U.S. Department of Labor Reaches Settlement Agreement with 10 Orange County Residential Care Facilities, Requiring Payment of $173,539 to 72 Employees

January 30, 2018

The U.S. Department of Labor has reached an agreement with the owner of 10 Orange County residential care facilities to pay 72 employees a total of $173,539 for unpaid overtime.  Investigators with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division found that the owners of Verona Court – operator of residential elder care facilities in Mission Hills and Laguna Niguel – failed to pay employees for time spent working through lunch breaks and attending mandatory training. The employer also paid straight time for overtime hours instead of the federally required time-and-one-half for hours employees worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Additionally, investigators found recordkeeping violations involving inaccurate and incomplete timesheets and payroll records and a lack of records of cash payments.

“Thanks to this settlement, dozens of employees will be paid the wages they rightfully earned,” said Wage and Hour Division Director Rodolfo Cortez, in San Diego. “Working in tandem with our outreach efforts, enforcement like this helps to level the playing field for employers so that no company gains a competitive advantage in the workplace by failing to pay their employees properly.”

Full article available at: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20180126

Lowe’s Home Centers to Pay $55,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

January 30, 2018

Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, a nationwide chain of home improvement and hardware stores, will pay $55,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Lowe’s failed or refused to accommodate a department manager who is disabled because of a spinal cord injury that substantially limits the use of his right arm. The employee was hired by Lowe’s as a customer service associate in 2006 and promoted to a department manager in 2008. The company was aware of his disability at the time he was selected for promotion, and he successfully worked as a department manager for six years. The employee’s disability prevented him from using power equipment that requires the use of two hands, but he delegated that task to associates under his supervision. EEOC’s lawsuit claimed that in June 2015, Lowe’s notified the employee that he could no longer be provided with a reasonable accommodation, and demoted him to a non-supervisory associate position. As a result of the demotion, his hourly rate of pay was cut by more than $4 an hour.

The EEOC alleged in its suit that the company’s refusal to accommodate the department manager, a qualified individual with a disability, and subsequent decision to demote him to a lower-paying position violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Civil Action No. 4:17-CV-02589-M) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Barbara Lynn, calls for Lowe’s to provide monetary relief to the employee, as well as to conduct training on the ADA for employees, managers and human resources personnel at the Cleburne Store.

“It is important for companies like Lowe’s to carefully make decisions regarding reasonable accommodations to ensure its employees with disabilities can perform their work successfully,” said Suzanne Anderson, supervisory trial attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “The early settlement of this litigation assures that this employee will continue serving as a productive member of the Lowe’s team.”

Full article available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-26-18.cfm

Greektown Casino to Pay $140,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

January 30, 2018

A Detroit casino operator will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced.  The EEOC had charged that Greektown Casino LLC unlawfully failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with stress-anxiety disorder, leading to his discharge.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee, a pit manager, requested an additional four weeks of extended leave to return to work following a stress-anxiety-related collapse on the job. Greektown denied the request and subsequently fired the employee after his leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was exhausted.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates that covered employers provide reasonable accommodations for the known disabilities of employees. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit (Case No. 2:16-cv-13540) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  As part of the consent decree settling the suit, Greektown will pay $140,000 to the employee, and will all train supervisory and human resources employees on the requirements of the ADA.

“We are pleased with the relief provided by the consent decree,” said Dale Price, the EEOC attorney who handled the case. “It provides meaningful protections for the employees of Greektown. With this resolution, Greektown has taken a positive step towards protecting the rights of employees with disabilities.”

Full article available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-24-18a.cfm

EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2017 Enforcement and Litigation Data

January 30, 2018

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that 84,254 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency nationwide during fiscal year (FY) 2017, and secured $398 million for victims in the private sector and state and local government workplaces through voluntary resolutions and litigation. The comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for FY 2017, which ended Sept. 30, 2017, are posted on the agency’s website.

The EEOC resolved 99,109 charges in FY 2017 and reduced the charge workload by 16.2 percent to 61,621, the lowest level of inventory in 10 years. The agency achieved this by deploying new strategies to more efficiently prioritize charges with merit, more quickly resolve investigations, and improve the agency’s digital systems. The agency handled over 540,000 calls to its toll-free number and more than 155,000 inquiries in field offices, reflecting the significant public demand for the EEOC’s services.

