EEOC Sues SLS Hotel in Miami Beach for Discriminatory Firing Of Kitchen Workers

April 24, 2017

The SLS Hotel in Miami Beach’s South Beach violated federal law by firing black Haitian dishwashers because of their race, color and national origin, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit last week.

The EEOC’s complaint alleged that SLS Hotel South Beach terminated all the Black Haitian steward/ dishwashers and that they were replaced with light-skinned Hispanics.  SLS Hotel South Beach chose to outsource the steward/dishwasher positions without providing the black Haitian employees an opportunity to apply to the staffing agency before their termination.  The terminations, per the complaint, were not performance-based.

Some of the terminated employees saw their replacements – largely light-skinned Hispanics – performing their job duties as they exited the termination meeting and were escorted from the hotel by security personnel.

The EEOC’s complaint indicates that their termination was not the first time black Haitian employees were treated differently than Hispanic employees. The EEOC said that black Haitian employees were told not to speak Creole, even amongst themselves, while Hispanic employees were allowed to speak Spanish. The EEOC also said that black Haitian dishwashers were asked to carry heavy items and perform other difficult tasks, but the Hispanics were spared these tough assignments.

Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and/or national origin discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against SLS Hotel South Beach (and affiliated entities) (Case No.1:17-cv-21446) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary and injunctive relief to address the discriminatory practices.

“Employers should not be able to avoid liability by using a staffing agency to discriminate when it cannot lawfully do so on its own,” said the regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Robert E. Weisberg. “Consistent with the agency’s strategic enforcement goals, the EEOC will be vigilant in ensuring employment discrimination is not hidden behind increasingly complex business relationships, including the outsourcing concept.”

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IDEX Corporation to Pay $380,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

April 24, 2017

IDEX Corporation, a Lake Forest, Ill.-based manufacturer and supplier of fluidics systems with locations nationwide, will pay $380,000 and furnish significant relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency recently announced.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an IDEX regional manager based in Miami who had successfully performed his job was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. The manager continued to perform his job well, even while undergoing treatment, the EEOC said. During the period of his treatment, however, supervisors repeatedly asked the manager invasive questions about his illness and questioned his ability to perform job tasks. On Dec. 8, 2011, IDEX fired the regional manager because of his disability, the EEOC said.

Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit against IDEX in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division (EEOC v. IDEX Corporation, Case No. 1:15-cv-22777-DPG/TURNOFF (S.D. Fla.)) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement though its conciliation process.

In addition to the $380,000 in monetary relief to the terminated employee, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit also requires IDEX to create a disability discrimination policy to be used with IDEX’s U.S.-based employees. The company is also required to train all U.S.-based human resources managers on the ADA’s prohibition against disability discrimination and the rights and responsibilities of managers and employees under the ADA, as well as IDEX’s new policy. The HR managers will, in turn, train all U.S.-based managers on these matters. IDEX also will address questions managers may have about the company’s new policy and review hypothetical accommodation request scenarios with managers. IDEX must post and distribute notices concerning the decree through email, its company website, and at locations nationwide.

Also, IDEX must make periodic reports to the EEOC, including reports on employees who are involuntarily separated from IDEX during the decree’s duration, and who requested and/or received a medical or health-related accommodation, including ADA accommodations, within the six months prior to that employee’s involuntarily separation from IDEX.

“The conduct in this case is a shocking reminder of why the Americans With Disabilities Act is such a critical law,” said EEOC Miami District Director Michael Farrell. “Situations like this demonstrate why the EEOC’s law enforcement responsibilities are so important in today’s workplace.”

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American Dental Association to Pay $1.95 Million to Resolve EEOC Discrimination Finding

April 24, 2017

The American Dental Association, which is headquartered in Chicago, has agreed to pay $1.95 million to resolve two charges of discrimination which were investigated by the Chicago District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency recently announced.

Based on its investigation, EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the ADA’s former chief legal counsel, Tamra Kempf, and the director of human resources were discharged in retaliation for complaining to the board of directors about potential violations of federal anti-discrimination laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The conciliation not only provides monetary relief to the charging parties, but also ensures that the association will take proactive measures to prevent discrimination and retaliation from occurring in the future. The association will conduct training on Title VII, the ADA and the ADEA for all employees at its Chicago headquarters, post a notice of EEOC finding and conciliation visible to all employees, and make all required records available to EEOC for inspection for the duration of the two-year agreement.

