Albertsons Settles Discrimination Lawsuits for $8.9 Million

Albertsons, the grocery chain, has settled three race, color and national origin discrimination lawsuits for $8.9 million but denied culpability at the same time. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuits alleged complicity by managers in committing racial and anti-Semitic slurs, epithets and graffiti.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of 168 employees at an Albertsons distribution center in Aurora, Colo., and the settlement funds will be divided equally, with each employee receiving about $53,000.

The lesson for employers is clear, according to the EEOC’s press release: “EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said, ‘Employers simply cannot overlook or tolerate this kind of outrageous discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC certainly won’t. We will aggressively pursue employers who violate the laws we enforce. And we’ll insist on substantial and meaningful relief for the victims before settling these cases.’”

Albertsons also agreed to four years of court-supervised monitoring and a training program for its managers.

Employers, you must establish clear guidelines, policies and procedures for enforcement to prevent harassment and discrimination, or you too could be subject to EEOC investigations and legal action. A good place to start your program is with Personnel Concepts’ Race Discrimination Compliance Kit. Get a copy today.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Allstate Hit With $4.5 Million Age Discrimination Judgment

Allstate Insurance Company and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have settled litigation over age discrimination by the insurer brought by 90 affected employees. As a result, Allstate will fork over $4.5 million to settle all claims in the class-action suit.

The judgment arises from Allstate’s having instituted a rehiring freeze at the same time that it transitioned from sales agents to independent contractors. As a result, its laid-off agents were unable to apply for other positions within the company. The majority of these agents was 40 or older and thus protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

“We at the EEOC are now bringing more and more lawsuits like this one to challenge company-wide policies or practices which discriminate against a large number of workers,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Make no mistake: As this settlement shows, we will insist on significant compensation and meaningful injunctive relief to resolve these cases.”

As provided in the Stipulated Order resolving the EEOC litigation (Civil Action No. 4:04CV01359 ERW), Allstate will pay former older employees who sought employment–or would have sought employment with the company in the absence of its policy–a total of $4.5 million to be divided among the class via a settlement fund. The order also provides for discrimination prevention training, posting of notices, reporting and monitoring, and other relief designed to educate Allstate managers in order to prevent future violations of the ADEA.

Employers, make sure you’re in compliance with the ADEA in every facet of your operation. Get a copy of Personnel Concepts’ ADEA Age Discrimination Compliance Kit today.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Confusion Reigns Over Whether PSRs Are FLSA Exempt

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dates to 1938 before the advent of pharmaceutical sales representatives (Coke in one variety or another sufficed for drugs back then–just kidding). However, a modern-day court battle is raging over whether PSRs are exempt from FLSA overtime rules.

A Connecticut court held recently that they are not exempt since pharma reps make no sales; they just introduce products and give samples to physicians and medical professionals. Most other courts, however, count them as exempt in an FLSA-defined capacity as "outside salespersons." The reasoning here often goes that the duties they perform are virtually unsupervised and resemble sales calls in almost every way, and on top of that they often receive commission checks when the products they promote are prescribed.

The most recent pro-exempt ruling came in an Arizona federal district court in the case of Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham.

On the losing end were the PSRs themselves who were seeking "lost" overtime pay for prior service. They argued that, since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forbids sales of pharmaceuticals to either physicians or patients, they could not be classified as salespeople and thus were non-exempt and eligible for overtime pay.

As you can see from this example, classifying employees as exempt (no overtime) and non-exempt (always eligible for overtime) can prove a challenging task. Our FLSA Overtime Rules Compliance Kit can help you properly classify your workforce. Get your copy today.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Supreme Court to Review Ruling on Privacy of Text Messages

In a case that could have far-reaching impact on private employers, the Supreme Court is reviewing a decision that granted privacy protection to text messages sent over a third-party communication system paid for by the employer, in this case, the city of Ontario, Calif., police department.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, in Quon v. Arch Wireless,  ruled that the plaintiff’s privacy rights had been violated when the police department obtained copies of his sexually explicit text messages from Arch Wireless. The court based its decision in large part on a police department representative’s testimony that the department told Quon it would not review any text messages if the user paid all overage charges.

On the issue of whether Arch had the right to release the messages, the court held that it clearly did not since doing so requires the permission of either sender or receiver. The Supreme Court let that part of the ruling stand, but now will weigh in on whether employees are entitled to an expectation of privacy while using employer-paid, third-party communication services.

It is well established that e-mails sent, serviced and stored on a company’s own system are subject to review by the employer, but the issue in Quon regards wireless devices relying on third-party systems. It remains to be seen if–and how far–the Supreme Court is willing to extend privacy protection to employees.