“Over the past year, the EEOC has remained steadfast in its commitment to its core values and mission: to vigorously enforce our nation’s civil rights laws,” said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. “The results for the last fiscal year demonstrate exactly that.”

The FY 2017 data show that retaliation was the most frequently filed charge filed with the agency, followed by race and disability. The agency also received 6,696 sexual harassment charges and obtained $46.3 million in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment. Specifically, the charge numbers show the following breakdowns by bases alleged, in descending order:

  • Retaliation: 41,097 (48.8 percent of all charges filed)
  • Race: 28,528 (33.9 percent)
  • Disability: 26,838 (31.9 percent)
  • Sex: 25,605 (30.4 percent)
  • Age: 18,376 (21.8 percent)
  • National Origin: 8,299 (9.8 percent)
  • Religion: 3,436 (4.1 percent)
  • Color: 3,240 (3.8 percent)
  • Equal Pay Act: 996 (1.2 percent)
  • Genetic Information: 206 (.2 percent)

These percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases.

EEOC legal staff filed 184 merits lawsuits alleging discrimination in fiscal year 2017. The lawsuits filed by the EEOC included 124 individual suits and 30 suits involving multiple victims or discriminatory policies and 30 systemic discrimination cases. At the end of the fiscal year, the EEOC had 242 cases on its active docket. The EEOC achieved a successful outcome in 90.8 percent of all suit resolutions.

Full article available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-25-18.cfm

EEO-1 Survey for 2017 Now Open

January 30, 2018

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has completed its mailing of the 2017 EEO-1 survey Notification Letters, the federal agency recently announced.  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 EEO-1 report provides employment data by race/ethnicity, gender and job categories. The filing of the EEO-1 report is not voluntary and is required by federal law.  The annual filing deadline is March 31.

Employers who meet the criteria listed above, or employers that filed the EEO-1 report in 2016 and have not received the 2017 EEO-1 Notification Letter by Jan. 29, 2018, should immediately contact the EEO-1 Joint Reporting Committee at 1-877-392-4647 (toll-free) or by e-mailing e1.techassistance@eeoc.gov.

Full article available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-24-18.cfm

2018 Form W-4 Will Not Be Released Until After February 15, 2018

January 30, 2018

Today, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a notice (2018-14) informing employers that the IRS is currently working on revising the Form W-4 to reflect the changes made by the tax reform bill, such as changes in available itemized deductions, increases in child tax credit, the new dependent credit, and the repeal of dependent exemptions.  As a result, the 2018 Form W-4 may not be released until after February 15, 2018.

The notice also (1) extends the effective period of Forms W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, furnished to claim exemption from income tax withholding under section 3402(n) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) for 2017 until February 28, 2018, and permits employees to claim exemption from withholding for 2018 by temporarily using the 2017 Form W-4; (2) temporarily suspends the requirement under section 3402(f)(2)(B)1 that employees must furnish their employers

new Forms W-4 within 10 days of changes in status that reduce the withholding allowances they are entitled to claim; (3) provides that the optional withholding rate on supplemental wage payments under Treas. Reg. § 31.3402(g)-1 is 22 percent for 2018 through 2025; and (4) provides that, for 2018, withholding under section 3405(a)(4) on periodic payments when no withholding certificate is in effect is based on treating the payee as a married individual claiming three withholding allowances.

Full article available at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-18-14.pdf

House Will Introduce Bill to Extend Title VII Protections to Independent Contractors

January 30, 2018

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the first female chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, announced last week that she will introduce a bill to apply federal anti-discrimination protections to independent contractors.  Currently, such laws apply only to traditional employees.  Norton, a strong supporter of worker rights, has long been concerned about so-called employee misclassification, in which employers wrongly classify workers as independent contractors, instead of as employees, to avoid complying with, among other things, workplace anti-discrimination laws.  However, Norton said that the spread of independent contractors has been ubiquitous and are of several varieties.  Some set themselves up as a limited liability company, essentially a one employee small business.  Increasingly, employers hire independent contractors, who are individuals who do the same work and are in the same workspace as employees, but without benefits or withholdings.

