” offering “assistance” when he was ready to do so. Sanders was forced to go on several leaves due to stress from the ongoing racial harassment, threats, and retaliatory work assignments and discipline, according to the agency. Big 5 ultimately terminated Sanders.

Racial harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp., Civil Number 2:17-CV-01098) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Sanders was also represented by private attorneys Scott G. Thomas and Terry Venneberg.

The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $165,000 to Sanders in lost wages and compensatory damages. The decree also requires Big 5 to train its employees, supervisors, managers and investigators on preventing and reporting workplace racial harassment and retaliation under Title VII. Big 5 will also ensure that its anti-harassment workplace policies prohibit harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

EEOC attorney Carmen Flores said, “Title VII protects all employees so that they can work in a setting free from racial slurs and retaliation. Employers must be vigilant, listen to workers who reach out for help, and take appropriate action.”

Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office, commented, “This settlement should send a clear signal to all employers. The consent decree requires corrective measures to help guarantee that next time, Big 5 will move quickly to stop threatening and illegal behavior.”

According to company information, Big 5 Sporting Goods (www.big5sportinggoods.com) is a retailer headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., and operates 435 stores and employs 9,000 people in eleven western states.

EEOC: N. H. Employer Violated ADA By Not Hiring Disabled Worker Who Required Job Coach

This employer should have made a reasonable accommodation for a qualified applicant who needed to have a job coach, according to the EEOC.

Party City Corporation violated federal law by failing to hire a qualified employee with a disability at its Nashua, N.H. location, after it became aware that she required a job coach as a reasonable accommodation for her disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 19.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, the disabled applicant, then a senior in high school who was on the autism spectrum and suffered from severe anxiety, had been receiving services from Easter Seals of New Hampshire for a number of years to build up her self-confidence, including around working and applying for a job. One of these Easter Seals employees went with her in October 2017 to apply for a sales associate job with Party City during its busy season. The applicant received a job interview, but when the hiring manager discovered that the woman accompanying her was not her mother and instead was a job coach, the hiring manager’s attitude changed dramatically.

The EEOC’s lawsuit further alleges that the hiring manager told the job coach that Party City had hired people “like that” (people with disabilities with job coaches) in the past and that it had not gone well. The hiring manager made disparaging comments about those individuals. Although both the applicant and the job coach explained to the hiring manager that the applicant had been successful shadowing others in previous retail jobs, as well as in a volunteer role at a day care center, the hiring manager was uninterested in either the applicant’s abilities or in the limited role the job coach would play. The hiring manager repeatedly tried to cut the interview short by telling the job coach in a patronizing tone, “thank you for bringing her here,” while the applicant was still in the room. The hiring manager also stated, in the applicant’s presence, that the Party City employee who had encouraged the applicant to apply would hire anyone, and would “even hire an ant.”

After Party City failed to hire the applicant because of her disability, Party City hired six sales associates in the days immediately after the applicant’s interview. For at least two of the hires, it was their first job: one was a 16-year-old and the other was a high school graduate.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and imposes a requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship on the employer. One of these accommodations can be the use of a job coach.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire (EEOC v. Party City Corporation, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-838) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The agency’s litigation efforts will be led by Senior Trial Attorney Mark Penzel.

“Federal law requires employers to consider disabled job applicants based on their abilities, not on demeaning stereotypes,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Party City completely failed to do so here.”

EEOC’s New York district director, Kevin Berry, added, “Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable accommodation required by law, absent undue hardship. Here, the job coach, who would only have helped cue the applicant with her job tasks as she learned her job and for whom Party City would not have had to pay, was a completely reasonable accommodation that would have caused it no hardship at all.”

EEOC Cites N.Y.-Based Materials Company for “Ugly Mix” of Sexism, Racism, and Xenophobia

This workplace is a noxious stew of lots of abominable behavior toward women and minorities, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Porous Materials, Inc. (PMI), an Ithaca, N.Y.-based operator and manufacturer of testing equipment for porous materials, subjected its employees to an ugly mix of sexism, racism, and xenophobia and violated federal law prohibiting harassment and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed September 17.

