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Bank Of America Ordered to Pay $2.18m in Racial Discrimination Case

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on October 4th, 2013

The bank’s “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” led to the rejection of qualified black candidates

The U.S. Department of Labor is reporting that Bank of America Corp, the second-largest bank in the U.S., was ordered to pay $2.18 million to 1,147 black job applicants for alleged racial discrimination in their hiring process that barred qualified candidates from being hired.

The decision and order made by an administrative law judge at the Labor Department, Linda Chapman, awards back pay and interest to former candidates seeking teller, clerical, and entry-level administrative positions in the bank’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chapman concluded in a statement that Bank of America’s “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” led to the rejection of qualified black candidates.

About $1.22 million would go to 113 people who were rejected during the hiring process between 2002 and 2005. Another $964,000 would go to 1,034 people who were rejected in 1993.

The Labor Department initially filed its first complaint against Bank of America in 1997. Allegedly, the bank had challenged its authority to pursue the case.

The most recent order followed two settlements of litigation regarding alleged bias that Bank of America disclosed within the last month.

“We are currently reviewing this recommended decision and order,” said Bank of America spokesman, Christopher Feeney. “At Bank of America, diversity and inclusion are part of our culture and core company values. We actively promote an environment where all employees have an opportunity to succeed.”

The Labor Department said Bank of America’s, a federally insured financial institution, qualified as a federal contractor, putting it under the OFFCP’s purview.

This is not the first time Bank of America has been involved in this type of litigation

In August, the bank reached a $160 million settlement with hundreds of black Merrill Lynch & Co brokers who alleged racial bias in the areas of pay, promotions, and allocation of large accounts.

And in September, it reached a $39 million settlement with female brokers claiming they were paid less than their male counterparts and that they had been deprived of their share of major accounts.

“Judge Chapman’s decision upholds the legal principle of making victims of discrimination whole, and these workers deserve to get the full measure of what is owed to them,” said Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFFCP).

If you feel that you have been the victim of discrimination in hiring, promotion, layoffs, or any other aspect of employment related actions, you need the services of an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles. Please contact the Law Offices of Peter K. Levine at (323) 617-4406 or visit the Discrimination page on our website. Call today and we will connect you with Peter K. Levine, an experienced, aggressive, affordable Discrimination Attorney in Los Angeles. After you have spoken with our Los Angeles Discrimination attorney, we can schedule you a free face to face appointment to discuss your circumstances. If you have questions or concerns with any aspect of Discrimination and Employment, we can help! Call us now at (323) 617-4406. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your Discrimination Law case.

EEOC: Buffalo employee fired after standing up for hiring black worker

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 29th, 2013

Production manager fired for hiring recommendation

According to a federal lawsuit, Myrna Peltonen, a production manager lost her job at Izza Bending Tube & Wire, a small industrial company for defending her recommendation that a temporary black worker be permanently hired after logging 500 hours with the company.

When the owner of the company, Scott Landgraf, rebuffed the recommendation, he punctuated his point with racist language, and also told Peltonen to let the worker go, alleges the suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Peltonen was demoted to an office position and had her pay cut when she refused to let the worker go.

The worker, Randall L. Smith, “worked hard and deserved the opportunity for a full-time permanent position with benefits at Izza,” says Peltonen. “This case is about doing what is right and taking a stand against intolerance. Mr. Smith deserved better. Everyone at Izza deserved better.?”

Peltonen then also escalated to Creative Staffing Solutions, the temporary employment agency that placed Smith, about what Landgraf had said. She also told Smith.

The owner of the staffing agency, Rose Vaughn suggested to Smith that he be fired, and she then gave Izza a false reason for why Smith would not be working there anymore. The agency also stopped trying to find work for Smith.

Discrimination charge filed

Peltonen filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC a couple of weeks later. She was then fired from Izza after having been with the company for about 14 months.

The EEOC hopes to win back pay as well as force Izza to put in place an anti-retaliation policy that complies with federal law.
“Myrna Peltonen was a woman who felt she was just doing her job, and did not want to make a fuss,” says Jean Kamp, an associate regional attorney for the EEOC. ” But she felt that this was wrong and that she had to become involved. The EEOC will support such a woman as strongly as we can.”

