Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

While Federal discrimination laws do not currently protect LGBT employees (although they are protected by many local county ordinances in Florida), The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has taken efforts to ensure that Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons are protected by the Federal Housing Laws.

“The Obama Administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this historic rule, the Administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want live on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity – ensuring that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect 30 after the rule is published.

The final rule, published as Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, makes the following provisions:

Requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, to make housing available without regard to the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant for, or occupant of, the dwelling, whether renter- or owner-occupied. HUD will institute this policy in its rental assistance and homeownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.

Prohibits lenders from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing. FHA’s current regulations provide that a mortgage lender’s determination of the adequacy of a borrower’s income “shall be made in a uniform manner without regard to” specified prohibited grounds. The rule will add actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to the prohibited grounds to ensure FHA-approved lenders do not deny or otherwise alter the terms of mortgages on the basis of irrelevant criteria.

Clarifies that all otherwise eligible families, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, will have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs. In the majority of HUD’s rental and homeownership programs the term “family” already has a broad scope, and includes a single person and families with or without children. HUD’s rule clarifies that otherwise eligible families may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship.

Prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing insured by HUD from asking about an applicant or occupant’s sexual orientation and gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or otherwise making housing available. In response to comments on the proposed rule, HUD has clarified this final rule to state that this provision does not prohibit voluntary and anonymous reporting of sexual orientation or gender identity pursuant to state, local, or federal data collection requirements.

View the final rule here.

If you believe you have been the subject of LGBT discrimination in the workplace or in housing, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation

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A consent decree agreement entered Thursday in federal court resolves a disability discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year on behalf of former employee Charles Goods, and discrimination claims filed by Goods.

The EEOC took up the Greeneville resident’s case against the retailing giant, claiming in a lawsuit filed in October 2010 that Wal-Mart violated federal law when it fired longtime employee Goods because of a cancer-related disability, and retaliated against him for complaining about the discrimination.

The orders in the decree signed by U.S. District Court Judge J. Ronnie Greer include a provision that Wal-Mart pay $275,000 in full settlement of the claims, including $110,000 in back pay with interest and $165,000 for compensatory damages to Goods.

Back wages are for the years 2009 and 2010.

Wal-Mart was also ordered to conduct anti-disability discrimination training for management and take steps to prevent “further failing to provide reasonable accommodation” to employees with disabilities.

EEOC filed the lawsuit under provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the subsequent ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Goods was hired by Walmart in January 1997 and worked as a forklift operator at the Distribution Center for more than 12 years. In 2005, according to the EEOC civil complaint, he underwent surgery for thyroid cancer.

The surgery severed several nerves and left Goods with limited feeling or strength in his right arm. He remained “a qualified individual with a disability,” the complaint said.

In November 2008, Goods’ supervisor asked him to relieve an employee in the shipping department for a 20-minute break. Goods replied that he could not perform the work because he couldn’t do the manual lifting required there.

He was asked to complete a request for reasonable accommodation, court documents said.

The EEOC complaint demanding a jury trial said that Goods requested reasonable accommodation to continue working in the section of the Distribution Center where he operated a fork lift, adding that he was employed successfully for 12 years, including the three years following his cancer surgery.

Wal-Mart claimed an essential function of Goods’ job “was manual lifting,” the EEOC complaint stated. Goods’ doctor advised Wal-Mart that he could not perform manual lifting.

“In practice, [Wal-Mart] did not require Goods to do any significant manual lifting in order to successfully perform his job,” said the complaint, which claimed the company denied Goods’ requests for reasonable accommodation, asserting that he could not perform essential job functions.

“[Wal-Mart] did not enter into the interactive process to accommodate Mr. Goods’ disability,” the complaint stated, instead placing him on leave “and subsequently discharging him because of his disability.”

Goods was placed on a 90-day leave on Dec. 18, 2008, in response to his request for an accommodation, and denied an appeal before he was advised that “it was his responsibility to find another position that did not have a written requirement of manual lifting.”