The EEOC charges that a plant manager used racial slurs, called foreign-born employees “terrorists,” and told the only black employee that her husband should work in a cotton field with a rope around his neck. He then told her to drink Kool-Aid to calm down and fired her for complaining about his racist statements. He also complained that he was “sick” of immigrants stealing American jobs and not speaking English, forbade employees from speaking other languages, and urged immigrant employees to leave America.

The EEOC’s suit also charges that the plant manager was similarly abusive toward women: he loudly called women “bitches,” complained about their “PMS’ing,” and said that women could not perform a “man’s job.” He told a woman she would have to “come over here and sexually harass me” to be sent home early; made other unwanted sexual advances; said a woman was too “fat and disgusting” to have sex with her husband; and commented on female employees’ “buns” and “curves.” The company owner, rather than putting a stop to this, behaved similarly; he called female employees “dumb women,” complained that “these women can’t do anything,” and told a woman she would not be getting a raise because of her sex.

All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination-including harassment-because of sex, national origin or race, as well as retaliation.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York (EEOC v. Porous Materials, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-01099) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Daniel Seltzer and Supervisory Trial Attorney Nora Curtin.

“Businesses may think that permitting sex-, race- and national origin-based harassment in the workplace is acceptable,” said Seltzer. “It isn’t, and those who do so will be held accountable.”

Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, added, “Employers cannot ignore harassment, let alone fire employees who report it. If employers fail to protect their workers, the EEOC will.”

According to Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York district director, “Preventing harassment and protecting immigrant workers are EEOC priorities that will continue to be pursued vigorously.”

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 Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.

DOL Touts Job Creators That Hire Veterans

On this Veterans’ Day, let’s give a shout-out to those who have served in the military. Now it is employers’ turn to do their part to hire our veterans for civilian work and help them and our economy in the process.

On Friday, the DOL spotlighted Job Creators that Hire Veterans.

Here’s straight from the DOL post:

“Created as a result of legislation signed by President Donald J. Trump, the HIRE Vets Medallion Program recognizes job creators that recruit, hire, and retain America’s veterans. This week, the Department announced recipients of the 2018 HIRE Vets Medallion Program Demonstration Award. Honorees include small businesses, community-based nonprofits, and national companies.”

“Watch these videos to hear why it makes sense to hire veterans.”

EEOC Cites Harassment at Del Taco Eatery

Young female workers in the restaurant trade continue to have to put up with sexual harassment on the job. Each time a complaint is filed to stop this behavior is a step forward for workers’ rights.

Regional fast food chain Del Taco violated federal law when at least three male employees, including those in supervisory roles, sexually harassed and retaliated against a group of young female workers at a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Del Taco, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit filed September 17.

According to the EEOC, supervisory officials harassed female staff, most of them teenagers, with inappropriate sexual comments and unwanted physical touching. Some of the young women made formal complaints to management, human resources and the EEOC, but no corrective action was taken by the company. Instead, the company retaliated against those who complained by changing their schedules and reducing their working hours. The EEOC contends that this created a hostile work environment and the women felt they had no choice but to resign.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination which is 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. Del Taco LLC, Case No. 5:18-cv-01978) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks monetary damages for the class of victims, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent and correct discrimination.

“Employers need to take a serious proactive approach to promoting accountability, training and leadership to achieve a workplace free of harassment,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office.

Rosa M. Viramontes, director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District added, “Younger employees are a highly vulnerable segment of the workforce and may be easy targets for harassers. Employers need to understand that they may be especially liable to experience such abuse, especially when the misconduct is committed by those to whom they have delegated authority.”

According the company’s website, www.deltaco.com, the chain operates in 15 states and has 310 corporate locations, along with 241 franchise locations. The majority of its restaurants are in the west coast states of California, Oregon and Washington.

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