Car Dealership Accused of Offensive and Hostile Work Environment

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 27th, 2013

Council on American-Islamic Relations blames finance manager

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Rizza Cadillac Inc. of violating federal law by allegedly encouraging a work environment that was hostile and offensive to Muslim and Arab sales employees Medhat Adawy, his son Adam, and Mohammed El-Hajjami when they worked from January 2007 to November 2009.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman Maryam Arain blamed Rizza Cadillac’s finance manager. Allegedly the dealership fired the Adawys in September 2009 and terminated El-Hajjami two months later. That same year the finance manager was promoted to general manager.

The EEOC claims managers at the dealership created a discriminatory work environment by using offensive slurs as well as mocking references to the Quran and the manner in which Muslims pray.

John C. Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney said, “Employers may not allow managers to repeatedly make offensive slurs and insults about an employee’s religion or national origin.

“Comments implying that all Muslims are terrorists cannot be excused or minimized by calling it mere ‘banter’ about a minority ethnicity or religion.

The EEOC stands ready to protect Muslim and Arab workers when they are subjected to such harassment.”

Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures…

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s district office, said an investigation showed “Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures to stop and prevent this abusive misconduct, as they were required to do by federal law. Employees should be judged by their performance, not their religion or ethnicity.”

Harassment based on national origin or religion violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The commission filed suit in federal court after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The lawsuit filed against the new car dealership seeks compensatory and punitive damages and requires the dealership to implement measures to prevent a recurrence of harassment as well as a permanent injunction against future discrimination.

Chicago restaurant accused of being “a hotbed of racism”

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 26th, 2013

Since the 1970’s Alex Dana’s Rosebud restaurants have been comfortable places for diners seeking hearty Italian entrees. The company operates 10 sites in the Chicago area and employs more than 900 people.

But allegedly, according to a recently filed federal lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Rosebud is also a hotbed of racism and discriminatory practices and has been since late 2009.

The EEOC claims the restaurant violated civil rights laws by refusing to hire blacks. It found during its investigation, most Rosebud restaurant  locations had no black employees. The EEOC charges that these discriminatory practices have occurred at the 10 current locations as well as three other locations that have been closed.

John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC said the lawsuit seeks compensation for black applicants denied employment, a class of potentially hundreds of people.

Hendrickson alleges that based on interviews with numerous witnesses the restaurant uses slurs when talking about blacks, and also that Dana and other managers have expressed a preference not to hire African Americans. The EEOC claims it has tried “informal methods of conciliation, conference and persuasion” involving Rosebud, but to no avail.

Rosebud spokesman claims “zero tolerance” for discrimination

A spokesman for Rosebud sites the company’s “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, saying it has cooperated with the EEOC. “We have provided them 32,000 job applications and copies of other documents,” the spokesman said. In a separate statement, a spokesperson said, “We consider it our mission to treat our employees as a family – with honesty and respect – and we are proud of our employment record and the diversity of our work force.”

The company states they have no reliable data on the racial composition of its work force. A spokesman said the reports are based on information employees provide voluntarily. Many do not fill out the form, he said.

Hendrickson said the company’s hiring record was so outrageous as to immediately suggest bias. “There are lame excuses and there are lamer excuses,” he said.

The EEOC has also accused Rosebud of violating federal law by failing to hold onto employment applications for at least a year and by not filing required annual reports with the agency before 2009. These annual reports are required of companies with more than 100 employees. They include information data on workers’ job categories, race, ethnicity and gender.

National Labor Relations Board Issues Another Social Media Decision

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 25th, 2013

Social Media in the Spotlight Again

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued another social media decision, finding that a Maryland ambulance company violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

An employee of the ambulance company posted a social media note on her Facebook wall indicating that she had been fired by the company. William Norvell, a current employee of the ambulance company posted a response on social media – that the former co-worker get a lawyer and take the company to court. He also later added that she “could contact the labor board.”

Someone turned over a printed copy of the posts to the ambulance company’s HR Director who, after consulting with the COO, decided to terminate Norvell.
The NLRB found that the termination violated the NLRA.

One of the basic foundations of employment law is this:

Thou shalt not take adverse action…

Thou shalt not take adverse action against an employee in response to the employee’s protected activity.

The law prohibits this. It’s called retaliation. You may not punish someone for doing what the law provides he may do.