The American Dental Association denies that it engaged in unlawful conduct, but a representative for the American Dental Association released the following statement:

The American Dental Association is pleased to be able to reach this amicable resolution of the allegations raised by Tamra Kempf and the former director of HR, and sincerely regrets the events that led to this dispute. Ms. Kempf and the former director of HR were dedicated and loyal employees whose primary motivation was the protection and furtherance of the interests of the association. As sometimes happens in business, differences arose between them and other members of the management team as to how various issues should be approached and handled, but this does not diminish the value of the many contributions that each made to the American Dental Association during their tenure. The associ­ation regrets that its actions led them to believe that they were retaliated against, and apologizes for any conduct that they may have construed as retaliation.

According to Julianne Bowman, director of EEOC’s Chicago’s District Office, this resolution demonstrates the critical role that human resources professionals and legal staff play in ensuring that corporations comply with the nation’s equal employment opportunity laws.

“The position of EEOC is that human resources professionals and in-house lawyers who advise their employers to abide by anti-discrimination laws are engaged in protected activities, and any retaliation against them for doing so is illegal,” said Bowman.

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Sealy of Minnesota to Pay $175,000 to Resolve EEOC Finding of Unlawful Racial Harassment

April 24, 2017

Sealy of Minnesota has agreed to pay $175,000 to resolve a charge of racial harassment filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency recently announced.

An investigation by the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office revealed that Sealy, a mattress and box spring manufacturing company with operations in St. Paul, Minn., subjected its black and Hispanic employees to severe racial harassment.  Despite complaints by employees to Sealy’s senior management, the offensive conduct did not cease.

Following an investigation of the discrimination charge, the EEOC determined that there was reasonable cause to believe the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, the EEOC found that Sealy also discriminated against black and Hispanic employees in its selection process for lead positions at its St. Paul facility.

“Sealy now understands that it is not enough for an employer to have an anti-harassment policy,” said Julie Schmid, acting director of the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office. “An employer must have an effective policy, respond to allegations promptly, and take immediate and appropriate corrective action to end the discrimination.”

In addition to paying a total of $175,000 to the harassment victims, Sealy will provide anti-discrimination training to all its employees and additional training on harass­ment and retaliation to its supervisors, managers and owners. The company will revise and disseminate its anti-harass­ment policy to all employees and make available an anonymous hotline phone number for employees to report discrimination complaints. Sealy will also revise the performance evaluations of all supervisors to require compliance with EEO laws as part of their position. The company has also implemented a more objective application process for all lead positions to base its selections on relevant skills and experience necessary for the posted position.

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Court Orders Nationwide Staffing Company CEO to Pay $135K in Back Wages, Damages to Former Live-In Domestic Worker

April 24, 2017

The CEO of a leading U.S. staffing company will pay a former live-in domestic service worker $135,000 in back wages and damages under the terms of a consent judgment entered into the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The judgment, entered on April 11, 2017, resolves a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Labor on Aug. 22, 2016.  An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Himanshu Bhatia willfully and repeatedly violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and record keeping provisions from July 2012 to December 2014, as well as the act’s anti-retaliation provision.

The complaint alleged that Bhatia paid her domestic service worker a fixed monthly salary of $400 plus food and housing at Bhatia’s home in San Juan Capistrano and other residences in Miami, Las Vegas and Long Beach.  Investigators found that the employee suffered callous abuse and retaliation, including being forced to sleep on a piece of carpet in the garage when ill, while Bhatia’s dogs slept on a mattress nearby.  The complaint also alleged that Bhatia confiscated her employee’s passport.

Bhatia terminated the worker in December 2014 after she found her employee researching “labor laws” online, and after the worker refused to sign a document stating she was being paid an adequate salary and had no employment dispute with Bhatia.

“This consent judgment underlines the department’s commitment to protecting workers from exploitation,” said Janet Herold, solicitor for the department’s Western Region. “The department will take strong and immediate action to ensure that workers are protected against retaliation.”

The consent judgment orders the defendant to pay $135,000 in damages, including back wages, liquidated damages, and other damages.

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USCIS Will Issue Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents

April 24, 2017

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.  These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than the ones currently in use.

The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud. They are also part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
    • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
    • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card.  For additional information on which EADs are covered, please visit the Temporary Protected Status and American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act web pages on

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility VerificationE-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE)   Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date.  These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid. Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

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Employers Should Review Form I-9 for Social Security Number Glitch

April 24, 2017

If you used Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, that you downloaded between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17, 2016, review them to ensure your employees’ Social Security numbers appear correctly in Section 1. There was a glitch when the revised Form I-9 was first published on Nov. 14, 2016. Numbers entered in the Social Security number field were transposed when employees completed and printed Section 1 using a computer.  For example, the number 123-45-6789 entered in the Social Security number field would appear as 123-34-6789 once the form printed.  Employers using a Form I-9 that contains this glitch should download and save a new Form I-9 at

Employers who notice their employees’ Social Security numbers are not written correctly should have their employees draw a line through the transposed Social Security number in Section 1, enter the correct Social Security number, and then initial and date the change.  Employers should include a written explanation with Form I-9 about why the correction was made in the event of an audit.

