A sexual harassment lawsuit has been filed against a national charity employment organization and one of its affiliates, alleging the two companies failed to protect the female janitorial staff from being routinely targeted for sexual harassment by a night shift supervisor. mopping

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five workers who worked nights, most of whom were employed by the charity organization’s contractor, which hired the workers through a federal contract to employ those with disabilities. The workers in this program suffered from severe physical, mental or psychological impairments, and were working through this federally-funded program to help them become financially independent. They were assigned to clean a federal building in Oakland, CA each evening.

The supervisor is accused of inappropriate touching and leering. He is alleged to have asked intrusive questions about the women’s sex lives and made propositions to them. He once groped his genitals in front of the female janitors – and others – so often that federal building employees reportedly gave him a crude nickname. This fact alone shows that the behavior was known – or should have been known – by higher-ups. Despite this and repeated reports, the company didn’t take any effective action to help protect these vulnerable workers, according to the complaint.  Continue reading

A former employee of Lockheed Martin has just prevailed in his federal age discrimination lawsuit – to the tune of $51.5 million. It’s believed to be the largest-ever age discrimination verdict for an individual plaintiff.officebuilding

The 66-year-old plaintiff asserted that he was laid off five years ago for alleged staff cutbacks when in fact, his lawyers argued, the cuts were specifically instituted to slash older workers from the payrolls. The goal was to replace those older (i.e., costlier) workers and replace them with younger workers willing to work for lower salaries.

This kind of argument is based on an alleged pretextual claim. That is, the employer stated the adverse employment action (i.e., demotion, firing, lay-off, loss of benefits, refusal to hire, etc.) was due to one thing when in fact it was due to illegal discrimination. In this case, that alleged discrimination was on the grounds of the workers’ ages. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits age discrimination of workers over the age of 40. Continue reading

In 2015, California passed a new Paid Sick Leave law, effective July 2015, that required anyone who worked for an employer for at least 30 days in a year in California (after satisfying a 90-day employment period) is allowed to take sick leave. The law is applicable to all workers – including part-time and temporary employees – with some specific exceptions, including those who provide in-home support services, those with collective bargaining agreements, certain persons employed by air carriers and retired annuitants working for the government.tissue

Determining, however, how much paid sick leave one is entitled to is a bit trickier. Different employers offer different plans, but in general, state officials have explained, the law requires companies to allow workers to use at least 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave per year. Some employers have adopted policies that involve an accrual of sick leave, which can be limited to a total of 48 hours or six days of accrued leave.

Elsewhere in the country, sick leave policies are still severely lacking. Recently in Minnesota, a new sick leave law in Minneapolis has come under fire recently, with a county district judge deciding the city ordinance won’t affect companies that are based outside of the city. Of course, the fear is this will ultimately hurt the city because it may prompt businesses to relocate their headquarters outside of the city proper in order to deny workers a reasonable sick leave policy.  Continue reading

In the context of employment law, a pretext is basically a false reason given for an adverse employment action, such as a demotion, loss of benefits or wrongful termination. For example, perhaps your employer tells you that you are being fired due to budget cuts, but in reality, you’re being let go in retaliation because you recently filed a complaint of sexual harassment or asked for a disability accommodation. manager

So how do we prove the employer’s actions were discriminatory? The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the 1973 case of McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green in which the court held that after plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer to show that there was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. It’s then up to the plaintiff to show reasons why the true reason for the action was pretextual. This kind of evidence is critical because in most cases, employers don’t explicitly state their discriminatory motivations.

Some of the ways we can prove pretext are:

  • False or implausible business justification. Essentially, if the reason given leaves you shaking your head and thinking, “That makes no sense,” it’s probably evidence of pretext.
  • Changing reasons. First, it was because you had too many absences. But then later, it was because you were allegedly caught stealing. These kinds of starkly different justifications may be evidence of pretext.
  • Comparative evidence. Other similarly situated employees who weren’t in your protected class were treated more favorably.
  • Questionable timing. If you file a complaint for sexual harassment and are fired in short order, that timing calls into question the action. Some courts have found that pretext on this basis may exist even after weeks have elapsed between the protected activity and adverse employment action.

Continue reading

The Americans With Disabilities Act requires that workers or applicants not be discriminated against on the basis of a disability, so long as the worker is able to perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable modifications. This is not a blanket requirement that companies accept all workers with disabilities. The caveat that workers must be able to perform essential functions is crucial.headset

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit pointed out in a recent opinion, “The reality is there are some jobs that a person with disabilities are simply unable to perform.” That was deemed to be the case for plaintiff in this instance.

According to court records, plaintiff worked for a telecommunications firm in Tennessee at a call center, where her job as a customer service representative involved answering incoming calls and helping customers with billing and technical support problems. In order to answer those calls, plaintiff had to be physically present at her workstation and logged into the computer. She worked eight-hour shifts, and rotated every six months. During these shifts, customer service representatives had to remain at their work stations, except to use the restroom, to take a half-hour lunch and two pre-scheduled 15-minute breaks. There was no requirement for a per-day minimum, but most representatives generally took on 40 to 50 calls per shift.  Continue reading

Over the last four years, the number of gender-based discrimination charges filed by individuals for violation of LGBT rights has increased substantially. That’s according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which just released a new report on the issue. holding hands

The data shows that in fiscal year 2016, the EEOC received nearly 1,770 claims of discrimination from LGBT persons, and resolved nearly 1,650 – which are record high numbers in both categories.

