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A settlement was reached between the Department of Justice and the city of Venice, Fla in a lawsuit that involved racial discrimination against a Black employee.

The lawsuit said that the city of Venice violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for continuously discriminating against a 30-year-old Black employee. The city apparently gave the man disciplinary actions that were unnecessary and unwarranted like two unpaid suspensions. 

The lawsuit alleged that he was fired because of his race. 

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The DOJ said that the harsh discipline of this man was unjust and illegal racial discrimination. 

The DOJ also said the city did not have any legitimate reasons for treating the man more harshly than his white coworkers. 

Court documents show that the city disciplined the man nine times in a two-year period. These disciplinary actions included three separate scoldings in one day. According to court records, these disciplinary actions were for minor infractions, such as taking lunch breaks in public parks, workplace rules that were never enforced against the man’s white coworkers. 

The man was ultimately fired by the city without justification, according to reports. He was the only Black employee working in the Parks Division of the city’s Public Works Department. 

The man said he was forced to endure racial slurs, including the use of the n-word, which was used in his presence. He also said his work was always scrutinized and faulted. 

Discrimination in the workplace based on race or the color of a person’s skin are strictly prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers cannot discriminate against employees because of their skin color or race for any of the following practices: 

  • Recruiting or hiring a prospective employee
  • Terminating an employee
  • Promoting an employee
  • Paying an employee
  • Training opportunities or other workplace advancements
  • Any condition of employment 

What Constitutes Racial Discrimination in the Workplace? 

There are many things that can fall under the practice of racial discrimination, including but not limited to the following:

  • Finding job applicants from sources that makes sure all applicants, or most of the applicants, are one race. 
  • Creating barriers to job entry that have no correlation to job duties, like requiring a college degree, that is unconnected to the job itself. 
  • An employer asking pre employment questions that lead to answers that would indicate race. 
  • Employers using racial or ethnic slurs in the workplaces. On this same note, employers that allow their employees to use discriminatory slurs in the workplace without consequence. 
  • Keeping employees separated from other worker’s all based on skin color or race. An example of this action could be placing a worker in an undesirable work location all because of the color of their skin. 
  • Paying an employee less than their fellow coworkers who hold the same position and have the same experience, all because of their skin color.
  • Terminating an employee just for their skin color rather than poor work performance or any other legitimate reason for firing an employee. 

There are numerous ways for you to take legal action against your employer for discrimination in the workplace. You need to consult with an employment lawyer in order to understand all of your legal options. Our Florida Discrimination Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here for you 24/7 to provide you with a free and confidential consultation. You can meet with us in private and no one will ever have to know you spoke with our employment attorneys regarding your rights. If you are worried about retaliation or wrongful termination, we can assure you that you have rights that pertain to these actions as well. We are happy to discuss these with you and assist with numerous employment matters, such as unpaid overtime, discrimination, sexual harassent, and Civil Rights.

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Carlos Dunlap, the defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, has spoken out about how he and several other NFL players were recently discriminated against over their skin color when they were participating in an offseason practice in south Florida. 

cincinnati-958841_1280-300x300Dunlap recapped an instance in Fort Lauderdale where he and a group of Black NFL players were asked by a park ranger to exit the area, while another group of white NFL players were allowed to stay and finish up their practice drills. 

Dunlap said it was frustrating and appalling. 

construction-646465_1280-300x201A construction contractor in Crystal Beach, Florida has been found to have violated overtime requirements set forth by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), according to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD). 

The contractor will pay $16,567 in back wages to five employees. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigation found that the contractor paid his employees straight time for all hours, including when they worked over 40 hours in a single workweek. 

The WHD said they hope this sets an example for other employers to reexamine their own pay practices to make sure they are complying with the law. The WHD is set in place to make sure all workers are paid the wages they have legally earned. 

Minimum Wage in Florida 

Currently, the minimum wage requirement in the state of Florida is $8.56 per hour. This number does usually go up at the start of each new year. 

OT Laws in Florida Explained 

Through laws set forth by the FLSA, employers are required to pay at least the minimum wage of $8.56 in Florida for all regular hours worked in a workweek that total to 40. When these hours exceed the standard 40 hour workweek, then employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of time and one half their regular wage, which you can calculate by multiplying your regular pay wage by 1.5. 

