Congressional Hearing Wednesday A.M. on Leave Policies’ Impact on Employers, Workers

Have some free time tomorrow morning? Then you may want to head on over to the U.S. Congress.

Amid the contentious debate on the tax bill, House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions has a hearing scheduled for tomorrow,  Wednesday Dec. 6, at 10 am titled  “Workplace Leave Policies: Opportunities and Challenges for Employers and Working Families.”

The subcommittee hearing will examine how workplace leave policies impact job providers and working families.

Witnesses

Ms. Barbara Brickmeier
Vice President for Human Resources and Business Development
IBM Corporation
Armonk, New York
Testifying on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Ms. Carrie Lukas
President
Independent Women’s Forum
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Hans Riemer
Vice President
Montgomery County Council
Montgomery County, Maryland

Ms. Angela Schaefer
Vice President of Human Resources
Safety National
St. Louis, Missouri
Testifying on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management

For more information and to view a live webcast, click here.

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Employer Pays $25K to Settle EEOC Suit Alleging It Discriminated Against Worker Who Was Bipolar

A home healthcare company recently settled an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of an employee who had bipolar disorder.

AccentCare, Inc., a home healthcare company headquartered in Dallas, has agreed to pay $25,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Friday. The EEOC charged in its suit that AccentCare discriminated against an employee with bipolar disorder.

According to the EEOC’s suit, an AccentCare IT analyst informed the company that she has bipolar disorder and requested leave in order to see her health care provider. The EEOC further said that upon learning of the employee’s disability and receiving her request for leave, AccentCare fired her within one day, without giving proper consideration to her request.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ disabilities as long as it does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-03157) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the terms of the consent decree settling the case, AccentCare, Inc. will pay $25,000 in monetary relief to the former IT analyst. AccentCare also agreed to post a notice about the settlement, and to provide training for employees on the ADA to include instruction on the specific provisions of the reasonable accommodation process. The training will include an instruction advising managers and supervisors of the potential consequences for violations of the ADA. Additionally, AccentCare has agreed to document complaints of disability discrimination and report to the EEOC.

“It has always been our contention that AccentCare demonstrated a reckless disregard for the federally protected rights of this valuable employee, rather than carefully considering her request for leave to see her doctor,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Joel Clark.

Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, added, “We would expect that employers in the health care field would be keenly aware of the importance of supporting the medical needs of their employees by allowing reasonable time that may be required for treatment. We are pleased with the resolution of this case.”

Getting Professionals to Behave Professionally

Rude and uncivil behavior negatively affects job performance–and that’s just one reason to nip it in the bud, says Robin Paggi, our regular guest blogger.

Getting Professionals to Behave Professionally

While preparing to write this article, I Googled “rude behavior” and 25 Rudest Rude Behaviors—Are You an Offender? was the first piece listed. According to the author, rude behavior includes things like inappropriate use of cell phones, interrupting others, cutting people off in traffic, and that type of thing. The first comment posted after the article said this: “This whole post is so petty and trivial. There are actually bad things that happen that are much more worthy of your complaints and fretting upon than when people are unintentionally rude. Funny enough, you sound like a completely stuck-up, entitled snob, like the people you’re pointing fingers at. Get a life, c***.”

Alrighty, then. Granted, the person who wrote that is undoubtedly a lives-with-his-mother basement-dwelling troll; unfortunately, comments like that are not uncommon in our society today.

If it seems to you like civil behavior has gone the way of rotary phones and 8-track tapes, you’re not alone. According to the recent survey Civility in America VII: The State of Civility, 75 percent of Americans think incivility has reached “crisis levels.”

You don’t need to watch the news, listen to the radio, or get on social media to be subjected to incivility–just go to work.

“Workplace incivility is rampant and on the rise,” according to Christine Porath, an associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and author of Mastering Civility. A survey she conducted in 1998 revealed that nearly half of the respondents said they were treated rudely at least once a month. That number rose to 55 percent in 2011 and 62 percent in 2016. I can hardly wait to see the 2017 numbers.