Applied in this context, the former co-worker had a right to consult a lawyer as well as the right to contact “the labor board,” whether that meant the state Department of Labor or the Regional Office of the NLRB.

If her termination had been for lawful reasons, a lawyer would have told her so. Regardless, she had a right to investigate her legal rights either way.

In turn, Norvell had a right to suggest his former co-worker investigate those rights. Consequently, Norvell was engaging in protected legal activity for which he could not be punished.

Major Retailer Loses in a Civil Rights Lawsuit

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 23rd, 2013

Former employee claimed she was fired for wearing a hijab

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) has lost a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of a former employee who said she was fired for wearing a head scarf, also known as a hijab.

In late 2009, Umme-Hani Khan, then 19, started working at a Bay Area Hollister store. She wore a head scarf during her interview and regularly on the job but was allegedly fired four months later after a district manager visited the store.

Khan says she was approached by her manager and that the manager “Expressed concern about my hijab,” Khan said. “That’s when I felt like it was not appropriate, what they were saying.”

She was terminated after refusing to remove the hijab while at work. According to court documents the company offered her the job back eleven days later, as long as she did not wear the hijab. She declined the offer.
The manager and a corporate human resources director said the scarf violated the company dress code. At the crux of the issue is Abercrombie’s dress code.

Look Policy

Internally referred to as the “Look Policy,” the dress code includes a grooming guidebook for employees outlining everything from what they should wear to how they should style their hair while on the job.

In court, the Abercrombie argued that the hijab, worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty, would negatively affect sales. The dress code goes to the “very heart of its business model” and that any deviation from it threatens its bottom line. But the judge said in writing “Abercrombie failed to offer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case on behalf of Khan in 2011. A California district judge ruled that the termination violated the portion of the Civil Rights Act that bars religious discrimination.

CFPB receives complaints from workers receiving pay on debit cards

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 18th, 2013

So-called payroll cards used in lieu of traditional pay methods

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued a bulletin as a result of recent complaints it has received from workers regarding receiving their pay on debit cards, or so-called payroll cards.

According to a 2011 survey done by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. nearly 4 million U.S. households, or 3.2 percent, have someone who receives wages via a payroll card. The cards are often used by people who do not have bank accounts.

Complaints from workers received included fees for withdrawing cash and checking card balances. Critics of these cards are reporting that the high fees on the cards mean that some workers are essentially making less than minimum wage.

The agency said that by law workers must be able to choose how they receive their wages and that companies cannot require employees to receive their pay this way and that there must be other options. If they choose to be paid with payroll cards, they are entitled to various protections such as disclosure of fees.

McDonald’s challenged for use of payroll cards

A woman who worked at a McDonald’s in northeastern Pennsylvania recently filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the company’s use of payroll cards.
Attorneys for the restaurant owners have said the debit cards are “the functional equivalent” of cash or checks and that the employees consented to the method of payment.

The consumer agency states it has received reports of companies, especially in the retail and food-service industries, paying wages only through debit cards, rather than offering payment options. The agency said it has the authority to enforce the law against anyone in violation, including employers as well as the banks that issue payroll cards.

“The bureau intends to use its enforcement authority to stop violations before they grow into systemic problems,” it said. The CFPB is doing what it can to ensure that the companies comply with the consumer-protection laws for the employees.

Breastfeeding in the Workplace

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 12th, 2013

Health professionals and public health officials promote breastfeeding to improve infant health. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Breastfed children have fewer ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections and have diarrhea less often. Breastfeeding also provides long-term preventative effects for the mother, including an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and a reduced risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires breaks for mothers

It’s important for both employers and employees to be aware that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires breaks for mothers to express breast milk during the workday. Breastfeeding requires supportive environments, including workplaces.

A provision of the FLSA requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time, as well as a private and clean space to express milk as frequently as needed and wanted by a nursing mother, for up to one year following the birth of the child. Here are some other requirements:

– The space must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
– The use of a bathroom is not an acceptable space to provide to nursing mothers expressing milk.
– Nursing employees must have access to this space each time they need to express milk.
– The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break depends on several factors and may vary.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has published an employee rights card that outlines the FLSA’s basic requirements and break laws and also includes a list of resources where additional information can be found. It also includes a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone and shares how to file a complaint with the division in case a woman feels her rights have been violated.

