Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

EEOC: Retaliation Cost Lab Employee Promotion

It’s civil rights law 101 that it’s illegal to deny an employee a job opportunity because he or she has complained about employment discrimination.

Maybe this employer missed class that day.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (“Fermilab”) violated civil rights law by failing to promote a female engineer in retaliation for her complaint of sex-based discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed August 13. Fermilab is a particle physics and accelerator laboratory in Batavia, Ill., that employs over 1,750 people.

The EEOC’s pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that only months after a female engineer filed a sex-based discrimination grievance at work, she was denied a promotion for an engineering management position despite being the most qualified candidate.

“Federal employment discrimination laws depend on the willingness of employees to challenge discrimination without fear or punishment,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits unlawful employment practices, including retaliation against an employee for making a sex discrimination complaint. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Civil Action No. 18-cv-5486, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman.

“Fermilab violated the law when it failed to promote such a highly-qualified female employee because she exercised her rights under Title VII,” said Gregory Gochanour, EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago. “The EEOC is committed to enforcing the law to ensure that people are free to raise complaints about discrimination.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of 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.

EEOC: Illinois School District Violated Law in Limiting Salary Increase for Older Teachers

A school district in Illinois allegedly tried to weasel its way out of increasing the salaries of older teachers by saying its hands were tried by a collective bargaining agreement.

Urbana School District No. 116 violated federal law prohibiting age discrimination when it limited the salary increases that older teachers had earned, pursuant to an unlawful provision of a collective bargaining agreement, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Aug. 13.

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, said that the agency’s pre-suit investigation found that the Urbana School District limited the salary increases of Charles Koplinski and a group of other teachers over the age of 45 because of their age, due to a provision of a collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the union representing teachers, Urbana Education Association IEA-NEA. That provision limits the salary increases of teachers who are within ten years of retirement eligibility to no more than six percent above their previous year’s salary. Koplinski, age 52, had completed post-graduate classes that should have entitled to him to receive more than a six percent raise for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. But because Koplinski’s age at the time put him within ten years of retirement eligibility, his raise was capped at six percent for both school years.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination because of age against individuals who are age 40 or over, including discrimination with respect to compensation.

According to Bowman, for school districts other than Chicago, the Illinois state pension code provides that if a teacher’s final average salary for purposes of calculating pension benefits includes a year in which the teacher received a salary increase of more than six percent, the school district must contribute to the Teacher’s Retirement System to cover the increased pension cost attributable to the salary increase over six percent. Teacher pensions outside of Chicago are otherwise funded through a combination of employee contributions and state taxes, without contributions from school districts. “Urbana cannot try to avoid making a contribution required by state law by limiting salaries of older teachers because of their age.”

The Regional Attorney of the Chicago District Office, Gregory Gochanour, explained, “If Koplinski were age 40 instead of age 50 when he completed the post-graduate classes that would have entitled him to more than a six percent salary increase and he would have received his full raise. Instead, his raise was capped at six percent. Setting salaries based on age is age discrimination, plain and simple, and violates federal law.”

The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Urbana School District No. 116 and Urbana Education Association, IEA-NEA; Civil Action No. 18-cv-2212-CSB-EIL) on August 10, 2018, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process. The case was assigned to Judge Colin Stirling Bruce.

The EEOC is seeking lost compensation, including lost wages and lost pension benefits, if any, for teachers whose salary increases were limited and the elimination or modification of the provision of the collective bargaining agreement requiring the six percent limit on salary increases for teachers within ten years of retirement eligibility. The EEOC named the union as a defendant only for purposes of seeking modification of the collective bargaining agreement. The EEOC is not seeking any monetary damages from the union.

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. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates

Ala. Woodworker Hit With OSHA Safety Penalties

There was rot in this woodworker’s worker safety practices, according to federal regulators.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on September 10 cited Harrison Industries LLC – operating as Structural Wood Systems Inc. – for exposing employees to multiple hazards at its Greenville, Alabama, worksite. The company faces $85,362 in proposed penalties.

OSHA cited the woodworking manufacturer for failing to ensure employees used protective eyewear and respirators, implement a respiratory protection and permit-required confined space program, and use guards on a motorized roller conveyer table; and for allowing combustible wood dust to accumulate, exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards. The inspection was conducted under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Combustible Dust and the National Emphasis Program on Amputations.

“This investigation is an example of why employers must implement effective safety and health programs to identify and address recognizable hazards that can cause serious injuries to employees,” said OSHA Mobile Area Office Director Joseph Roesler.

Structural Wood Systems 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.

$100K Payment Frees Oil Co. From ADA Lawsuit

A six-figure settlement was needed by this  employer to emerge from a employment discrimination lawsuit without going to trial or admitting fault.

Murphy Oil USA, Inc., which operates Murphy USA retail gasoline stores typically located in Walmart parking lots in over 20 states, will pay a former store manager $100,000 to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Aug. 13.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Murphy Oil required a 10-year employee with a serious back impairment to perform duties that violated work restrictions imposed by his treating physician. The EEOC’s suit also claims that the company fired the employee in retaliation for complaining to management about the failure to accommodate his medical restrictions.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation unless it would cause a significant expense or difficulty to the employer. Retaliation against an employee for raising or reporting discrimination to supervisors also violates the ADA. The ADA also protects individuals from coercion, intimidation, threat, harassment, or interference in their exercise of their own rights or their encouragement of someone else’s exercise of rights granted by the ADA.

The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 2:16-CV-00048-AM-CW, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Del Rio Division, after the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.

As part of the two-year consent decree resolving the suit, Murphy Oil USA will pay $100,000 to its former employee. Murphy Oil USA also agreed to implement written policies to achieve compliance with the ADA; provide training regarding the ADA; and post a notice referencing the consent decree.