Those figures are part of a larger year-end litigation and enforcement data release from last year. Herein, the agency breaks down all the different types of claims it receives and how those claims were resolved. The agency received more than 91,500 charges of workplace discrimination last year – which is the second annual increase in the number of charges. A total of 97,443 claims were resolved (some of those had been filed prior to fiscal year 2016), and a total of $482 million collected for victims of workplace discrimination in both the private and government sectors.  Continue reading

A complaint of HIV discrimination lodged by a man in Brooklyn, N.Y. who alleged he was denied an opportunity at a city job because of his HIV-positive status, recently received a credible boost when the U.S. attorney in Manhattan took up the cause. The federal government is now suing New York City for discrimination. alone

Ultimately, HIV discrimination is a form of disability discrimination, which is forbidden under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Stigma surrounding HIV and its association with the LGBT community has been difficult to overcome, and as this case shows, it clearly hasn’t been eliminated. We are 30 years into the HIV/ AIDS epidemic and employers are still making hiring/ firing decisions based on misinformation of what it means to live and work with it.

According to The New York Post, plaintiff said he applied for a job as a New York Police Department technician. That was in 2013, and he was given an offer of conditional employment. He then went through a series of background checks and medical tests. It was at that time that he revealed he was HIV-positive, meaning he has been diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At that point, the police department requested additional blood testing. Soon thereafter, plaintiff was told he was medically disqualified from the job because he had HIV low CD4 count. For those who may be unfamiliar, the CD4 cell count is a means of measuring the health of a person who has the HIV virus. If a person has a high count, they are considered fairly healthy. However, a person with a low CD4 count is not considered healthy. Continue reading

FMLA, or the Family and Medical Leave Act, is a federal statute that guarantees certain employees up to 12 work-weeks worth of unpaid leave annually, without fear of losing their job. The law requires that workers covered by the law maintain worker health benefits during this time, and is intended to help workers balance their family and work responsibilities by granting them the ability to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave for certain medical and family reasons. It also seeks to help the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal opportunity for men and women. It can be used in a number of different circumstances, including the birth of a child or to care for an immediate family member or spouse who is suffering a serious health condition.sad

In the recent case of Chumbley v. Board of Education for Peoria District 150, a school district employee has filed an FMLA lawsuit in federal court in Illinois, alleging he was fired because he went on FMLA leave act. As the Society for Human Resource Management reports, the district fired him while he was on leave, with administrators insisting it was because two unrelated performance-related issues were discovered during that time. However, a remark made by plaintiff’s supervisor regarding his FMLA leave supports his claim that the termination was in large part due to the fact that he took this protected leave.

According to court records, plaintiff was hired in 2005 as a director of research, testing and assessment. The position was to last three years, after which time it would be renewed automatically every year, unless the district gave notice that it wouldn’t be renewed by April of the contract year. In March 2010, the district informed plaintiff that it intended to reassign him to a teaching post, but then re-hired him as a director position as an employee-at-will. Continue reading

Sexual harassment claims against the former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes ultimately cost the executive his job and resulted in a $20 million settlement with former anchor Gretchen Carlson. The allegations embroiled the company in controversy, as Greta Van Susteren, one of the longest-serving hosts, quit abruptly. Later, star Megyn Kelly, who would also come forward with claims of sexual harassment against Ailes, announced she was leaving for NBC. Kelly said she didn’t come forward sooner with her claims of harassment because to do so would have been, “Career suicide.” sad

Now, it seems that these type of incidents were part of a larger pattern, perhaps even a corporate culture, as more allegations against other executives and hosts have been revealed. Most recently, The New York Times reported, was the revelation that 21st Century Fox, which is the parent company of Fox News, quietly settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by an employee against prime-time star Bill O’Reilly.

The claim was made by a female Fox broadcaster who first began working for the company in the 1990s. She worked for a time on the Fox & Friends weekend edition show, and she had a regular segment on The O’Reilly Factor. She alleges O’Reilly tried to initiate a sexual relationship with her back in 2011. However, she declined his advance, resulting in his retaliation, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, a long-time Fox News executive, now co-president of the company after Ailes’ ouster, is also accused of retaliation in the case.  Continue reading

California has some of the best state-level worker protection laws in the country. It’s something Andrew Pudzer always opposed in his adopted state, where the Midwest lawyer moved and succeeded in building up a once-failing fast-food chain.cook

Pudzer, President Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the U.S. Labor Department, was an outspoken critic of the tight workplace regulations in California. These included mandatory rest breaks, which he asserted were unfair particularly in the restaurant industry as he complained it meant businesses were understaffed just as the rush of customers were coming in. He argued that the laws passed to protect hourly workers resulted in a “nanny state,” which he said flew in the face of capitalism.

But Pudzer’s company displayed time and again exactly why laws are needed to protect our workers. Ultimately, his business ended up paying out millions of dollars for class action lawsuits that alleged wage-and-hour theft and other workers’ rights laws. He is CEO of a restaurant group that franchises, licenses and operates several fast-food chains, including Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. Continue reading