Week in Review

May 26, 2015

Construction Company resolves suit over refusal to provide telework as reasonable accommodation
A Texas based Construction company has agreed to pay $58,000 and provide substantial injunctive relief to settle an EEOC lawsuit asserting that the Houston company violated the ADA when it fired a payroll manager because of her asthma instead of letting her telework. The company terminated the manager when it refused to provide her with the reasonable accommodation of working at home for a period after she had a bad reaction to chemical dust in the workplace, the EEOC said in a May 14 release. After the nine-year employee of the company was denied a reasonable accommodation, she was purportedly fired by two HR officials. They allegedly told her that she was disabled, could no longer perform her job, and would just become ill again if they gave her permission to work at home for a period because the building was old and she would continue to have breathing problems upon her return. Under the consent decree resolving the case, the company will pay the manager $58,000; institute EEOC-monitored training at its facility on employment discrimination law, including the ADA; and implement an ADA policy that includes permitting telework as a reasonable accommodation in appropriate circumstances.

Oil Company sued for paying female Accounting clerks less than their male counterparts
The EEOC has filed a lawsuit asserting that 10 associated oil and gas exploration and production companies violated the Equal Pay Act by paying female employees lower wages than men. The Wyoming-headquartered LLC, and its associated companies, which operate in 12 states, purportedly paid a class of female accounting clerk's lower wages than it paid to their male counterparts doing substantially equal work under similar working conditions. The EEOC is seeking lost wages and liquidated damages, as well as injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future, according to a May 18 agency release. The commission has made the enforcement of equal pay laws and targeting compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender one of six national priorities that are identified in the agency's Strategic Enforcement Plan.

Texas law would ensure that franchisors are not considered employers or co-employers
A bill under which a franchisor would expressly not be considered the employer or co-employer of a franchisee or a franchisee's employees for labor and employment purposes is working its way through the Texas Legislature. The bill is intended to protect franchisors in Texas from being held unfairly liable for the actions of franchisees, to prevent frivolous lawsuits, and to encourage franchisees to act responsibly. Approved by the state senate on March 25, the engrossed version advanced to a third reading in the house in mid-May. Specifically, the senate bill would mandate that franchisors are not the employer of a franchisee or a franchisor's employees for purposes of statutory provisions concerning employment discrimination, payment of wages, or the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, including provisions relating to the health and safety of workers. A franchisor also would not be considered part of a co-employment relationship with a franchisee or a franchisee's employees for purposes of statutory provisions governing professional employer organizations. Moreover, the general definition of "employer" in the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act would exclude franchisors as to a franchisee or a franchisee's employees.


Lawmakers urge President Obama to give preference to "model employers" in government contracts

A group of 18 senators sent a letter to President Obama on May 15, 2015 requesting that he issue an Executive Order to give preference in government contracts to "model employers" who pay a living wage, offer "fair" healthcare and retirement benefits, provide paid leave for illness and caregiving, give fulltime hours and stable work schedules, and permit workers a voice through collective bargaining. According to the lawmakers, the U.S. government "continues to be America's largest low-wage job creator, subsidizing poverty-level wages through taxpayer-financed contracts, loans, and grants with private companies." Many of these contract workers must rely on public assistance "to supplement their meager incomes," the senators pointed out in the letter. Taxpayers are getting double-billed, first for the cost of the contract, and then again for the cost of public programs such as food stamps or Medicaid. "We believe that our taxpayer dollars should reward good companies that create middle class jobs for American, not companies that force employees to depend on public aid programs," the senators wrote.