Being uncivil means being rude and here’s a personal example of what it looks like.

While conducting a workshop for a client recently, two employees came in late, sat in the back of the room, and spent the entire time they were there talking and laughing with each other while texting. Their supervisor sat by them (he also came in late) and did nothing about their behavior.

Perhaps he didn’t think they were being rude, but I did and, according to my research, most people in our society would agree with me.  Arriving late, having side conversations, and texting during meetings shows up on just about every “examples of rude behavior” list on Google.

Is rude behavior so bad? According to University of Florida professor D. Amir Erez, it is. A series of studies he conducted demonstrated that being subjected to rude behavior impacts our brain’s ability to function, specifically being able to be creative, help others, and solve problems. I can attest to that. I felt so disrespected by the talking/laughing/texting training participants that I could hardly persevere through the workshop. My brain was shutting down and I wanted to shut down with it.

Civility and professionalism go hand in hand. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to think that when people become employed they know how to behave professionally. If you want your employees to mind their manners so you can get the best performance from everyone, this is how you encourage them to do so:

  1. Set clear expectations about their behavior. Don’t assume that people have common sense or will naturally behave the way you want them to. Tell employees about the specific behavior that’s expected of them at work, such as “No side conversations or texting during meetings.”
  2. Provide training and individual coaching for employees who need some additional help.
  3. Model appropriate behavior. If you’re going to tell people to act professionally, you have to do it too.
  4. Hold people accountable, which means don’t let employees get away with behaving badly. Disciplinary action usually inspires people to behave better.

Getting employees to conduct themselves in a civil manner requires that you tell them, teach them, and show them how, and then ensure they follow suit. People don’t necessarily act professionally just because they have a profession.

Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR.

She last wrote for us on Brain Wiring, Personalities, and Careers and has also contributed articles on Accommodating Religious Beliefs, Politics and Work, Emojis-A Workplace Communications Menace and Alcoholism and the ADA in Employment. To read her previous columns, search Paggi in the search box at the top of this home page.

Queens for A Day: U.S. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division Opens Office in This Outermost Borough

Queens: Home to President Trump, the Mets, the 1964 Worlds Fair, the U.S. Open tennis tournament. And now the Department of Labor.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has opened an area office in Queens to connect employers, community and trade organizations, employees, and other stakeholders with resources and assistance to ensure compliance with federal labor laws. The new office is located at 68-60 Austin St., Room 601, Forest Hills, New York, 11375.

“This office will serve as a one-stop resource for compliance assistance and information,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director David An, in New York City. “The Queens area office will benefit all the members of the labor and business communities of the second most populous county in New York State and one of the world’s most ethnically diverse urban areas by putting them much closer to available resources.”

Members of the Queens’ office staff are fluent in Spanish and Chinese, and have access to a translation service for other languages. In addition, the Division provides information and publications in numerous languages, including Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Haitian Creole, Russian, Hmong, Tagalog, Polish, Portuguese, Nepali, Urdu, Hindi, Samoan, Nepali, Arabic, and Punjabi.

To receive wage and hour-related information, file a complaint, or ask questions about federal wage laws, individuals and businesses should contact the Wage and Hour Division. Services are confidential and are provided at no charge. The Division administers a number of federal labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, which contains minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, child labor, and anti-retaliation provisions; the Family and Medical Leave Act; the Davis-Bacon Act; the Service Contract Act; the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act; and various provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that extend protections to different types of nonimmigrant workers.

For more information, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243) or its New York City District Office at, (212) 264-8185, Brooklyn Area Office at (718) 254-9410, or Queens Area Office at (718) 834-2090, depending on location of employment. Information also is available at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

Foul Fish: Wash. Seafood Company Unwraps $75K to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

With the media fixated on sexual harassment by celebrities, it’s wise to remember that this illegal behavior also occurs in less reknowned settings.