He filed a charge of discrimination on May 18, 2009, and was terminated by Wal-Mart on July 16, 2009, “in retaliation for his continuing to request a reasonable accommodation for his disability,” the EEOC complaint stated.

If you believe you have suffered discrimination or job termination due to a disability, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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As we have blogged on many occasions, discrimination against an employee based upon a disability whether in the hiring process or during performance of the job, is generally illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Apparently the Federal Transportation Services Administration was so busy perfecting their pat down searches that they forgot these laws apply to them.

Air force veteran Michael Lamarre applied for a transportation security officer position with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2008. As part of the interview process for the position, Lamarre had to undergo a medical screening. It was during this screening that he disclosed his HIV status.

Despite receiving a letter from his physician that stated Lamarre “is capable of meeting the [TSO] job requirements safely, efficiently and effectively with respect to [her] medical specialty and this candidate’s medical condition and/or diagnosis,” the TSA notified Lamarre in 2009 his HIV status resulted in medical disqualification. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, Lamarre fought the decision, claiming discrimination.

In September 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law that protects the rights of the disabled, was amended to explicitly cover HIV-positive individuals.

If an employee’s HIV symptoms or medications are interfering with the job requirements, the ADA allows for the employee to request what is known as a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a reasonable change in the work environment or the way a job is performed that allows the disabled person to fill the position.

There are also statutes in many states that prohibit discrimination based upon being HIV positive.

If you believe you have been discriminated against based upon HIV or some other disability, feel free to speak with Scott Behren or the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Sexual harassment in the workplace must be quickly addressed by employees and employers in all cases. However, it is even more important to address where minor employees are involved. In at least one case, the managers of a Dairy Queen did not address the harassment quick enough.

The guardian of a 17-year-old minor has filed a lawsuit against Dairy Queen, claiming the fast food restaurant allowed the teen to be sexually harassed by a co-worker.

Kathryn McCauley, as guardian and next friend of a minor, filed suit against Food Service Holdings Ltd., doing business as Dairy Queen, on Oct. 17 in the Eastern District of Texas, Lufkin Division.

The 17 year old was employed by Dairy Queen in Huntington in June 2010, where she was subjected to discrimination on the basis of her sex, including sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting such harassment, the suit claims.

According to court records, the minor was subjected to a hostile work environment by a co-employee and was told the co-worker would be fired after his 30-day probationary period.

However, McCauley claims that when the probationary period was over, the co-worker was not fired. Instead, the minor was not properly placed on the schedule and given very few hours. The teenager was terminated on Oct. 3, 2010, allegedly for failing to show up to work.

The teen maintains that she was informed that she was not scheduled to work on the date in question and she was really terminated for reporting the sexual harassment.

If you believe you or one of your children has been the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace, speak to an attorney experienced with sexual harassment suits such as Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm.

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Discrimination is illegal against all pregnant employees not only while they are working for employers, but also during the hiring process. The EEOC is trying to educate Tampa’s Capri Home Care.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Capri Home Care, Inc. for refusing to hire a pregnant applicant into an administrative assistant / billing clerk position at its Clearwater, Fla., facility. Capri Home Care is a home health agency that provides skilled nursing and specialized home health care throughout Central Florida.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Capri’s management was so impressed with the applicant at her initial interview that they immediately extended her an offer for the position starting the next day. Following orientation on the applicant’s first day of work, Capri’s sentiment changed after she disclosed she was pregnant. Within an hour, the EEOC said, Capri rescinded its job offer, claiming it had already offered the position to a former employee. A non-pregnant woman was selected several months later, the EEOC said.
Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District, Tampa Division (EEOC v. Capri Home Care Inc., d/b/a Capri Home Care, Case No. 8:11-cv-02211-RAL-MAP) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for woman who was subjected to discrimination. The suit also seeks injunctive relief to prevent and correct pregnancy discrimination, posting of anti-discrimination notices, and training of Capri’s managers and employees about equal employment opportunity laws.

If you believe you have been denied employment because you are pregnant, you should file a claim with the EEOC or speak with an employment law attorney that handles pregnancy discrimination matters. Feel free to call Scott M. Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Well this recent case gives me one more reason to dislike Virginia Tech aside from their last minute win over the Miami Hurricanes this past weekend.

