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Employment Law Daily News for Sep 17, 2014

EEOC Disability Discrimination Case Against Sony Will Proceed
Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:18:42 - Pacific Time

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel of the Northern District of Illinois has issued an order denying a motion by Sony for a pre-trial judgment in its favor in a discrimination case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (EEOC v. Staffmark Investment LLC and Sony Electronics, Inc.). The EEOC has charged that Sony violated the ADA when it terminated Dorothy Shanks, a temporary worker with a prosthetic leg who was assigned to inspect Sony televisions. The EEOC also alleges that Shanks was hired by Staffmark, a staffing agency, to work at a logistics facility to inspect Sony televisions on a temporary basis. But on Shanks's second day on the job, according to the EEOC, a Staffmark employee removed Shanks from the worksite. Evidence uncovered during an investigation by the EEOC indicated that it was Sony which made the original request to have Shanks removed and that Staffmark executed Sony's request. Thereafter, the EEOC sued both companies for violating the ADA. Staffmark settled with the EEOC for $100,000, but the case against Sony has been ongoing.

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Judge Approves $2.4 Million Settlement with Hawaii Farms
Mon, 08 Sep 2014 16:09:33 - Pacific Time

U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi in Hawaii has approved settlements between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and four Hawaii farms totaling $2.4 million for about 500 Thai farmworker (EEOC v. Global Horizons). The EEOC charged that the workers had been subjected to national origin discrimination and retaliation, the EEOC announced today. The settlement includes monetary relief, options for jobs and benefits, housing, other reimbursements of expenses, and sweeping injunctive relief remedies. The EEOC filed suit against the four farms and farm labor contractor Global Horizons. In March 2014, the court ruled that Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Global Horizons was liable for the pattern or practice of harassing, discriminating against and retaliating against the Thai farmworkers based on their national origin and race.  The EEOC named the farms in Hawaii as defendants, asserting that they were joint employers with the labor contractor, and liable due to the acts committed by Global Horizons. Global Horizons and Maui Pineapple Company remain as the only defendants left in the case.

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Appellate Court Affirms District Court’s Grant of Class Certification to Allstate Employees
Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:20:30 - Pacific Time

 A California appellate court, in Jimenez v. Allstate Insurance Company,  has affirmed a district court’s grant of class certification to about 800 Allstate Insurance Company employees in California who allege that Allstate had a practice or unofficial policy of requiring its claim adjusters to work unpaid off the-the-clock overtime in violation of California law. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in applying Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(2)’s commonality requirement. In 2005, Allstate shifted all of its California-based claims adjusters to hourly status from exempt, or salaried, positions. Before that reclassification, claims adjusters often worked more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. Since the reclassification, claims adjusters’ workload has been substantially the same as it was before the reclassification, their compensation is still referred to as an annual salary, and hourly payment rates are not shared with current or prospective employees. In addition, claims adjusters do not keep time records.

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Court Upholds Termination of Employee Who Refused Fitness-for-Duty
Fri, 05 Sep 2014 14:58:06 - Pacific Time

A California appellate court has upheld the termination of an employee who refused a fitness-for-duty examination. The case, Kao v. University of San Francisco,  involves John S. Kao, who sued the University of San Francisco (USF) for violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and other statutes, in connection with his termination as a professor at USF. The university had directed Kao to have a fitness-for-duty examination after faculty members and school administrators reported that his behavior, which allegedly included yelling, screaming, clenching fists and exhibiting uncontrollable rage in workplace meetings, was frightening them, particularly since he was an expert in martial arts. The university terminated Kao's employment when he refused to participate in the examination. Kao lost at the trial court level, and appealed, arguing that USF should have conducted an interactive process before requiring the fitness-for-duty. The appellate court disagreed, holding that the FEHA “ties the interactive process to disability accommodations, not FFDs…The requirement for an interactive process was not implicated here because Kao never acknowledged having a disability or sought any accommodation for one.”

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Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company to Pay $475K in Back Wages
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:58:01 - Pacific Time

Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Co. has agreed to pay $475,000 in back wages and interest to settle allegations of sex discrimination affecting 1,293 female job seekers. The OFCCP alleged that the Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling unfairly rejected these qualified women for merchandiser, driver, driver trainee, production and warehouse positions at the company's bottling and distribution facility in Oklahoma City. Today's settlement stems from an OFCCP review of Great Plain Coca-Cola Bottling's hiring practices over a two-year period beginning in June 2007. Investigators found that female applicants were allegedly much less likely to be hired than similarly-situated male applicants. The OFCCP determined that the company had violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sex when making employment decisions.