Are Salaried Workers Exempt from Collecting OT?

Some employers may tell their salaried workers that they cannot collect OT pay. Whether an employee is being paid hourly or being paid a salary has no bearing on OT pay. A salaried worker is just paid the same wage every pay period. OT eligibility is determined by your classification: are you an exempt or non-exempt employee?

Exempt Vs. Non-Exempt Employees

As we said before, job titles don’t determine a worker’s OT eligibility, but wages and duties do. The general rule is that if an employee makes an annual salary of under $23,600, then they can collect OT. On that same page secretaries, kitchen workers, clerical workers, and employees who are not managers are also usually allowed to collect OT. While there are a few exceptions, most hourly employees should also be able to collect OT. Workers operating on commission can be awarded OT in certain cases, however those that travel regularly may not be entitled to OT. Salaried workers earning under $455 per week are also entitled to OT. Any salaried workers that earn over $455 per work might be eligible for OT unless their job classifies them as exempt – examples of these workers are executive, administrative, computer-related, executive, outside sales, etc. 

Tipped Workers and OT

Bartenders, delivery drivers, and servers are usually permitted OT when they work over 40 hours in a workweek. 

Comp Time Vs. OT

Sometimes an employer will sub out OT pay with comp time when a worker exceeds 40 hours in a workweek, however there are only a few types of employees who are granted comp time, like government employees. Any private employers that are offering comp time as opposed to OT could be in violation FLSA laws. 

Can 1099’s Get OT?

If you receive a 1099 instead of a W-2 you are classified as an independent contractor. This does not necessarily mean you are not allowed to collect OT. Your ability to collect OT all depends on your job duties and what you have arranged with your boss. This can be tricky, so if you have questions our Florida Unpaid Wage and Overtime Lawyers Whittel & Melton urge you to contact us so that we can further explain this. 

Filing a Claim for Unpaid OT

The FLSA gives workers 3 years to recover unpaid OT. There are situations that can extend claims for unpaid wages beyond this period of time. Because of the time frame placed on these claims, we urge you to act fast when it comes to unpaid wages of any kind. Our Florida Unpaid Wage and Overtime Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help walk you through the entire claims process. We will see your case through to its finish and fight to recover the wages you rightfully earned. 

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people-2568603_640-150x150A Michigan Senate investigation into Sen. Pete Lucido’s behavior found allegations of sexual harassment by several women to be credible, according to reports. 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey added in a statement that the investigation found “inappropriate workplace behavior.”

As a result, Lucido has been stripped of a committee chairmanship and ordered to undergo training.

“In January, I directed the Senate to retain outside counsel to lead an investigation into several allegations made against Senator Lucido. Outside counsel and the Senate Business Office undertook a thorough and exhaustive investigation into allegations made against the senator and found the senator’s conduct to be ‘inappropriate workplace behavior,” Shirkey’s statement reads. 

Earlier this year Lucido faced three public accusations of sexual harassment. 

The allegations began when a reporter for Michigan Advance wrote an article alleging an inappropriate comment Lucido made about her in front of a group of high school boys. 

He reportedly told her in front of the group of boys that they “could have a lot of fun” with her. 

Sen. Lucido initially apologized for what he called a “misunderstanding” and for offending the female reporter. But then he said he never made that comment at all. 

Democratic senator Mallory McMorrow and a regulatory affairs specialist for a trade group made similar comments. 

McMorrow filed a sexual harassment complaint against Lucido. Lucido reportedly told her he “could see why” she beat her male incumbent while looking her up and down.

The regulatory affairs specialist reported that Lucido commented on her appearance while touching her lower back. 

Lucido has yet to make a comment regarding the allegations against him. 

This case shows that sexual harassment is everywhere. In the United States, every employee has the right to work in an environment without being treated unfairly or harassed on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a huge problem across the United States and our Florida Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here to help victims of this type of abuse hold their abuser resposible for their actions. 

Both federal and state laws define sexual harassment as actions that can apply to either males or females in situations involving the same sex or opposite sex. Sexual harassment affects men and women alike and includes a variety of behaviors and actions such as:

  • Touching someone inappropriately
  • Promising job advancement in exchange for sexual or romantic activities
  • Engaging in uninvited “x-rated” conversations
  • Provocative gestures
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors

When these types of instances are reported to management, but nothing is done, a sexual harassment claim is only strengthened. If you feel that any of these examples sound like something you have personally gone through, we urge you to contact our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton right awat for a free initial consultation.