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Trump Signs “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order for Review of Visa Program to Encourage Hiring Americans

April 24, 2017

Last week, President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies to look at tightening a temporary visa program used to bring high-skilled foreign workers to the United States, as he tries to carry out his campaign pledges to put “America First.”

Trump signed an executive order on enforcing and reviewing the H-1B visa, popular in the technology industry, on a visit to the headquarters of Snap-On Inc., a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  In the document, known to the White House as the “Buy American and Hire American” order, Trump also seeks changes in government procurement that would boost purchases of American products in federal contracts, with one aim being to help U.S. steelmakers.

The moves show Trump once again using his power to issue executive orders to try to fulfill promises he made last year in his election campaign, in this case to reform U.S. immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products.  Senior officials gave few details on implementation of the order but Trump aides have expressed concern that most H-1B visas are awarded for lower-paid jobs at outsourcing firms, many based in India, which they say takes work away from Americans.  They seek a more merit-based way to give the visas to highly skilled workers.

“Right now, widespread abuse in our immigration system is allowing American workers of all backgrounds to be replaced by workers brought in from other countries,” Trump said.  As he nears the 100-day benchmark of his presidency, Trump still has no major legislative achievements. With his attempts to overhaul healthcare and tax law not bearing fruit so far in a Congress controlled by his fellow Republicans, Trump has leaned heavily on executive orders to seek changes to the U.S. economy.

H-1B visas are intended for foreign nationals in occupations that generally require higher education, including science, engineering or computer programming. The government uses a lottery to award 65,000 visas every year and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

Critics say the lottery benefits outsourcing firms that flood the system with mass applications for visas for lower-paid information technology workers.

“Right now H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery and that’s wrong. Instead, they should be given to the most skilled and highest paid applicants and they should never, ever be used to replace Americans,” Trump said.

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Bay State Fish Processors Agree to Consent Judgment for FLSA Violations

April 17, 2017

The U.S. Department of Labor has secured a consent judgment in federal court ordering two Gloucester-based fish processors – Zeus Packing Inc. and Cape Ann Seafood Exchange Inc. – and the companies’ owner Kristian Kristensen to pay over $200,000 in liquidated damages to more than 100 employees to resolve violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the defendants violated the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping requirements from October 2011 through September 2014, and owed 132 employees $203,998 in back wages plus an equal amount in liquidated damages.

The companies and Kristensen paid the back wages in December 2015, but refused to pay the damages and civil money penalties assessed for the violations. As a result, the department filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in March 2016 to recover those amounts.  After almost a year of litigation and negotiation, the defendants agreed to settle the matter by consent judgment.

In addition to requiring payment of $203,998 in liquidated damages covering the investigative period, the judgment also orders the defendants to pay $7,215 in back wages plus an equal amount in liquidated damages to the employees, on account of violations committed after the close of the investigation, and $29,500 in civil money penalties to the department. The judgment also restrains the defendants from future violations of the FLSA’s overtime and recordkeeping requirements.

“Employers are best served by recognizing that, as a general rule, if they fail to pay workers the proper minimum wage and overtime pay, they will be liable to pay double,” said Michael Felsen, regional solicitor for New England.  “As this case demonstrates, the department takes that employer responsibility under the law seriously.”

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Philadelphia Printing Company Enters Into Consent Judgment to Resolve FLSA Violations

April 17, 2017

The U.S. Department of Labor and a Philadelphia commercial printer have entered into a consent judgment that requires the company to pay $273,892 in back wages and liquidated damages to a group of temporary employees to resolve past violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Under the agreement, back wages will be paid to 136 temporary employees who worked as machine operators and general laborers at Bartash Printing, Inc. An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions.

Bartash used a temporary help agency, VQ Management, Inc. – doing business as Managed Staffing and/or Best Staff – to acquire the workers, but failed to ensure they were paid the legally required wages. The workers were paid $6.25/per hour in cash, below the required federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  Bartash also failed to ensure the workers received the required overtime payments when they worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Bartash also failed to maintain the required payroll records for these workers.

“Although Bartash acquired workers through a temporary agency, it still had a legal responsibility as a joint employer to ensure that the workers received proper wages as the law requires,” said James Cain, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Philadelphia District Office. “The resolution of this case should inform other employers who may acquire employees through a temporary help agency – it illustrates their responsibility to ensure that these temporary workers are being paid in compliance with the law.”

Bartash Printing specializes in newspaper and magazine publishing, including press, bindery and mail operations. In addition to the back wages and liquidated damages, the company has agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $31,350.

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