“This employee had been relied upon by the company to manage and train others for years,” said David Rivela, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “The failure to make adjustments that would take into account the manager’s physical impairment resulted in the company’s loss of a solid employee. Employers should engage in an effective interactive process and not respond with a termination when an employee requests a reasonable accommodation.”

EEOC Investigator Minerva Melendreras added, “We are pleased that Murphy Oil and the EEOC were able resolve this case by entering into this consent decree, providing monetary relief to the former employee, agreeing to ADA training and implementing policies that will help protect employees from discrimination.”

The San Antonio Field Office is part of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office which is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

$20K Payment Settles EEOC Retaliation Charge

Employers can’t require their employees to waive their legal rights in order to receive a promotion.

That point is driven home in this settlement of a retaliation charge.

Southeast Food Services, a large franchisee formerly operating over 30 restaurants as Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, will pay $20,000 to settle a retaliation charge filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Aug. 10.

A former employee filed a charge with the EEOC’s Nashville office alleging Southeast Food Services (Southeast Food) required employees to sign a general release to receive a promotion. A provision in the release prohibited employees from exercising their right to file discrimination complaints. The EEOC’s investigation found that Southeast retaliated against the former employee by rescinding a promotion offer after the employee selected for promotion refused to sign the general release. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Without admitting liability and to avoid the cost of litigation, Southeast Food agreed to enter into a one-year conciliation agreement with the EEOC and the alleged aggrieved party, thereby avoiding litigation. During the EEOC’s investigation, Southeast Food ceased its practice of requiring the general release as a condition of promotion.

“Southeast Food Services has been cooperative in working with the EEOC to resolve this charge without having to resort to litigation,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC’s Memphis District, which includes Nashville in its jurisdiction. “We commend Southeast Food Services’ willingness to reassess and change its promotion process so that employees no longer have to forfeit their civil rights to receive a promotion.”

Airline Tagged by EEOC for Allowing Male Pilot to Harass Flight Attendant By Spreading Photos

The skis weren’t friendly for this female flight attendant, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has charged.

United Airlines, Inc., an international airline operating in over 300 airports across five continents, violated federal law by subjecting a female flight attendant to a hostile work environment of sexual harassment over a multi-year period, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed August 9.

According to the lawsuit, a United captain frequently posted sexually explicit images of a United flight attendant to various websites, making reference to the flight attendant’s name, home airport, and sometimes referencing the airline’s tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies.” The lawsuit alleges that the posts were seen by co-workers and adversely affected the flight attendant’s working environment. United failed to prevent and correct the pilot’s behavior, even after the flight attendant made numerous complaints and provided substantial evidence to support her complaints, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division (EEOC v. United Airlines, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-817) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

The lawsuit asks the court to order United to provide the flight attendant with appropriate relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, and a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any further gender-discriminatory practices. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Employers have an obligation to take steps to stop sexual harassment in the workplace when they learn it is occurring through cyber-bullying via the internet and social media,” said Philip Moss, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “When employers fail to take action, they fail their workers and enable the harassment to continue.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez added, “Here, United was aware of the intimate details of how its pilot was harassing its flight attendant, but took no responsibility to put a stop to it. As a result, over a period of many years, the flight attendant had to work every day in fear of humiliation if a co-worker or customer recognized her from the pilot’s postings. This is unacceptable, and the EEOC is here to fight such misconduct.”

W.Va. Restaurant on Hook For $66,000 in Settlement of Harassment, Retaliation Lawsuit

What’s on the menu for female employees at this West Virginia restaurant wasn’t very appealing, federal regulators say.

Las Trancas of Martinsburg, Inc., a restaurant in Martinsburg, W.V., has agreed to pay $66,598 and provide other relief to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced August 9. The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that Las Trancas violated federal law by subjecting female employees to egregious sexual harassment, sex discrimination and retaliation.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Las Trancas subjected former employees Raquel Ramirez Rivera and Virginia Sanchez Garcia to a hostile work environment because of their sex, including regular and repeated sexual touching and grabbing, lewd sexual comments, and other offensive and threatening behaviors by several male supervisors and coworkers. The EEOC charged that Sanchez Garcia was fired as a result of the harassment when she refused to submit to her supervisor’s advances. The EEOC’s suit further charged that the restaurant subjected Ramirez Rivera to unfavorable terms and conditions of her employment and a constructive discharge because of her sex and in retaliation for opposing Las Trancas’s unlawful employment practices.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids sexual harassment in employment and retaliation for opposing such misconduct. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia (Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-00116) after first attempting to reach a pre-suit settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

The consent decree resolving the EEOC’s lawsuit has been approved and entered by court. In addition to paying $66,598 in monetary relief to the victims, Las Trancas has agreed to post notices of employee rights required under Title VII, develop and implement an anti-discrimination policy, and provide training on discrimination and harassment to all employees at the Martinsburg location and two other restaurant locations. The company will also appoint an equal employment opportunity officer and hire a third-party consultant to assist with investigating and responding to future complaints of discrimination and harassment. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the two-year consent decree.

“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. “Employers should encourage victims of sexual harassment to come forward, not illegally punish their employees for reporting such abuse. Encouraging employees to report sexual harassment in the workplace is both smart business practice and the right thing to do.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie Williamson added, “We commend Las Trancas for working collaboratively with the EEOC’s legal unit to put systems in place to prevent and correct future incidents of sexual harassment. This sort of abuse is far too common in the restaurant industry. The EEOC is committed to protecting restaurant workers from sexual harassment and to vindicating their rights under federal law to resist such mistreatment and report it.