Posts Tagged ‘EEOC’

Hospital to pay $89,000 for failing to accommodate employees who objected to flu shots

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced that Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. will pay $89,000 for Influenza vaccinefailing to accommodate employees “who declined flu vaccinations based on their religious beliefs.” [EEOC press release] Mission had in fact agreed to exempt employees from the flu shot based on religious objections, but required that they declare their intention ahead of time. And that turned out to be not accommodating enough, since not requiring that extent of advance notice would not in the EEOC’s view have posed an undue hardship on the employer — hence the expensive lesson.

At our religious discrimination tag can be found cases of employees who claimed a Title VII religious discrimination right not to serve alcoholic drinks as part of the duties of a flight attendant, not to haul beer as part of a job as a trucker, not to participate in an employer’s hand-scanner system for fear that it was connected to the Biblical “Mark of the Beast,” and to take prayer breaks in groups as large as 11 at an employer that did not think it could spare that many workers off the floor at the same time.

Under federal law enacted in 1972, employers regularly come under legal constraint to grant such accommodations to workers of many different religious sects. Although from much of the current debate one might imagine that liberals were historically skeptical of accommodation requirements, the actual history is more complicated. As I wrote a while back, “Surprisingly or otherwise, the pressure for federal law to become more indulgent toward private employees’ demands for religious accommodation [has] come both from liberal lawmakers like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton and from conservatives like Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal.”

Under the elastic “undue hardship” standard, employers may face much uncertainty as to how much disruption of their business they must put up with in the name of accommodation. The flu-shot example suggests that risks to co-workers, customers, and the general public might sometimes enter the calculus as well — an expensive guessing game at best.

P.S. I’ve got a post at Cato making a related point: is it really libertarians who should catch flak for being too indulgent toward persons who want to be excused from vaccination?

ADA and the workplace roundup

Employer actions to curb sexual harassment might violate National Labor Relations Act

“EEOC recently announced the availability of ‘respectful workplace’ training, which [prompted a] concern about whether overly prescriptive rules about workplace behavior (like “no negativity” mandates) might chill workers’ NLRA rights.” NLRB rulings in recent years have included protecting workers in some circumstances from being disciplined for cussing out their bosses, and the NLRB has announced the employer policies against negativity and gossip may also violate the law. At the same time, tolerating hostile and personal talk can expose an employer to liability under harassment law. The agencies are hoping to work out the contradictions among themselves. [Kate Tornone, HR Dive]

Labor and employment roundup

Employment discrimination roundup

EEOC: “gentleman’s club” broke law by refusing to hire male barkeep

The EEOC’s 1997 dispute with the Hooters breastaurant chain over its failure to hire male Hooters Girls is among the most glorious in its history [see coverage here and here]. Now the Commission seems eager to bring back old times: it has filed a lawsuit charging that Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., violated sex discrimination law by turning away a qualified male applicant for a bartending job. “Sammy’s subsequently hired at least two females for bartending positions at that location. According to the suit, during 2015 Sammy’s employed 17 females and no males in bartender positions” at the location. [EEOC press release]

$600,000 award for not accommodating employee’s “Mark of the Beast” beliefs

“A longtime employee of Consol Energy Inc. is entitled to over half a million dollars in damages because of the coal company’s failure to accommodate his religious concerns about a handprint scanner, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled….[Beverly Butcher Jr.’s] understanding of the biblical Book of Revelation is that the ‘Mark of the Beast’ brands followers of the Antichrist, allowing the Antichrist to manipulate them. The use of Consol’s hand-scanning system, Butcher feared, would result in him being so marked. Butcher believed that, even without any physical or visible sign, his willingness to undergo the scan could lead to his identification with the Antichrist.”

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took Butcher’s side against the company. “At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the EEOC. Butcher was awarded $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The court also awarded Butcher $436,860 in front and back pay and lost benefits.” [Jeffrey Rhodes, SHRM; Dawn Solowey, Seyfarth Shaw; EEOC v. Consol Energy]

Workplace roundup

  • Occupational licensure reforms advance in Mississippi and Arizona [Eric Boehm, Reason, first and second posts]
  • I should live so long: “Will the New York Times’ Labor Reporting Ever Get the Facts Straight?” [Jim Epstein; coverage here of the NYT’s 2015 nail salon reporting embarrassment]
  • Silliest claim about proposed salary-history-inquiry bans is that they would advance “transparency” in hiring [Seth Barron]
  • Many states complicate offender re-entry after incarceration with needless licensing barriers and fingerprint checks [Eli Lehrer, Inside Sources]
  • H.R. 1180 (“Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017”), introduced by Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), would curb some overtime litigation by allowing private sector comp time under some conditions [Evil HR Lady]
  • Layers of irony: “Disability Services Company to Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit” [commission press release in EEOC v. ValleyLife (Arizona), h/t Roger Clegg]

Labor and employment roundup

  • Just another day on the one-way-attorney’s-fee beat: after $87K cop-discrimination verdict, lawyer wants $2.2M award [NJ.com]
  • U.S. Chamber white paper on needed fixes in labor law [Jon Hyman and report, “Restoring Common Sense to Labor Law: 10 Policies to Fix at the National Labor Relations Board”]
  • California employee-seating class actions begin paying off, $700,000 against Abercrombie & Fitch [Ford Harrison, earlier]
  • And good riddance: Trump signs CRA bill repealing labor blacklisting rule for federal contractors [Kathy Hoekstra/Watchdog, Trey Kovacs/CEI, Ford Harrison, earlier, background via PLF]
  • Trend worth resisting, if true: transnational norms emanating from International Labour Organization etc. said to be increasingly shaping U.S. labor law [James Brudney via Employment Law Prof]
  • To protect free speech and jobs, cut the EEOC’s budget [Hans Bader]

Workplace roundup

  • Bad idea keeps spreading: “Philadelphia to Prohibit Asking Job Applicants About Their Prior Wage History” [Ford Harrison] Bill introduced in Maryland legislature [Danielle Gaines, Frederick News-Post on HB 398]
  • “New York (State and City) Imposes New Rules for Freelancers, State Contracts” [Daniel Schwartz]
  • On the minimum wage, lame reporting and motivated reasoning make war on Econ 101 [David Boaz and Ryan Bourne, Cato]
  • In final Obama days, EEOC finalizes rules toughening affirmative action requirements for federal agency employers regarding workers with disabilities [Joe Seiner, Workplace Prof]
  • Study: Indictments of union officials correlate with close election outcomes [Mitch Downey via Tyler Cowen]
  • “Ohio again tries to restore sanity to its bonkers employment discrimination law” [Jon Hyman]