LIEB BLOG

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Showing posts with label eeoc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eeoc. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Federal Court Upholds Employer's Mandatory Vaccination Policy

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas held that the Houston Methodist Hospital's policy requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, under the threat of termination, is lawful.


In Bridges et al. v. Houston Methodist Hospital et al., 117 hospital employees sued the hospital for "unlawfully forcing its employees to be injected with one of the currently-available vaccines or be fired." The plaintiffs alleged that they were wrongfully terminated and compared the vaccination requirement to "forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust."  


Citing to EEOC guidance (which is not binding) stating that employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccinations subject to reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' wrongful termination claim (Texas law only protects employees from being terminated for refusing to commit a criminal act). The Court also dismissed the plaintiffs' claims that requiring vaccinations is against public policy because the employees were not coerced to take the vaccine (clearly distinguishing a mandatory vaccination policy from plaintiffs' absurd example of forced injections in concentration camps). Rather, the hospital is trying to protect against a spread of COVID-19 and employees "can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else." The Court equated a mandatory vaccination policy to changing an employee's schedule or office location in the sense that "every employment includes limits on the worker's behavior in exchange for his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain." 


This is the first of likely many challenges to employer mandatory vaccination policies. Do you think permitting employers to implement mandatory vaccination policies is against public policy? If so, why?



Thursday, January 28, 2021

Atheists & Agnostics are Protected from Discrimination at Work per EEOC

The EEOC just released its Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination and lack of religious faith is protected from discrimination at the workplace.

You hear that? Atheists & agnostics - you matter too!


Here is what the manual states:

Definition of Religion

Comment: Some commenters expressed concern that the draft did not make sufficiently clear that Title VII protects against discrimination based on a lack of religious faith.

Response: The Commission has made additions to reference repeatedly that discrimination based on a lack of religious faith is prohibited.


Friday, January 08, 2021

Systemic Employment Discrimination Enforcement Brought to you by the EEOC - Be Warned

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) just launched a new website detailing how it pursues systemic discrimination cases against businesses throughout the US.

It's like a shot across the bow of your boat if you own or manage a business - they are coming for you if you don't start implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives now. 

When implementing your DEI initiatives focus on these 4 main categories, which EEOC targets for systemic employment discrimination enforcement:
    1. Hiring / Promotion / Assignment / Referral
    2. Policies / Practices
    3. Lay-off / Reduction in Force / Discharge Policies 
    4. ADA (disability) / GINA (genetic info) 

The EEOC defines systemic as "pattern or practice, policy and/or class cases where the discrimination has a broad impact on an industry, profession, company or geographic location.” 

Basically, it means that they are looking for more than just one plaintiff (think, class action, just a little different). 

The new EEOC website lists the top 10 systemic enforcements topics, which you should review immediately to avoid a charge from the EEOC:
    1. Use of background checks
    2. Denying women jobs in fields such as truck drivers, dockworkers, laborers
    3. Refusal to hire African American, Hispanics and older workers for front of the house positions
    4. Ending staffing agency use of referring applicants based on customer preferences
    5. Widespread sexual harassment of teenagers in fast food chains
    6. Racially hostile displays such as nooses and racist graffiti
    7. Eliminating tap on the shoulder recruiting in favor of job posting
    8. Challenging policies of issuing attendance points for medical related absences, without accounting for disabilities
    9. Challenges of deportation made against employees complaining of discrimination
    10. Challenges to abuse of vulnerable workers who were subject to years of confinement, abuse, deplorable conditions, and reduced pay following charges of discrimination

If you aren't concerned yet, be warned that in "2020, OGC resolved 33 systemic cases, recovering $69.9 million for approximately 25,000 individuals."

Do you have your policies, practices, and procedures in place to prevent EEOC from charging your company? 





Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Employment Discrimination - NEW EEOC Rule Clarifies Right to Bring Lawsuit

On October 14, 2020, the EEOC issued a final rule, 29 CFR 1601 & 1626, for charges of employment discrimination. The key to this rule is to clarify that just because EEOC makes a "no cause" determination, that doesn't mean there is no discrimination and a victim can still hire an attorney and pursue a private lawsuit against their employer. While this change is minor in law, it's very important to clarify victim's rights.

