Employer Pays $200,000 to Settle Anti-Pregnancy Policy Case

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A Tennessee caregiving company has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a pregnancy bias lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, since at least 2010, the employer had required its female employees to sign a pregnancy policy during orientation. The policy provided that their employment terminated at the fifth month of pregnancy. The EEOC further alleged that the employer enforced its policy against multiple women by terminating them due to their pregnancy, despite their ability to effectively perform their job duties.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes clear that bias against applicants or employees on the basis of childbirth, pregnancy, or related medical conditions constitutes illegal sex discrimination. Additionally, while pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), conditions associated with pregnancy — including back pain, gestational diabetes, and pregnancy-induced high blood pressure — may be.

Pregnant employees who are able to continue performing their jobs must be permitted to do so. If a pregnant employee is temporarily unable to perform her job, she must be treated the same as any other temporarily disabled employee in terms of opportunities for modified work tasks, light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave or unpaid leave.

Learn more about pregnancy bias and pregnancy discrimination laws.

What is Labor Day?

As we enjoy another Labor Day weekend, here are some quick facts about the holiday designed to celebrate workers.

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How Labor Day Came About

"Labor Day differs in every essential from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, l883.

In l884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in l885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 2l, l887. During the year four more states -- Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York -- created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Have a great Labor Day weekend everybody!

EEOC Sues Greyhound Lines, Inc. For Religious Discrimination

Greyhound Lines Inc.

Greyhound Lines Inc.

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the EEOC against Dallas-based Greyhound Lines, the company violated federal law when it refused to accommodate the religious beliefs of a bus driver.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a driver who is a practicing Muslim applied for a driver position at Greyhound's Baltimore facility. During the interview the driver told the supervisor for driver operations and safety that her religious beliefs require her to dress modestly by wearing a headscarf and an abaya, a loose-fitting ankle-length overgarment that conceals the outline of the wearer's body. The supervisor told her during the interview, and later during her training after she was hired, that Greyhound would accommodate her religious beliefs.

However, Greyhound later refused to allow her to wear the abaya, claiming it would be a safety hazard, and proposed she wear a knee-length skirt over pants. The EEOC said that the driver was compelled to quit because the skirt-and-pants uniform proposal conflicted with her religious practice of modest dress by revealing the outline of her body.

According to the suit, prior to applying at Greyhound, the driver had successfully completed her commercial driving license training and had satisfactorily completed all Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration examinations while wearing the abaya. She also was employed for one year as a tractor-trailer driver while wearing the abaya.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant's or employee's sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (EEOC v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-01651). The lawsuit seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

"The driver was able to perform her duties safely while wearing her religious garb, but Greyhound unjustly refused to accommodate her religious beliefs," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "No employee should be forced to choose between practicing her sincerely held religious beliefs and earning a living."

Read more articles about discrimination here.

$334,500 Age Discrimination Verdict Against Time Warner Cable Upheld on Appeal

ADEA - Age Discrimination in Employment Act

ADEA - Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has let stand a $334,500 jury verdict for a 61-year-old employee who the company fired over a single incident of backdating a form.

The Plaintiff, Glenda Westmoreland, had worked for a Time Warner Cable subsidiary for more than 30 years, was fired after instructing a subordinate to backdate a form to reflect the date of a related meeting, rather than the date the form was actually completed. TWC initially told her the infraction wasn't serious but later concluded that she had violated company policy prohibiting false statements and created "trust and integrity" issues. While walking her to her car, a supervisor told the Plaintiff, "You’ll get another job. Just go home and take care of those grandbabies.” Westmoreland sued, alleging age discrimination.

A jury found for Westmoreland and, on appeal, the 4th Circuit upheld the verdict. TWC’s "about face" on the disciplinary matter could give rise to a "suspicion of mendacity" about the company’s rationale for firing her, the court said. It also noted that company representatives had testified that there were lesser forms of discipline available. As a result, the court said, the jury could reasonably find that Westmoreland’s firing for one infraction that did not require termination was "such an extreme overreaction as to be pretextual." In addition, the jury could have found that the "grandbabies" comment was made by a supervisor who harbored age bias, the court said.

Age discrimination in employment is illegal, but two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it. Employees between the ages of 46 and 65 (especially those nearing retirement age) are the most likely to be targeted. Those employees are often let go by employers who perceive them to be more expensive and less valuable than younger replacements.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) exists to protect individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment -- including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.

You can read the full 4th Circuit opinion here.

New Labor Rule Means Gig Economy Workers In Texas Can't Get Unemployment Benefits

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Last month, the state’s labor regulator approved a controversial new rule on gig economy workers – a rule opponents say will have negative implications for these workers going forward.

Approved on a 2-1 vote, the rule from the Texas Workforce Commission exempts app-based companies that hire contractors – like TaskRabbit or DoorDash – from paying state unemployment insurance taxes for those workers. The three-member commission gave initial approval for the rule in December.

Labor unions and workers advocates say the new rules were tailor-made by lobbyists from a firm called Handy. The agency has defended its rule-making process, saying it is well within its legislatively appointed rights to rule on employment matters and that, per state law, it allowed 30 days of public comment before initially adopting the rules. Opponents have said the rules could incentivize companies to abandon brick-and-mortar businesses to avoid paying those state unemployment taxes.

The risk is that the rule would likely reclassify many construction workers as independent contractors, leaving them without those protections for wage theft and discrimination on job-sites.

Read more: KUT Article

Jury awards $3.8M to woman; Employer argued her breastfeeding schedule was 'excessive'

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An Arizona jury has sided with a breastfeeding paramedic, awarding the nursing mother $3.8 million for her lawsuit alleging she wasn't provided a lactation space as required by federal law.

Carrie Ferrara Clark sued the City of Tucson Fire Department, alleging that it violated federal employment laws when it failed to provide her with an appropriate lactation room on a consistent basis and when it retaliated against her for complaining about the issue. Her lawsuit alleged that the fire department's scheduler said he didn't believe she deserved any special accommodations. The HR manager also recommended that she use fire chiefs' and captains' bedrooms for pumping as needed, but Clark explained that waking up her supervisors every 2 to 3 hours seemed unreasonable. HR then told her "your pumping seems excessive to me.” When she tried to explain that such a schedule was normal for a newborn, the HR manager replied "well, it seems to me that you're not fit for duty."

A jury found the employer liable for discrimination and retaliation, awarding her $3.8 million. It found, among other things, that the employer discriminated against her because she was breastfeeding and that it assigned her to fire stations that did not have a space that complied with federal requirements for expressing breast milk.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) states that employers are required to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.

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