As you know, we have blogged on many occasions about employee rights under the various state and Federal sexual harassment statutes which make it illegal for an employer to harass or discriminate against an employee based upon sexual harassment.

Well, a former Virginia Tech employee has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit in which she claimed her supervisor treated a five-day training session with her “as if the trip was an extended date.”

Getra Hanes, who worked as a fundraiser for the university, will receive $60,000 as part of a settlement reached last week in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

In her sexual harassment lawsuit, Hanes accused Robert Bailey Jr., her direct supervisor, of repeatedly making sexually inappropriate comments during a five-day training trip to Maryland in 2007.

The lawsuit also said that Bailey held Hanes to different professional standards than he did his male employees, and that he fired her when she complained about the harassment.

On the way to the training session, the lawsuit said, Bailey told Hanes how uncomfortable he was travelling with a young attractive women, then proceeded to ask at length if she was married and whether she was dating.

He later tried to invite himself to her room to discuss the development office’s Moves Management program, emphasizing the first word “so as to focus on the double-entendre meaning of the title,” the suit said.

When Hanes refused, Bailey insisted that she come to his room, where he made her feel uncomfortable by wearing pajama pants, drinking a beer and leaning over her as she sat at a computer, the lawsuit said.

If you believe you have been the subject of sexual harassment in the workplace or by one of your supervisors, make sure and report the matter to Human Resources or to the EEOC. If you are fired or retaliated against based upon your complaints, speak to an employment law attorney on the issue. Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm handle sexual harassment cases and are available for a free consultation.

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As discussed before, a pregnant employee can face many different legal issues with her employer that impact many different laws including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and possibly the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act (GINA). Pregnant employees also need to know about their short term and long term disability insurance plans and how they interact with these laws. Most of these laws clearly cover natural pregnancy and adoption, but what about birth by surrogate?

That issues is now being addressed in a recently filed case. A US businesswoman is suing her employer after she was allegedly denied maternity leave following the birth of her twins through a surrogate mother.

Kara Krill, a clinical business manager at the Massachusetts-based company Cubist Pharmaceuticals, is claiming breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, discrimination on the basis of her disability and gender, and negligent misrepresentation by the company. She is seeking an injunction against Cubist, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Krill developed Asherman’s Syndrome – a condition which rendered her infertile – following the birth of her first child. When she and her husband decided to have a second child they used a surrogate. The resulting twins are biologically related to both Krill and her husband.

Following her first pregnancy, Krill was given 13 weeks of paid leave under the company’s maternity leave policy. However this time Krill says she was informed that she would only be entitled to five days of paid leave and up to $4,000 in expenses – as is offered to adoptive parents. Paternity leave under Cubist’s policy is also five paid days.

In her letter of complaint to Cubist, Krill stated: ‘But for my physical disability, I would be receiving the paid maternity leave offered by Cubist. Accommodating my disability would not require [Cubist] to provide me with any more benefit than other mothers’. Furthermore, she complained of discrimination and verbal abuse by her supervisor in the workplace due to her disability and surrogacy arrangement.

What do you think about Krill’s situation?

If you or someone you know is pregnant, and are not sure how to navigate the maze of legal issues that face you, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation.

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I have previously blogged that alcoholism is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act in many circumstances. Old Dominion Freight Line has now found that out based upon an EEOC lawsuit filed against it.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit this week arguing that Old Dominion Freight Line discriminated against Charles Grams by stripping him of his position and offering him a demotion even if he completed a substance abuse counseling program.

