MCM Elegante Hotel Pays $100k in EEOC Religious Discrimination Suit

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

MCM Elegante Hotel agrees to pay $100,000 to Safia Abdullah for EEOC religious discrimination suit

704 HTL Operating, LLC and Investment Corporation of America, doing business as MCM Elegante Hotel in Albuquerque, has agreed to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC for $100,000 and other relief on behalf of Safia Abdullah.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that this employer would not allow Abdullah, who was hired for a housekeeping position at the hotel, to work unless she removed her religious head covering. The lawsuit alleges she was fired when she declined.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act makes it unlawful to discharge any applicant or employee because of religion or religious practices, including requesting religious accommodation. The law further provides that employers have a duty to provide reasonable accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of employees, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. Such accommodations may include allowing individuals to wear religious clothing or take time off for religious observances.

Religious Discrimination suit against Elegante includes additional injunctions

In addition to monetary relief, the ruling provides for other important relief, including an injunction that prohibits future discriminatory practices; institution of policies and procedures to address religious discrimination and retaliation; training for employees, managers, and human resource officials of both defendants on religious discrimination. The company must also post a notice that advises employees of their rights under Title VII.

“Employers should be aware that they have a duty to provide reasonable accommodation to employees’ religious beliefs and practices,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the EEOC. “Wearing a religious head covering is a common religious practice which employers can usually accommodate without any undue hardship.”

EEOC Area Director Derick Newton said, “Religious discrimination continues to be a high priority for the EEOC, and we take this issue very seriously.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Tri-County Lexus Settles Religious Discrimination Suit for $50,000

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on December 3rd, 2013

Tri-County Lexus Refused to Hire Sikh Applicant and Provide Religious Accommodation

United Galaxy Inc., a car dealership in New Jersey doing business as Tri-County Lexus, will pay $50,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of Gurpreet Kherha, a member of the Sikh faith whose religious beliefs require him to wear a beard, uncut hair and a turban.

According to the lawsuit, Tri-County Lexus strictly enforced its dress code policy without granting reasonable religious accommodations, and thus refused to hire Kherha when he applied for an available position as a sales associate.  The EEOC deemed he was qualified for the position.

The agency is charging that Kherha was denied the job when he refused to shave his beard on Tri-County Lexus’ request.

Religious discrimination is violation of Tittle VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Religious discrimination in employment is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which provides that employers may not discriminate on the basis of an employee’s or applicant’s religion. Where appropriate, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations to sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices.

“This case represents an example of EEOC’s commitment to vindicating the employment rights of those who want to observe their religion,” said District Director Kevin Berry of the EEOC.

In addition to the $50,000 in monetary relief to Kherha, the two-year consent decree that resolves the lawsuit prevents Tri-County Lexus from discriminating on the basis of religion in the future.Tri-County Lexus must also provide anti-discrimination training to both employees and management as well a post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit. The dealership must also appoint an EEO coordinator to ensure compliance with federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

EEOC Regional Attorney Elizabeth Grossman added, “We are pleased that Tri-County Lexus partnered with us to resolve this suit.  This settlement will protect employees and future applicants from religious discrimination and inform all that the EEOC will take vigorous action to remedy it.  It will also serve as a vehicle to educate other employers about the Sikh faith.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

New Horizons sued by Union over wage compliance on big project

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on December 2nd, 2013

Laborers’ International Union sues New Horizons  Enterprises LLC for wage noncompliance on major construction project

The Laborers’ International Union of North America is suing New Horizons Enterprises LLC for allegedly failing to comply with prevailing wage laws during the construction of the Commonwealth Project – a $60 million redevelopment in Kansas City’s Midtown — that includes a total of 12 apartment buildings with 600 apartments.

New Horizons, a subcontractor for the project brought on workers to remove asbestos. But court papers allege that New Horizons did not pay the required wages for the work that was done. Many employees are alleging they were paid only $17.50 an hour. According to the petition, semiskilled laborers, which include workers hired to remove asbestos, are required to be paid $26.55 in addition to fringe benefits of an additional $13.75 — a total of $40.30.

Allegedly, when the workers complained, “New Horizons retaliated against some of these employees, firing at least one of them.”

But New Horizons contends that contracts with the workers state that the work was not prevailing wage work.

New Horizon’s attorney claims wage dispute is without merit

Kim Seten, the attorney representing New Horizons said in a statement that, “New Horizons pays its employees fairly and complies with all applicable laws, including Missouri’s Prevailing Wage and Minimum Wage laws. New Horizons intends to vigorously defend itself against these meritless allegations. Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 246 is not an appropriate party to any such action and has no standing to bring such a lawsuit.”

In another statement, Seten said, “New Horizons anticipates that the lawsuit will be dismissed quickly due to baseless allegations.”

