Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

NY Floor Manufacturer Dinged by OSHA for $182K in Penalties for Unsafe Work Conditions

The safety floor for this New York manufacturer evidently had some holes in it.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on July 17 said it cited Timberline Hardwood Floors LLC for willful and serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. The Fulton, New York, custom hardwood-flooring manufacturer faces proposed penalties totaling $182,917.

OSHA cited the company for failing to implement lockout-tagout procedures to prevent machines from unintentionally starting; adequately train forklift operators; repair exposed electrical circuits; and develop hearing conservation and chemical hazard communication programs. OSHA also cited the company for allowing locked emergency exits, unguarded machines, and unlabeled hazardous materials and chemicals.

“During this inspection, OSHA identified serious hazards that posed a threat to workers’ safety and health,” said OSHA Syracuse Area Office Assistant Director Jeffrey Prebish. “Unfortunately, Timberline Hardwood Floors LLC ignored its obligation to protect employees from these well-known issues.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the safety and health 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 http://www.osha.gov.

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ADA Reasonable Accommodation Rule Violated by Focus on Intermittent Leave, EEOC Alleges

This employer had a my-way-or-the-highway approach on reasonable accommodation, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)–and as a results finds itself in court.

Major health  insurance provider Hawaii Medical Services Association (HMSA) violated federal  law when it denied intermittent leave to a class of employees with disabilities  without discussing other possible reasonable accommodation options. This  blanket policy forced emp­loyees to either work without an accommodation or  resign, the EEOC charged in a  lawsuit filed June 28.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit,  beginning in late 2013, HMSA abruptly changed its policy on the use of  intermittent leave as an accommodation for employees with disabilities. In  addition to not allowing employees this accommodation, HMSA failed to engage in  the interactive process with its employees to determine if there was another  accommodation available for them. Instead, the company gave employees an  ultimatum of either working without an accommodation or resigning, the EEOC  said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans  with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the  District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Hawaii Medical Service Association Case No. 1:18-cv-00253) after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay along with compensatory and punitive  damages for the claimant and class, as well as injunctive relief intended to  prevent and address discrimination.

“Employers  should be cognizant of the reasonable accommodation requirements under federal  law,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District,  which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. “Employers who fail to try to reach  such an accommodation arrangement are opening themselves to possible EEOC  action.”

Glory Gervacio Saure, director for  the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, added, “Blanket employment policies that  negatively affect a group of individuals can be discriminatory. Employers  should routinely audit their policies and practices to make sure they are not unlawfully  discriminating against their employees.”

According  to its website, www.hmsa.com, Hawaii Medical  Service Association is one of Hawaii’s largest coverage providers, insuring  over half of Hawaii’s population. HMSA is an independent licensee of Blue Cross  and Blue Shield Association.

EEOC Says Contractor Sent Hispanics Disproportionately to Dangerous Job Sites

Hispanic employees got the worst of this job situation, according to federal investigators.

Thornton, Colorado-based AMI Mechanical, Inc. violated federal law by color and national origin discrimination, retaliation and records destruction, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on June 26.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the plumbing and mechanical contractor, employed both Hispanic and white employees at the Yorkshire Apartments project in Thornton, Colo. AMI assigned non-white Hispanic employees to work in a confined space containing human waste and dangerous gas levels at a rate of nearly 4:1 compared to white non-Hispanic employees.

When one of the employees, Joseph Muniz, complained about the conditions and discrimination, his supervisor, Earl Jones, stated he would fire the Hispanic employees and “hire a bunch more . . . Mexicans” to replace them. AMI also stated in Muniz’s termination form that he had “caused a lot of problems” on the project, was permanently dismissed, and would not be recommended to other employers. AMI further destroyed, or failed to preserve, daily work reports for the Yorkshire Apartment Project that are relevant to the question of whether discrimination occurred there.

Such alleged conduct violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment because of national origin and color and retaliation against employees who oppose discrimination. Title VII also requires employers to maintain records relevant to whether unlawful employment practices have been committed. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of Colorado (EEOC v. AMI Mechanical, Inc., Case No. 1:18-cv-01609-MEH) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief to prevent and address any future discrimination.

“Treating employees differently in job assignments because of their color or national origin violates Title VII, and we will continue to enforce our federal anti-discrimination laws,” said Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the EEOC’s Phoenix District, which includes Denver in its jurisdiction.

Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District, said, “Retaliating against an employee because he complained about national origin discrimination is another violation of federal law. Retaliation charges make up almost 50 percent of all of the discrimination complaints the EEOC receives, showing that it continues to be a major national problem that we will continue to combat.”

EEOC: Oil Refining Company Fired Pipefitter, Certified Rigger Because She Has Epilepsy

It’s a no-no under federal civil rights law to fire an employee for being disabled with no effort to consider the employee’s ability to actually do the job.

A Washington-based company doing business as Diamond B Constructors, Inc. violated federal law by terminating a tradeswoman because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed June 26.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Angela Watson was dispatched by the local union to work on a reconstruction project for Diamond B at Tesoro Oil Refinery in Anacortes, Wash. Watson is a pipefitter by trade and holds an additional certification as a rigger. When she disclosed that she has epilepsy to her direct supervisor, he and other Diamond B supervisors unilaterally concluded without further inquiry that she could not safely work at heights – even though Watson’s epilepsy was well controlled on medication, she had not requested any accommodation, and was able to work without restriction.

Terminating an employee based on disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington [Case No. 2:18-cv-00926] after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit names Diamond B, its successor Harris Companies, and BLI Northwest, the separate legal entity remaining after Harris acquired Diamond B’s name and operations. The EEOC seeks monetary damages on behalf of Watson, and injunctive relief, which typically includes training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and compliance reporting.