Specifically, the rule now includes a notice to the victim of their right to file a lawsuit (within 90 days of receipt of the determination) and clarifies that a "no cause" determination doesn't mean that the "claims have no merit." Now, the Dismissal and Notice of Rights will read as follows:

The EEOC issues the following determination: The EEOC will not proceed further with
its investigation, and makes no determination about whether further investigation would
establish violations of the statute. This does not mean the claims have no merit. This
determination does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. The
EEOC makes no finding as to the merits of any other issues that might be construed as
having been raised by this charge.

To be clear, the point of this change is to make sure everyone understands that "even
after the EEOC has decided not to proceed further with its investigation, private proceedings or
litigation may lead to court findings of discrimination or settlements for the charging parties."

Additionally, the rule clarifies deferrals to state agencies and it provides for the digital transmission of documents by way of providing access to a system with a unique login to retrieve documents. However, don't worry if you aren't tech savvy because the EEOC will mail hard copies to the parties if the system records no access for a reasonable time.




Friday, October 09, 2020

Guess how much employers pay, on average, in litigation costs in defending discrimination cases?

According to the EEOC, they pay $174,000 and attorneys' fees on cases that go to trial are between $195,000-$279,000.


You should get your training to prevent discrimination at your workplace today - sexualharassmenttrainingny.com or call 646.216.8038






Guess how much employers pay, on average, to settle discrimination cases?

According to the EEOC, they pay $45,466 to settle cases in conciliation before lawsuit (it only goes up from there).




Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Rules Are Changing

On October 9, 2020, the EEOC submitted a proposed rule in the Federal Register to change the conciliation procedures in an employment discrimination lawsuit. 

Basically, a conciliation is a required mediation of the discrimination case undertaken after EEOC finds reasonable cause for a charge, but before a lawsuit is filed. Historically, the process has been a mystery for employers as EEOC kept the steps, charges, and process secret. This mystery has resulted in approximately 1/3 of employers refusing to participate in conciliation even though the process is confidential and can't constitute evidence against such employer (unless otherwise agreed upon in writing).

The proposed rule requires that "the Commission will provide to the respondent, if it has not already done so:

(1) A summary of the facts and non-privileged information that the Commission relied on in its reasonable cause finding, and in the event that it is anticipated that a claims process will be used subsequently to identify aggrieved individuals, the criteria that will be used to identify victims from the pool of potential class members;

(2) a summary of the Commission's legal basis for finding reasonable cause, including an explanation as to how the law was applied to the facts, as well as non-privileged information it obtained during the course of its investigation that raised doubt that employment discrimination had occurred;

(3) the basis for any relief sought, including the calculations underlying the initial conciliation proposal; and

(4) identification of a systemic, class, or pattern or practice designation. The Commission also proposes to specify that the respondent participating in conciliation will have at least 14 calendar days to respond to the initial conciliation proposal from the Commission."

These rules are terrific and will result in increased settlements because an employer now has the ability to ascertain risk and then, strategically engage in meaningful settlement discussions in the conciliation process rather than blindly throwing money at a situation to make it go away. 


We encourage you to comment on the proposed rule should you have any suggestions to enhance its effectiveness by writing your thoughts, up until November 9, 2020, and sending them by mail, with reference to RIN Number 3046-AB19, to Bernadette B. Wilson, Executive Officer, Executive Secretariat, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street NE, Washington, DC 20507.




Monday, August 10, 2020

Don’t Fire Your Employee for Taking Opioids so Fast – Lawsuit Alert

On August 5, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance explaining exposure to a discrimination lawsuit for employers who fire their staff for taking opioids.