This year the Labor Department is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA was passed in an effort to end oppressive child labor as well as establish minimum labor standards regarding workers’ “wages and hours.” The “nursing mothers” provision is just one way the FLSA has evolved over the decades to protect and strengthen an ever-changing and growing workforce.

Barista Fired for Eating Out of the Garbage: Wrongful Termination?

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 6th, 2013

Starbuck’s policy claims it’s for health reasons

A Starbucks barista claims he was recently fired for eating one of the cafe’s famous breakfast sandwiches — out of the garbage.

Coulson Loptmann, 21, says his manager told him eating something from the trash is “considered stealing,” according to a report in Seattle-based alternative weekly The Stranger. Loptmann explained, however, the sandwich was expired and had already been marked out.

“It sounds ridiculous, but having bread and mustard and mayonnaise and some kind of meat and lettuce—it doesn’t sound expensive, but that adds up. … There were some days where I lived off of Starbucks food,” said Loptmann, who used to get a 30 percent discount and a few free coffees a day from Starbucks.

On the day he took the sandwich from the garbage, Loptmann said: “I hadn’t eaten all day and I was on a seven-hour shift.”

He didn’t think anyone at the company would have a problem with it but he was wrong.

A week later, his manager sat him down and told him she had found out about him taking the sandwich from the garbage and took the matter to human resources. He was then told: “they consider it stealing, and it’s against policy. So I’m sorry, but I have to terminate you.” Loptmann was fired on the spot.

Loptmann reports he made $9.94 an hour for 23 to 32 hours a week and brought in another $30 in tips — at most $348 before taxes and that he had asked for more hours, but did not receive them. He survives partly on food stamps because his paycheck isn’t always enough for him to buy food.

Eating marked-out food at Starbucks is against company policy — because it’s considered stealing, and for health reasons. “We don’t want our partners to consume something that could make them sick,” Starbucks spokesman Zach Hutson said.

Hutson confirmed Loptmann’s firing and said an employee wouldn’t normally be let go for a single violation of this policy, but Loptmann was let go in light of a history of “documented performance issues,” which he declined to specify.

Fast Food Workers Face A Tough Situation

The situation for fast food workers can be tough with little chance for advancement and 70 percent earn between $7.26 and $10.09 an hour.

“Not only are wages low in these industries, but you compound it with the fact that you’re not even getting full time hours and that contributes to the very high poverty rates that these workers experience,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, attorney at the National Employment Law Project. Many of the workers are forced into such government programs as food stamps and subsidized housing.

All this comes on the heels of a worker strike planned across the nation this month.

First Experience with Sexual Harassment

By Peter Levine posted in Law, Sexual Harassment on September 4th, 2013

Heather Huhman was just 15 when she first experienced and reported harassment from a co-worker.

Though the co-worker was ultimately fired, she endured the conduct for several months after she reported it – waiting for her complaint to go up the chain of command.

Though many Americans are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, many don’t report it for fear of retaliation or worries their co-workers will make them feel ashamed.

Thirteen percent of respondents to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll reported having been sexually harassed by a boss or another superior. Nineteen percent have been harassed by a co-worker other than a boss or superior. A full 70 percent said they never reported it.

Indeed, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received about 7,500 charges of workplace sexual harassment in 2012 — the actual number of people who have experienced sexual harassment at work is probably much higher, according to Fatima Goss Graves from the National Women’s Law Center.

“It’s a tough situation. You don’t necessarily want to take on the hassle, expense and personal costs that are involved,” Graves said.

Harassment Often Goes Unreported

Victims often don’t report the harassment, Graves said, out of concern that they’ll be made to feel they’re somehow to blame for any unwelcome advances and because the various routes to complain are hard to navigate. In addition, fear of retaliation is a “legitimate” concern.

The HuffPost poll found that one in five women said they’d been harassed by a boss, and one in four said they had been harassed by another coworker. Although less likely, men also reported being sexually harassed — 6 percent said they were harassed by a boss and 14 percent by a coworker.

In addition, 21 percent of respondents to the poll said that they had witnessed someone else being sexually harassed at work. But among those who had, only 33 percent said that they had reported it.

Though many companies have education programs aimed at preventing sexual harassment and policies in place to deal with it after the fact, there’s still a long way to go before the behavior is truly viewed as unacceptable by all workers on the ground.

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