“Riggers are pipefitters who are trained to calculate loads and safely attach large components to cranes for lifting, and Angela got a specialized dispatch for this assignment because she’s certified to do that,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che. “When Diamond B falsely presumed that Angela was incapable of practicing her trade and fired her, it violated her rights under the ADA, and the EEOC is here to stand up for those rights.”

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said, “Epilepsy reportedly affects 2.2 million Americans. About one out of every 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives, and it affects each person differently. It is critical that employers do not base job decisions on stereotypes, but instead carefully consider each individual’s abilities.”

According to www.dbnw.com, Bellingham, Wash.-based Diamond B Constructors provided commercial and industrial construction services in Washington, Oregon, Montana and California, and employed about 250 people year-round. The company was acquired in January 2018 by the St. Paul, Minn., corporation Harris Companies, one of the largest mechanical contractors in the U.S., with over 1,000 employees in nine locations throughout the country, according to www.hmcc.com.

Moving Co. Hit With Racial Harassment Suit

This company isn’t a hospitable place for black employees, according to this lawsuit.

Arizona Discount Movers of Phoenix violated federal law by subjecting an African-American employee to racial harassment and forcing him to quit to escape the abuse, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed June 25.

In its suit, the EEOC charges that a supervisor at Arizona Discount Movers frequently made comments such as “white power,” “if you’re not white, you’re not right” and used the N-word to refer to employee Clinton Lee. The supervisor also told Lee to get out of a room because they were having a Klan meeting. At one point, a troll doll was painted black, a Post-it was affixed to the troll doll, which read “Clint Lee,” and the doll was hung in the middle of the facility. The EEOC says that despite Lee’s complaint about the troll doll, the company failed to take adequate action. This misconduct created an unlawfully hostile work environment for Lee, forcing him to resign to escape further mistreatment.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, including racial harassment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC v. Arizona Discount Movers, Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-01966-HRH) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

The lawsuit asks the court to order Arizona Discount Movers to provide Lee appropriate relief, including back wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further racially discriminatory practices. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that will eradicate and prevent racial harassment there in the future.

“Racial harassment is never acceptable in any workplace,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. “The conduct that Clinton Lee suffered here is deeply disturbing and violates federal law. We are particularly concerned that he was subjected to language and conduct by his supervisors that attempts to assert white superiority over African-Americans. Employers and supervisors have a legal duty to create a safe workplace environment for their employees.”

EEOC District Director Elizabeth Cadle said, “The language and images that were aimed at Mr. Lee were crude, cruel and something no one should have to endure today. The EEOC is here to fight such malicious mistreatment of American employees.”

$30K Settlement Closes Title VII Harassment, Retaliation Case Against Chicago Staffing Firm

This Chicago-based staffing agency decided to cut its losses in a lawsuit alleging it ignored her complaints about harassment while on a temporary work assignment and then denied her further assignments in retaliation against her for her complaints.

Anchor Staffing, Inc., a Chicago-based staffing agency, will pay $30,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced June 22 The EEOC’s lawsuit charged Anchor Staffing with violating an employee’s federal civil rights when it failed to respond adequately to the employee’s complaint about sexual harassment, removed her from her work assignment, and denied her any future work.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Anchor Staffing placed its employee Sara Magana on a temporary assignment, and on her first day working at the job location, she was sexually harassed by another Anchor Staffing employee who made intimidating comments and attempted to hug and kiss her. In response to Magana’s harassment complaint, Anchor Staffing removed Magana from her assignment but allowed the alleged harasser to continue working. Furthermore, despite Magana’s availability to work, Anchor never again placed Magana to work on any assignment after she complained.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination (including sexual harassment) as well as retaliation in employment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (EEOC v. Anchor Staffing, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-7899) on Nov. 2, 2017, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Anchor Staffing will pay $30,000 in monetary relief to Magana as part of a consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood on June 21, 2018. The two-year decree also provides additional nonmonetary relief intended to improve the workplace for Anchor Staffing employees. For example, Anchor Staffing will train its staff on employment discrimination, including the employer’s obligations under Title VII. Anchor Staffing will also be required to monitor employee complaints of sexual harassment and report those complaints to the EEOC.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, “Employers are not responding lawfully to employee complaints of harassment if their response makes the complaining employee worse off, but that is exactly what happened here. After Ms. Magana complained about being harassed, Anchor Staffing removed her from her work assignment and never placed her on any other assignments. An employer is only creating more trouble for itself when it punishes an employee for reporting unlawful misconduct.”

The EEOC’s regional attorney for the Chicago District, Greg Gochanour, added, “Staffing agency employees are protected by the federal antidiscrimination laws, as any other employee. Accordingly, staffing agencies must respond appropriately and effectively to their employees’ complaints about harassment. Putting a complaining employee in a less desirable situation is never an appropriate response to a sexual harassment complaint.”

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

Fatality at Fla. Shipyard Draws Six-Figure OSHA Fine; Latest in a Series of Safety Violations at Site

This shipyard in Florida is a nightmare worksite, the way federal safety regulators paint what’s going on there.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited North Florida Shipyards Inc., a shipbuilding and repair company, after an employee suffered fatal injuries at its Commodores Point facility in Jacksonville, Florida. The shipyard faces $271,061 in proposed penalties.

The worker drowned after a pressured air manifold struck him and knocked him into the St. Johns River. OSHA has cited the employer for safety violations, including exposing employees to being struck-by, drowningamputation, caught-in, and electrical hazards; allowing scuba divers to be unaccompanied by another diver; and failing to ensure machine guarding.

“As this case demonstrates, it is important for employers to identify existing hazards, and follow required safety procedures to protect workers from serious injuries,” said OSHA Jacksonville Acting Area Office Director Buddy Underwood.

North Florida Shipyards has 15 business days from receipt of its 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 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.