We cannot stress this enough: if you have or believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment or another form of discrimination in a Florida workplace, you do not have to simply ignore it, cut your losses, and move on. Harassment and discrimination by coworkers, managers, or employers is illegal in the state of Florida and you have every right to take legal action to right these wrongs.

At Whittel & Melton, our Florida Employment Attorneys understand that sexual harassment is a traumatic experience and something that not every victim feels comfortable talking about it. That is why our firm is sensitive and understanding when it comes to these cases. We will always treat you with compassion, respect, and dignity. We know how difficult it can be to come forward with a sexual harassment claim, which is why we will stand by your side and walk you through every single step of the legal process.

Our Florida Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have a deep understanding of sexual harassment and discrimination cases throughout the state of Florida. We know the applicable Florida laws and the courtroom processes that must be followed to make sure that you receive a fair judgment or settlement in these types of cases. We will assess your claim for free and help you determine the best course of action for recovering financial compensation.

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A cook who worked in a Disney-owned restaurant has sued Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for allegedly retaliating against her after she filed a sexual harassment complaint.

The woman, who prepared food at Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the summer of 2018, filed a federal discrimination suit in Florida’s middle district court. She alleged that a chef who supervised her harassed her, touching her inappropriately and making crude jokes.

Disney transferred the chef so that he no longer supervised the woman but then fired her after her other managers retaliated against her, the woman alleged in the complaint.

A Belleair Bluffs financial services firm is facing a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination on the basis of gender, disability and religious affiliation as well as allegations of sexual harassment.

The harassment claims target former Tampa Bay Lighting President Ron Campbell.

A former executive administrative assistant for Seminole Financial Services is suing the firm for back pay, front pay and compensatory damages in a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Court Feb. 6. 

The allegations in the suit have not been tried and have not yet been proven.

The woman began working for Seminole Financial in 2001, but took a three year leave of absence to battle breast cancer from 2014-2017. She returned to the firm in 2017. After her return, she claims Campbell consistently made sexual innuendos in conversation.

Among those, she claims, Campbell frequently discussed his use of erectile dysfunction medication and, at one point, insinuated the woman take a hot shower with him.

When the woman brought the offending statements up with another female, she was allegedly told, “get used to it, Mr. Campbell is the type of guy that will smack you on your a** and go on with his day.”

In another instance, the woman said a female employee asked her if she kept rosary beads at her desk as “all good Catholic girls” do. The woman explained that she was not Catholic and then was told she had fallen out of “the flock.”

Eventually, the woman said she complained about the harassment, but her complaint was ignored. She then went to the another company executive and had a closed-door meeting to discuss her complaints, but was similarly dismissed with little recourse for her concerns.

When the woman learned she required another surgery to treat her cancer, the company informed her that they were removing her from the company’s insurance plan because she was costing them too much money.

The woman was subsequently terminated, she claims because of her medical disability, religious affiliation and in retribution for her complaints about harassment. The complaint argues that her termination violated the Florida Civil Rights Act.

Under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA), Florida employers are prohibited from discrimination against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. When a Florida employee believes that they have been discriminated against at work, it may be possible to file an employment discrimination lawsuit.

What Are the Differences Between The Florida Civil Rights Act & Federal Laws? 

  • Company Size: Under federal law, an employer is defined as employing 20 or more people during any given year. In Florida, a company only needs to have 15 employees in order to be held to the strictest of employment laws.
  • Individual Liability: Due to the necessary company size under federal law, some Florida employers may not be individually responsible for certain statutes. The FCRA requires ALL employers to be liable for discrimination against persons seeking licenses, certificates, credentials, to pass an examination, or to become a member of a club, where those accomplishments are required in order to engage in a profession, occupation or trade.
  • The FCRA does not define disability or handicap.
  • The FCRA does address pregnancy.
  • Unlike federal laws, the FCRA discriminates against marital status.

Florida is an “at-will” employer, meaning an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. All Florida employees need to understand what protections civil rights laws afford them. If you need help, our Florida Employment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here to assist you. We have the knowledge and experience to deal with all types of civil rights issues.