 


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Senate HELP Committee Approves Three EEOC Nominees

The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has approved the nominations of three Obama appointees to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), including that of proposed Chair Jacqueline Berrien.

The others approved were Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic, who upon full Senate Approval will join current member Constance Barker and Acting Chairman Stuart Ishimaru, both Republicans, to comprise the five-member panel.

P. David Lopez was approved as EEOC general counsel.

Berrien is currently Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Lipnic is an employment attorney in private practice, and Feldblum is a professor of law for the Georgetown University Law Center.

Current Acting Vice Chair Christine Griffin has already been confirmed to serve as the deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Once her successor is confirmed, she will leave the EEOC for her new position at the OPM.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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OSHA Seeks Public Commentary on Combustible Dust

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed  Rulemaking (ANPR) on developing a standard on combustible dust.

OSHA has identified the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and its standard NFPA 652 as the basis for the new OSHA standard.

An electronic comment form and instructions are available at www.regulations.gov in Docket No. OSHA-2009-0023, RIN 1218-AC41. The public commentary period closes Jan. 19, 2010.

Additional information on combustible dust explosions can be found in an OSHA Hazard Alert released in March 2008.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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DOL Releases 2010 Agenda: Welcome Back, Ergonomics

The Department of Labor (DOL) has released its agenda for the coming year, and it has a few surprises to spring on American business.

First (for discussion’s sake), the DOL wants each paycheck to come with a stub or explanation of hours worked, overtime paid and everything else that went into the computation of the amount.

Next, it’s eyeing the resurrection of the ergonomics standard that was rejected early in this decade, and with David Michaels now firmly in charge of OSHA, that standard should be forthcoming.

The 2010 agenda includes a new standard for combustible dust as well.

Finally, the retired Beck Poster will be replaced by one with Barack Obama’s interpretation of workers’ rights on it (you know, join a union now).

Full details here.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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David Michaels Confirmed by Voice Vote as OSHA Head

The Senate, without a committee confirmation hearing or discussion on the floor, has approved David Michaels as Deputy Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, in other words, the chief of OSHA.

Michaels was confirmed along with a host of other nominees in a simple voice vote.

Michaels from the beginning was a controversial nominee who views ergonomics as a settled scientific issue and has said he will reinstate the previously withdrawn ergonomics standard in some form or another.

In the introduction to his book, Doubt Is Their Product, Michaels observes:

The vilification of any research that might threaten corporate interests as ‘junk science’ and the sanctification of its own bought-and-paid-for research as ‘sound science’ is indeed Orwellian–and nothing less than standard operating procedure today. …

…At its heart, this book documents the ways in which product defense consultants have shaped and skewed the scientific literature, manufactured and magnified scientific uncertainty, and influenced policy decisions to the advantage of polluters and the manufacturers of dangerous products.

The question remains–does Michaels himself have any doubt in his consistently anti-corporate worldview? That’s the question his critics want answered.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Happy $40 Million Holiday Present to Mass. Wal-Mart Employees

Nabbed again!

Wal-Mart has agreed to fork over $40 million to employees past and present at its Massachusetts outlets after settling a 2001 lawsuit over abuse of time-card data, fudging on overtime and denying employees break time.

Employees who worked at those locations from 1995 to the present will receive checks ranging from $400 to $2,500, depending on length of service.

This is pretty much a universal pattern with Wal-Mart, who’s been settling wage claims right and left these days.

Employers, be aware that audits and complaint investigations will be more prevalent under the reign of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the self-proclaimed "new sheriff in town," so be prepared by hewing to all wage laws.

Personnel Concepts has prepared a series of posters and compliance kits to help you adhere to the laws and regulations of the DOL. Visit our Human Resource Tools section today.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Jury Is In: Employment Cases On the Rise, Favor Employees

Not only are employment lawsuits on the rise, but so are victories for the employees in both court and the pocketbook.

According to Jury Verdict Research, a tracking agency, employees prevailed over employers in 61 percent of all employment trials in 2008 and walked away with a median award of $326,640, up from $204,000 just a year earlier, or a whopping 60 percent rise. Discrimination awards were up 16 percent from $208,000 to $241,119, with age discrimination being the number-one docket mover.

There’s a ray of hope for employers, however, if they can get their trials held in federal courts, where they prevailed 43 percent of the time as opposed to 37 percent in state courts. Median awards were 39 percent lower in federal courts as well.

Out-of-court settlements rose to $90,000, the highest in the decade, up 20 percent from 2007.

Data are not yet in for 2009, but expect rises in all categories in an increasingly fragile economy and with a more employee-friendly administration in Washington, D.C.

 

 


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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