E.E. Keenan, an attorney representing plaintiffs said that because public tax credits were used for the Commonwealth Project, Missouri law stipulates that workers must meet prevailing wage laws.

“Nobody can contract around the law.” Keenan went on to say that typically unions rely on the government to pursue resolution of these types of conflicts, but an “underutilized” portion of Missouri law allows private parties to bring litigation.

“We still see the government’s enforcement as very valuable,” Keenan said. “But we’re stepping in as a movement and directly enforcing these wages as well.”

The class includes an estimated 50 employees that are seeking double the unpaid prevailing and overtime wages, pre- and post-judgment interest, and attorney costs.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Four African-American East Palo Alto Cops Allege Racial Discrimination

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

East Palo Alto cops allege discrimination from former African-American chief

Just days after then-Police Chief Ron Davis announced he was leaving to serve as director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Policing, four East Palo Alto African-American police officers filed a racial discrimination complaint against him.

The complaint alleged that Davis, who is also African-American, created a hostile work environment for black employees because of his bias against African-Americans in hiring, promotions and assignments.

Allegedly, African-American senior officers are routinely passed over for sergeant positions, there are no black detectives in the investigative division, and according to court documents only one African-American police officer was hired during the time period of mid-2005 to mid-2013.

The complaint also states Davis sent his assigned African-American secretary to another city department shortly after his he arrived in 2005. Both an African-American woman hired as a crime analyst in 2006 and another African-American woman hired as an administrative services manager in 2007 alleged they were treated harshly. The analyst resigned in 2011, and the manager requested to be transferred to another department.

Discrimination complaint alleges use of the “n-word” on Facebook

The complaint also alleges that in 2011, an African-American sergeant told Davis a police department officer had posted the “n-word” on his Facebook page. But Davis failed to take action when that officer and his friends retaliated against the sergeant by harassing him.

“His temperament toward African-American employees is abrasive, belittling and dismissive,” states the complaint by Sgt. Roderick Norris and Renaldo Rhodes, and Officers Paul Norris and Paul Hines.

The three-page complaint letter sent to Barbara Powell, the assistant city manager for human resources, and other City Council members, cites several supportive examples of Davis’ actions and behaviors.

“The examples that have been cited are a minute glimpse into the ongoing suffering endured by African American employees since Chief Davis took over the department,” the complaint states.

Powell said she can’t talk about the complaint because it’s a “confidential personnel matter,” but added that, “The city takes this very seriously, and the city will be following up on it.”

Davis could not be reached for comment and attempts to reach Hines and Paul Norris by phone and email were unsuccessful. According to a police department receptionist, Roderick Norris and Rhodes are currently on leave.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Baird Tree Will Settle EEOC Race and Wage Discrimination Lawsuit

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 28th, 2013

Baird Tree Company Agrees to Settle EEOC Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Baird Tree Company, Inc., a tree-trimming service company based in Jacksboro, Tenn., and operating in eastern and middle Tennessee, has agreed to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of 19 Hispanic former employees.

According to an EEOC suit filed on behalf of 19 Hispanic employees, Baird Tree Company, Inc., a tree-trimming service based and operating in Tennessee, has violated federal law by maintaining a policy and practice of failing to pay Hispanic employees overtime pay while at the same time paying non-Hispanic American workers such wage premiums. The suit also charges that the company further violated the law when it threatened to fire employees for complaining about the discrimination.

Such alleged national origin discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Baird Tree has agreed to pay $19,000 in compensation for the damages caused by the discrimination. Back pay damages for the lost overtime wages had previously been settled by the company.

And in addition to the compensatory damages, the ruling prevents Baird Tree from engaging in future unlawful national origin discrimination and retaliation against any employee and also requires the company to provide training on wage discrimination for its senior management officials. The company must now regularly submit copies of its overtime payroll records to the EEOC. And lastly, Baird Tree agreed to EEOC inspection and copying of records regarding any employee complaints related to national origin, wage discrimination or retaliation during the term of the ruling.

EEOC is Committed to Eradicating National Origin and Wage Discrimination

“The EEOC is committed to eradicating national origin and wage discrimination and protecting vulnerable workers who courageously oppose such unlawful practices,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC. “This consent decree ensures that Hispanic employees will receive the same pay for overtime work as all other employees.”

The EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) has established six national priorities, one of them being the elimination of discriminatory policies that affect vulnerable workers who might be unaware of or reluctant to exercise their equal employment rights. These policies include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

UPS Ordered to Pay $70k in EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

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

UPS to Pay $70,000 in Settlement Over an EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

In a religious accommodation lawsuit filed by the EEOC, the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), the world’s largest package delivery company, has agreed to pay $70,000 as well as furnish significant injunctive relief to the plaintiff, a Jehovah’s Witness whom UPS hired as a part-time loader at its Saddle Brook, N.J. facility.