“Even before the dawn of the gig economy, we had seen an exponential increase in the use of independent contractors by employers,” Norton said. “These workers, who often do the same jobs as employees, have few of the protections granted to employees under federal anti-discrimination laws.  Our anti-discrimination laws were written long before this dramatic shift in the workplace.  Our laws need to catch up and change as the workforce changes.  An increasing number of contractors need to be treated as their employers are treating them—as employees.”

Full article available at: https://norton.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/norton-to-introduce-bill-to-protect-gig-economy-workers-from

Anta Rosa Area Restaurants to Pay $295,909 in Back Wages and Damages to 28 Employees in Agreement with U.S. Department of Labor

January 22, 2018

Three Santa Rosa area restaurants have reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to pay 28 employees $147,954 in back wages, and an equal amount in liquidated damages, to resolve federal wage violations. The employer will also pay $15,115 in penalties.

Investigators with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco found that El Charro Casita, Inc., and its owner Antonio Gonzalez willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions at its restaurants in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Guerneville.

Investigators found that the employer paid employees straight-time rates, in cash, for overtime hours worked, rather than time-and-one-half of their regular rates for hours they worked beyond 40 in a workweek, as required by the FLSA. The employer also created and maintained a false set of timecards and paychecks in an effort to conceal the nonpayment of overtime wages due under federal law. Additionally, investigators found that the restaurant’s Santa Rosa location employed a minor under the legal working age of 14, in violation of FLSA’s child labor provisions.

“The resolution of this investigation ensures that these employees will receive the wages they have earned,” said Wage and Hour Division Director Susana Blanco, in San Francisco. “This agreement helps us to level the playing field so that employers who fail to comply with the law do not gain a competitive advantage over those who do. We encourage all employers to use the multiple resources we offer to avoid violations.”

As part of the agreement, El Charro Casita will modernize its payroll and scheduling system, provide all employees with FLSA training, and designate a third-party monitor to conduct a review of the company’s compliance with the FLSA every six months for at least two years. The employer has also acknowledged that retaliating against or threatening any employee for cooperating with or participating in a Wage and Hour Division investigation is strictly prohibited, and may subject them to further action.

Full article available at: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20180119-3


Fairfield Restaurant to Pay $247,922 in Wages, Damages and Penalties for Overtime, Minimum Wage, and Recordkeeping Violations

January 22, 2018

The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut has entered a consent judgment and ordered a Fairfield restaurant and its owner to pay $244,930 in back wages and liquidated damages to eight employees, as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Division investigators found that Vinny’s of Fairfield Inc. – which does business as Vinny’s Ale House – and owner Ernst H. Buggisch failed to pay required overtime to back-of-the-house employees when they worked more than 40 hours per week. In the settlement, the company also agreed to pay $2,992 in penalties for violations of the overtime, minimum wage and recordkeeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The investigation determined that the employer paid the employees overtime at straight time rates, in cash, instead of time-and-one-half their regular pay rates as the law requires. The employer also failed to maintain accurate time records, failed to produce records of the cash payments, maintained two sets of time records, and provided inaccurate records to investigators. In addition, the employer intimidated employees during the investigation, coaching them to lie to investigators. The settlement prohibits the defendants from future FLSA wage, recordkeeping, and retaliation violations.

“This settlement is about getting these employees the wages they legally earned,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director David Gerrain. “The Division encourages all employers to access the many compliance resources we offer, and avoid the liabilities that can come with breaking the law.”

Full article available at: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/sol/sol20180118

Fontana, California, Pallet Company to Pay $289,215 in Back Wages and Damages for Overtime Violations

January 22, 2018

The U.S. Department of Labor and a Fontana pallet manufacturing company have reached an agreement to resolve overtime and recordkeeping violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The agreement requires Forest Green Products Inc. to pay $289,215 in back wages and liquidated damages to 60 employees.

Investigators with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Forest Green Products Inc. failed to pay required overtime rates when its employees worked more than 40 hours per week.  In its investigation, the Division determined that Forest Green paid employees only up to 40 hours per week on the payroll, with any additional hours being paid at straight time, in cash, off the books.  The employer also failed to maintain an accurate record of the number of hours employees worked, as required by federal law.

Full article available at: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20180119-0