Northwestern Washington-based Trans Ocean Seafoods, Inc., doing business as New England Shellfish, will pay $75,000 to three female former employees and implement other relief to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, a male employee made sexually explicit comments about and in front of female workers, including a 17-year-old and her mother. He targeted them on a near-daily basis despite numerous requests to stop, the agency alleges, and his words caused some of the women to fear he would sexually assault them.

One of the women reacted to the male employee’s conduct with nightmares and problems sleeping, and said that even years later, “I am not the same person as before.” Another said, “I just had to fight a lot to be me again. And I feel like Trans Ocean, they took away part of me…It’s something that I have to live with.”

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Trans Ocean Seafoods, Inc., dba New England Shellfish, 2:15-CV-01563-RAJ), after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Annalie Greer and after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree resolving this case, Trans Ocean Seafoods has also agreed to implement new policies, conduct extensive training for employees and management, post an anti-discrimination notice at the workplace, and report compliance to the EEOC for a two-year period.

“We have seen how hard it can be even for women with education, celebrity and power to speak out against sexual harassment,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores. “Imagine how difficult it was for these women, two of whom do not read or write and can only speak Mixtec. No one should have to endure sexual harassment just to feed and shelter themselves and their families.”

Nancy Sienko, Seattle field director for the EEOC’s San Francisco District, added, “Protecting vulnerable workers and addressing systemic harassment are both top priorities for the EEOC. We hope that this case sends a clear message that the EEOC will hold accountable employers who fail to protect their employees from workplace harassment.”

Trans Ocean Seafoods has a business office in Bellingham, Wash., and a processing plant in Mt. Vernon, Wash.

EEOC Recovers $50K for Female Employee Barred From Returning to Work Following Birth

Manhattanites pride themselves on their sophistication, but this clothing company evidently had a simplistic view of a new mother’s rights.

Manhattan-based apparel company R. Siskind & Company, Inc., doing business as Siskind Group, will pay $50,000 and implement revised anti-discrimination policies and procedures to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Siskind Group fired a customer service employee because of her pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions that included the effects of an emergency caesarean section. Although Siskind Group purported to grant the employee maternity leave, when she tried to return to work, she was informed that she no longer had a position for reasons that the EEOC said were pretexts for discrimination.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. The EEOC filed suit in July in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (EEOC v. R. Siskind & Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 17-cv-5175), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree resolving the suit was entered by U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest on Nov. 27. It provides that Siskind pay $50,000 in lost wages and damages to the former employee. The decree also requires multiple steps to prevent future discrimination, including anti-discrimination policies, training, and leave and accommodation procedures, which will be monitored by the EEOC for three years.

“We are pleased that because of this settlement, Siskind Group will institute policies and provide training so that its management will better recognize and protect the rights of women in the workplace going forward,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein.

EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, “This case exemplifies the EEOC’s commitment to enforcing the law’s protections for women in the workplace, including pregnancy and childbirth.”

OSHA Gives Company Go-Ahead to Test More Equipment and Materials for Safety Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration gave the thumbs-up today to a company to test more equipment and materials used in workplaces

The announcement in today’s Federal Register recognizes. Intertek Testing Services NA, Inc. (ITSNA), as a Nationally Regulated Testing Laboratory for 7 additional products.

OSHA recognition of a NRTL signifies that the organization meets the requirements specified by 29 CFR 1910.7. Recognition is an acknowledgment that the organization can perform independent safety testing and certification of the specific products covered within its scope of recognition and is not a delegation or grant of government authority. As a result of recognition, employers may use products properly approved by the NRTL to meet OSHA standards that require testing and certification of the products.

OSHA’s recognition of any NRTL for a particular test standard is limited to equipment or materials for which OSHA standards require third-party testing and certification before using them in the workplace. Consequently, if a test standard also covers any products for which OSHA does not require such testing and certification, a NRTL’s scope of recognition does not include these products.

Check the announcement for a list of appropriate test standards for inclusion in the company’s recognition as an NRTL.

Thanks to Jon Hyman for referencing this blog post in his weekly compilation of must-read blogs.