To avoid being sued, employers must take the following steps upon discovering that an employee is taking opioids:

1. Determine if the opioid use is legal or illegal.
  • The ADA allows employers to terminate employees, or take other measures, based on the illegal use of opioids. However, legal or prescriptive opioid use cannot be a ground for automatic disqualification and employers must consider a way for the employee to do the job “safely and effectively” 
  • Employees who test positive to a drug test must also be given an opportunity to provide information about their legal drug use that may cause a drug result to show opioid use. The employer can ask the employee before the test is done if he/she is taking any such medication or the employer can ask all employees who test positive for an explanation. Such should be established by protocol and implemented consistently. 

2. Provide Reasonable Accommodations.
  • Employees who legally use opioids must be given a reasonable accommodation before getting fired or not considered for a position. This also applies to employees who have a history of opioid, or treatment for opioid addiction, which an employer thinks can interfere with safe and effective job performance.
  • Employees may also request a reasonable accommodation from taking prescription opioids to treat pain or from having other medical conditions related to opioid addiction as long as the condition is a disability under the ADA.
  • It is the employees’ responsibility to request a reasonable accommodation and employers cannot legally fire or refuse to hire or promote an employee for making the request. A request protocol should be established and applied consistently.
  • Employers must provide the reasonable accommodation if it does not involve significant difficulty or expense.

3. If an employee cannot do the job safely and effectively even after being provided with a reasonable accommodation, document objective evidence that the employee poses a significant risk of substantial harm. An employee cannot be removed for remote or speculative risks.

4. It is recommended that employers engage in an interactive process, as required in NYC, prior to making any final determinations. Failing to sue interact can be, in itself, the basis of exposure. To understand further, see our blog, 5 Step Process For Employers/Landlords to Protect Against Disability Discrimination Lawsuits for Failure to Accommodate.

You can access EEOC’s guidance HERE and HERE.


Monday, June 29, 2020

EEOC Guidance on Antibody Tests and COVID-19 Tests

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published guidance concerning business practices that are both safe and compliant with anti-discrimination laws during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance discusses various relevant practices but most notable of which is the EEOC’s guidance on medical examinations prior to employees re-entering the workplace. According to the EEOC, antibody tests may not be required by employers for employees to re-enter the workplace, but employers may require employees to undergo a COVID-19 test to re-enter.

The EEOC advised that antibody tests should not be used to make decisions about returning to the workplace and currently does not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)’s “job related and consistent with business necessity” standard for medical examinations for current employees. This standard applies to any mandatory medical test for employees. Thus, an antibody test may not be required for an employee to enter the workplace and employers should be aware that requiring antibody tests could be the basis of a discrimination claim.

On the other hand, tests which determine if someone has an active case of COVID-19 are permissible under the ADA and employers may use it to make decisions on whether an employee should return to the workplace. The distinction is that an employee who is currently infected with COVID-19 poses “a direct threat to the health of others.” However, employers should still be aware of the possibility of an employee testing false-positive or false-negative and employers should ensure that tests are accurate and reliable.

Nonetheless, employers are encouraged to practice social distancing, regular handwashing, and the wearing of PPE’s as there is no certainty that employees will not be infected with COVID-19 after the test is administered. In addition, employers should contact counsel to have a tailored COVID-19 safety plan compliant with federal anti-discrimination laws and regulations while ensuring a safe workplace for employees.


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

FedEx Ground Agrees to Pay $3.3 Million to Settle Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") issued a press release today announcing that it entered into a consent decree with FedEx Ground to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants to those positions alleging that FedEx Ground denied deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers reasonable accommodations and denied applicants employment because of their hearing related disabilities.

The consent decree entitles the 229 aggrieved individuals to a share of the $3.3 million settlement. In addition, the settlement requires FedEx Ground to provide accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers including access to live and video remote sign language interpreting, closed captioning on videos and provision of non-audible cues (i.e. vibration) on scanning equipment. Finally, the consent decree requires that FedEx Ground institute safety measures to protect hearing compromised package handlers including ensuring that motorized equipment include visual warning lights and providing personal notification devices that will notify hearing compromised handlers of an emergency.

This settlement should serve as a reminder to employers to ensure that procedures are in place for employees to request a reasonable accommodation and that accomodation requests are granted to the extent that they are reasonable and can assist employees in performing the essential functions of their positions.