The EEOC says alcoholism is a recognized disability under the ADA and that the company violated the law with its policy that bans any driver who admits alcohol abuse from driving again. The EEOC wants the company to reinstate Grams and another affected driver to their previous positions and provide them with back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and compensation for lost benefits. The EEOC is also seeking to block the company’s alcohol-related policy.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Grams, who had been with Old Dominion for five years without incident, informed the company in June 2009 that he believed he had an alcohol problem. The company suspended him from his driving position, which paid him nearly $22 per hour, including benefits. In compliance with U.S. Transportation Department regulations, Grams met with a substance abuse professional who notified the company that Grams would participate in an outpatient treatment program and could return to work. But Old Dominion told Grams that he wouldn’t be allowed to drive again for the company and instead offered him a part-time position as a dock worker as soon as it became available. The position paid $12 per hour without benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

The EEOC contends that the company’s actions deprived Grams and other affected drivers of “equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect their status as employees, in violation of the ADA.”
“Grams is a qualified individual with a disability under ADA … who can perform the essential functions of a driving position,” the suit says, adding that Grams and other employees wouldn’t need treatment to perform non-driving duties.

If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace or had your job terminated based upon a disability, including alcoholism or substance abuse, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation about your legal rights.

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Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate was told just one word, “Plastics.” However, plastics did not appear to be a good business decision for several employees of plastic company Promens USA.

Promens USA Inc. has agreed to pay $225,000 to four women to settle a sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the EEOC has announced.

The women worked at the former Bonar Plastics rotational molding plant in West Chicago, Ill., that was acquired by Promens hf, based in Kópavogur, Iceland, in 2005.

EEOC said the violations occurred during the five years that Promens owned the factory.

The women, who were employed in the finishing department in West Chicago, filed discrimination charges with EEOC in 2007, which sued Promens on their behalf last fall.

The women alleged that a Promens supervisor “repeatedly propositioned temporary female workers,” EEOC said in a news release announcing the settlement. When the women rejected the supervisor’s advances, he fired them.

“This pattern of quid pro quo harassment continued until Promens USA fired this supervisor in July 2010 after yet another woman complained of sexual harassment,” EEOC said.

When EEOC investigated, the agency also found that Promens USA excluded women from jobs in the rotomolding department, which paid more than the finishing department.

The EEOC stated that “Employers should take notice that women cannot be excluded from a class of jobs based on stereotypes about their physical strength of assumed lack of interest. The EEOC uncovered evidence that Promens systematically excluded women from higher-paid positions as machine operators,” Hendrickson said. “Federal law plainly forbids work force segregation on the basis of sex.”

If you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, speak to your human resources department. If your concerns are not addressed, go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or an attorney that handles employment law cases.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or believe you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a consultation.

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Under Florida law, the general rule is that an employee who quits their job is not entitled to receive unemployment benefits. However, there is an exception to this general rule where the employee left with good cause attributable to the employer.

Dennis Martinez was a full time car salesman for Ford Midway Mall. Martinez was originally hired on a commission basis, but some time into his employment, his position was changed to where he received a draw against his commissions. When business declined and he was earning no commissions, based upon the employer draw, he would owe the employer money each week. As of the date of his resignation, Martinez owed over $2,000 to his employer due to these draws. Martinez expressed his dissatisfaction with this arrangement to his employer and resigned.

The unemployment referee determined that Martinez voluntarily quit without good cause of the employer. He further decided that because Martinez agreed originally to this draw policy, that he could not contest it a year later.

The Third District Court of Appeal reversed the determination of unemployment. The Court held that the unemployment laws “provides that an individual is not disqualified for unemployment benefits where the individual has “voluntarily left work with good cause attributable” to the employer. § 443.101(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009). “Good cause” includes cause attributable to the employer, which “as contemplated by the unemployment compensation law, describes that which would drive an average, able-bodied worker to quit his or her job.”

The Court held that the auto dealer was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Florida Minimum Wage Act because Martinez was not getting paid the minimum hourly wage for the hours he was working for his employer. The Court held that the draw agreement used by the employer was in violation of the FLSA and Florida Minimum Wage Act. Moreover, the Court held that merely allowing them to pay under the draw policy, for a period of time did not result in a waiver of his legal rights under the FLSA.

The Court held that due to the employer’s violations of the FLSA and Florida Minimum Wage Act, Martinez had left his employment due to good cause attributable to the employer. The Court reversed the decision of unemployment and awarded Martinez his benefits.

The Opinion of the Third District Court of Appeal is here.

If you have questions about your right to receive unemployment benefits, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm to discuss your legal rights.

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