Shortly after his new-employee orientation with UPS the plaintiff, Christopher Pompey made a request for a schedule change in order to attend an annual religious service, claiming it conflicted with his obligation to transport senior members of his congregation to the Memorial, the most solemn event of the year for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Request for Schedule Change to Attend Service was Religious Discrimination

His supervisor and human resources department denied the request for a schedule change. When he took part in the service and did not return to work the plaintiff was terminated. The EEOC contended that the refusal to grant the request for a schedule accommodation in addition to the termination of the plaintiff constituted religious discrimination.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleged that when Pompey applied for a job with the UPS in a different location he learned he had been placed on a company-wide “do not rehire” list and was unable to get another job with UPS after re-applying elsewhere.

The EEOC charged that the hiring manager’s actions were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes religious discrimination in the workplace illegal. It also requires companies to make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, absent an undue hardship to the employer.

In addition to paying the $70,000 in damages to the plaintiff, UPS is prevented from discriminating against employees based on their religion, or from retaliating against employees for opposing that discrimination in the future. Additionally, the company must post its policy outlining the necessary steps for requesting accommodation for any religious event throughout its Saddle Brook location, as well as conduct anti-discrimination training for managers and supervisors, as well as discuss the policy with employees at the location during pre-work meetings.

“We are pleased that this resolution puts mechanisms in place to make it clear that employees are entitled to reasonable accommodation of their religious practices,” said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC.

Charles F. Coleman Jr., an EEOC Trial Attorney added, “Religious discrimination in the workplace cannot be tolerated. Businesses have a clear legal duty under federal law to handle requests for religious accommodations from their employees with due amounts of consideration.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Taboo 2 Bar & Bistro Sued for Sexual Harassment by EEOC

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law, Sexual Harassment on November 26th, 2013

Sirdah Enterprises, Inc., Owner of Taboo 2, Filed With Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

According to a suit filed by the EEOC, Sirdah Enterprises, Inc., a company that owns and operates Taboo 2 Bar and Bistro, a popular Atlanta-area restaurant and nightclub, has allegedly violated federal law by subjecting female servers to repeated acts of sexual harassment by one of their managers.

The sexual harassment occurred throughout the six servers’ employment, occurring daily for some.  Allegedly, the harassment included groping, indecent exposures, explicit sex related comments, requests for sexual favors, and promises of better working assignments and other benefits if they engaged in sexual acts.  When some of the servers rejected these sexual advances, they were assigned to less profitable areas of the restaurant or had their work schedules negatively changed, which resulted in lower earning opportunities. Although the employees complained to other management about the harassment, nothing was done to stop it.

Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC, said, “Taboo 2 was aware of the sexually hostile work environment to which these young women were being subjected, but failed to take remedial measures as required under the law.  In addition to vindicating the rights of these seven women, this lawsuit is for the purpose of protecting the rights of current and future female employees.”

Alleged Working Conditions Unbearable Due to Sexual Harassment

The EEOC also alleged that because the working conditions were so unbearable five of the six women involved were forced to resign because they could no longer tolerate the abuse.

“This case involves charges of gross sexual harassment where a manager, an individual normally entrusted with ensuring that the rights of employees are protected, took advantage of these women by abusing his position of power,” said Bernice Kimbrough, district director for the EEOC.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the servers, as well as injunctive relief in order to prevent any misconduct in the future.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Alexander McQueen Fashions Hit With Second Race Discrimination Lawsuit

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

Second Race Discrimination Lawsuit for Calling Saleswoman “Burrito Face” and “Taco Smoke”

Top British fashion house Alexander McQueen was hit with its second discrimination lawsuit this year after a Hispanic saleswoman is alleging she had to endure ethnic and personal slurs for a decade. Moselle Blanco, a former saleswoman at Alexander McQueen’s Manhattan flagship store, is alleging that her bosses called her names like “burrito face,” “taco smoke,”and “Goya princess,” and turned a deaf ear to her complaints.

Blanco says one sales manager in particular, Max Cantey, singled her out. Cantey reportedly spread vicious rumors about her over her decade-long career. According to lawsuit Cantey said Blanco had “greasy hands like a Mexican,” and told her not to touch the furs because she would get oil on them. The lawsuit also claims Cantey claimed she was drunk at work, she gained weight easily and had a claw foot.

Complaints of Race Discrimination Insults Were “Made Light” of by Managers

Blanco alleges that when she complained about the name-calling that managers “made light” of her complaints. Co-workers said the insults were just a byproduct of the “brother-sister” relationship that existed between Cantey and Blanco.

According to court papers when another manager named in the suit blatantly ignored Blanco’s complaints, Cantey responded by spreading lies that she stole store inventory, even claiming Blanco did cocaine in the bathroom.