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HR Practice Note: Private Sector Employers Must Complete EEO-1 Survey by September 30, 2014
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:47:28 - Pacific Time

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has completed its mailing of the 2014 EEO-1 survey Notification Letters.  The EEO-1 is an annual survey that requires all private employers with 100 or more employees, and federal government contractors or first-tier subcontractors with 50 or more employees and a contract/subcontract of $50,000 or more to file the EEO-1 report.  The filing of the EEO-1 report is not voluntary, and is required by federal law.  Employers who meet the criteria listed above or employers that filed the EEO-1 report in 2013 and have not received the 2014 EEO-1 Notification Letter by the end of July, 2014 should immediately contact the EEO-1 Joint Reporting Committee at 866.286.6440 (toll-free) or e-mail at e1.techassistance@eeoc.gov.

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California Supreme Court Finds No Franchisor Liability in Sexual Harassment Case Involving Domino’s Pizza
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 20:24:16 - Pacific Time

In a significant case addressing franchisor liability for the sexual harassment of a franchisee’s employee, the California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Domino’s Pizza, holding that there was no liability. The case, Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza, involves a female worker at a Domino’s Pizza franchisee, who alleged that a male supervisor subjected her to sexual harassment. She sued the franchisor, Domino’s Pizza, along with the harasser and franchisee, arguing that because the franchisor was the “employer” of persons working for the franchisee, and because the franchisee was the “agent” of the franchisor, the latter could be held vicariously liable for the alleged sexual harassment. The trial court granted summary judgment for the franchisor on the ground the requisite employment and agency relationships did not exist. The Court of Appeal disagreed, and reversed the judgment of the trial court. The California Supreme Court granted review to address the novel question dividing the lower courts in this case: Does a franchisor stand in an employment or agency relationship with the franchisee and its employees for purposes of holding it vicariously liable for workplace injuries allegedly inflicted by one employee of a franchisee while supervising another employee of the franchisee?  According to the California Supreme Court, “The answer lies in the inherent nature of the franchise relationship itself.”

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California Legislators Approve Paid Sick Leave
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 18:28:14 - Pacific Time

California legislators have approved the biggest expansion of employer-paid sick leave in the nation and sent the measure to Governor Jerry Brown, who is certain to sign the legislation. AB 1522, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, covers workers whether they work full- or part-time. Businesses with one or more employees must comply with the new regulations. The bill provides that employees who are not currently covered by a company plan, will earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. They could use sick leave after working 90 days on the job and "bank" three paid sick days a year. The California Assembly approved the bill on a 52-21 vote shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.

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EEOC to Sign National Memorandum of Understanding with Mexico
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:38:29 - Pacific Time

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will sign a national Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States on Friday, August 29, 2014. The MOU is designed to further strengthen their collaborative efforts to provide immigrant, migrant and otherwise vulnerable Mexican workers and their employers with guidance and information and access to education relative to their rights and responsibilities under the laws enforced by the EEOC.  EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien and Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora will sign the MOU in English and in Spanish.

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Employers Are Liable for Harassment of Employees by Customers
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:31:29 - Pacific Time

Employers must implement policies and procedures to ensure that employees are not harassed by nonemployees such as clients, customers or vendors. In a recent case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Costco alleging that at one of its locations, management failed to take steps to protect one of its female employees from unwelcome advances of one of its warehouse member-customers. According to the EEOC, the agency's administrative investigation revealed that the employee repeatedly complained to her managers at the Glenview, Ill., Costco location where she worked about being pursued, approached, and confronted in the Costco by the man. In addition, one of her managers apparently told the employee that he agreed the man was "not right" and that Costco would monitor the situation. However, when the situation persisted and the employee complained to the police, Costco management allegedly yelled at her and told her to be friendly to the customer. John Hendrickson, the EEOC regional attorney in Chicago, said, "All employers have a duty to protect employees from sexual harassment...No employer gets a pass because it is a customer targeting its employee, rather than a manager or fellow employee." Read More...

Past Employment Law News Articles

• EEOC Challenges Employer’s Wellness Program: Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:48:09 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Governor Brown Signs Bill on Group Health Insurance Waiting Period: Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:29:12 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Employer Must Pay $1M and Reinstate Drivers Allegedly Terminated for Raising Safety Concerns: Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:33:13 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Employer Will Pay $92,500 for Alleged Retaliation: Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:56:40 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Federal Judge Rules Prime Trucking’s Same-Sex Training Policy Violates Federal Law: Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:41:09 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Ban on Naps Proves Costly for City of Los Angeles: Wed, 13 Aug 2014 06:40:24 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Employers Must Consistently Enforce Personnel Policies and Procedures: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 19:50:57 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• EEOC Sues Tech Company for Alleged Pregnancy Discrimination: Mon, 11 Aug 2014 16:27:15 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Judge Rejects $324.5M Settlement in Tech Wage Case: Mon, 11 Aug 2014 16:13:20 - Pacific Time: Read More...

• Employer Will Pay $37,500 for Allegedly Terminating Employee Because of Back Impairment: Fri, 08 Aug 2014 20:21:17 - Pacific Time: Read More...