Blanco was fired in September 2012, allegedly because she did not retrieve a dress that had been sent to Jessica Seinfeld on loan. It was also considered punishment for her prematurely ringing up, as sales, clothes that had been sent to two other clients on consignment. Blanco said the alleged abuse also infringed on “her ability to close additional sales with her clients.”

The Alexander McQueen store has since issued this statement:

“Alexander McQueen is committed to equality in the workplace, and we are proud of our diverse employee base. We take any allegations of this nature seriously and will always investigate them thoroughly, but we will not comment on individual cases.”

Othman Ibela, a black security guard filed a similar lawsuit against the company in July, claiming he subjected to racially insensitive taunting by sales clerks. He was so distraught at his treatment in the company he wanted to hang himself. Ibela also alleges black customers were racially profiled.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Sexual Harassment Labor Lawsuit Brought Against Salvation Army

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law, Sexual Harassment on November 22nd, 2013

Human Resources Assistant Alleges Sexual Harassment While Working at Salvation Army

Kimberlea Rhea, bookkeeper and human resources assistant at The Salvation Army since March 2006 is alleges sexual harassment while working for the nonprofit organization.

According to court documents the California labor law lawsuit seeking damages of $1 million, as well as compensatory damages names both The Salvation Army and one of its captains as defendants.

The suit claims one of The Salvation Army’s captains repeatedly approached Rhea asking for her home address. And even though she refused to give him her address, she later saw the captain driving by her home. He then continued, asking for hugs and kisses on the cheek, commenting that she “looked hot” while suggestively looking at her body. Allegedly the situation quickly escalated to the point where the captain talked to Rea about his sex life, inappropriately touched her and followed her around the office.

Complaint of Sexual Harassment Originally Ignored

During December 2012 Rea complained to supervisors about the captains actions but no action was taken. Eventually in February 2013, after even further instances of harassment, the captain was moved to a different section.

At the time, Rea felt humiliated, degraded, embarrassed, and losing sleep as a result of the captain’s actions.

Rea was reportedly told by The Salvation Army that some of her complaints were supported by its investigation and that she was not found to be responsible for the captain’s behavior. Her job reviews had been favorable, including praise for being “a valuable employee.”

The lawsuit alleges Rea was never given a public apology by The Salvation Army, nor were her claims ever publicly acknowledged. She was even told by the corporation they would prefer she simply leave her position.

Furthermore, The Salvation Army’s zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment akin to the captain’s conduct meant that he should have been immediately fired for his actions. Instead, The Salvation Army publicly alluded to his transfer as a reward for a “job well done.” Meanwhile Rhea has been subjected to critical remarks and comments regarding her job performance.

“TSA [The Salvation Army] never provided Rea with a written confirmation of its findings or what actions would be taken to prevent future harassment from occurring,” the lawsuit states. “Rea concluded TSA wanted to merely appease Rea while maintaining a public persona that there was no problem within TSA concerning sexual harassment.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Newton Massacre Responder May Be Terminated over PTSD

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 21st, 2013

Thomas Bean, the First Responder Officer to the Newtown Massacre May Be Wrongfully Terminated for Having PTSD

Thomas Bean, one of the first responders to the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting could potentially lose his job for missing work.

The shooting left 26 people dead, including 20 children. Six months later, Bean — a 12-year police department veteran who responded to the tragedy on his day off — was placed on long-term disability after being diagnosed with PTSD. Unable to return to work, he may be fired.

Bean says he is haunted by flashbacks and suicidal thoughts and that he is left crying some nights by memories of the bloodshed.

“Nothing could prepare you for that,” he said in an interview. “The worst possible scenes you could think of … Because all there was, was horror.”

Bean Classified as Permanently Disabled  Due to PTSD and Could Be Terminated

A letter from the police department confirmed that he was classified “permanently disabled,” but also said he could be fired because the town doesn’t want to pick up the cost of paying half of Bean’s salary until he’s eligible to retire. Bean has a dozen years left on the job before being able to retire.

The union that represents Newton police officers could potentially file a lawsuit.If that deal holds up the town would be on the hook for about $350,000.

Bean is currently collecting half of his $70,000 annual salary on disability.

Joe Aresimowicz, the House majority leader in the Connecticut state General Assembly, said the state covers mental health care for long-term disability claims only if there are physical injuries accompanied with the diagnosis.

“We don’t just cover mental injuries,” he said. “The last thing you want is a first responder getting ready to enter a situation and have them think, ‘I wonder what long-term harm this will do me?'”

Several officers in the department have taken time off to deal with the mental stress sustained during and after the shooting, but Bean was the only one unable to return to work.

“If I had my arm chopped off, they would say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s hurt.’ But instead they’re like, ‘We can sweep (this) under the rug and not necessarily have to pay because … it’s not physically seen.’ That’s the problem with PTSD … people don’t see it,” said Bean, his voice trailing off.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

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