Employers can break the law in numerous ways. We can help you better understand the differences between what is unfair and what is illegal. 

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Flagler Hospital, a nonprofit hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., has been ordered to pay $107,185 in back wages to 141 employees for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Feb. 5.

After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), investigators found the hospital automatically deducted time from emergency room and labor and delivery employees’ timecards for meal breaks even when they worked through those breaks. This unpaid work time resulted in overtime being due when it occurred in workweeks longer than 40 hours. By improperly deducting the time, the employer also produced inaccurate records of the number of hours employees actually worked, violating FLSA recordkeeping requirements.

“Non-profit organizations are not excluded from the pay requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Wage and Hour District Director Daniel White, in Jacksonville, Florida. “Employees must be paid all the wages they have legally earned. We encourage all employers to reach out to us for assistance and to use the variety of tools we offer to ensure that their pay practices comply with federal law.”

The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, confidential calls, or in-person visits to local WHD offices.

For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers who discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.

WHD’s mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Nonprofits should have to understand the critical importance of employee classifications and how to make the determination between exempt and nonexempt employees in order to avoid law violations. 

Understanding the Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees a minimum wage and overtime pay for many workers in the United States is very important for nonprofits. To properly comply with the law and treat employees fairly, nonprofits need to know which employees are exempt and which are not.

Who Is Considered an Exempt Employee?

Before a worker can be considered an exempt employee, which means they are ineligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act, three factors must be met:

  • Salary basis. The employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that can’t be reduced based on variations in the amount of work performed.
  • Salary level. The employee’s salary must meet or exceed a specified minimum.
  • Duties. The employee’s work must primarily involve executive, administrative or professional duties. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, certain computer professionals, salespeople and other generously compensated employees may meet these requirements.

To be clear on whether an employee is exempt from overtime pay or not, a salary or a professional job title isn’t enough. To be considered an exempt employee, they must meet all three requirements.

All other workers are considered nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which means they must receive at least minimum wage (currently $8.56 per hour in Florida) and get paid at least one and one-half times the regular rate for any hours beyond 40 in a single working week.

It is important to point out that hospitals, schools and preschools, government agencies and businesses that provide medical or nursing care for residents are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act regardless of annual sales or nonprofit status. 

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The owner and manager of a Plantation IHOP will pay $70,000 to settle federal secual harassment suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

The owner denies he did anything wrong with female employee who said he repeatedly asked her for dates, kisses and sex. 

The consent decree requires the man, who owns the IHOP at 2 N. State Rd. 7 through his Swami Pancake company, to do three hours of one-on-one anti-sexual harassment/sex discrimination management training annually for three years. The man’s wife and assistant manager also have to go through the same training.

According to the EEOC suit, the employee worked at the man’s IHOP restaurant from October 2009 through October 2017. Throughout her time there, she claimed, she and other women there suffered from the man’s incessant, unwanted mating attention.

The man is accused of sitting in the restaurant parking lot and waiting for the woman to finish her shift in order to make sexual advances to her, invite her to dinner, or for sex, while she was isolated from other employees and customers, according to the suit. He is also accused of parking his car to block the woman’s car so that she could not drive her car. The suit claims he would yell, ‘Why won’t you kiss me?’ and threatened, ‘I won’t let you go home until you kiss me.’

It is illegal for a supervisor or co-worker to make unwanted sexual advances towards another person in the workplace. It is also illegal for a supervisor or co-worker to subject another person to hostile work environment based on sex.

Sexual harassment is usually thought of as unwelcome sexual advances. And while that is part of it, there is so much more that falls under the umbrella of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can be comments of a sexual nature, sexual innuendos, lewd or sexist remarks, sexual jokes, questions or comments about intimate relationships, inappropriate comments about physical appearance, and viewing, showing or discussing pornography.

Some other examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Sexual assault or unwelcome physical touching that is sexual in nature
  • Proposing employment advances or hiring for sexual acts (“quid pro quo”)
  • Visual harassment by displaying sexually explicit objects, cartoons or pictures
  • Verbal abuse by sexually offensive comments and degrading words
  • Making sexual advances or propositions, physically or verbally
  • Making gender-related comments about a person’s appearance or mannerisms
  • Bullying someone using gender-related comments or conduct
  • Treating a person badly because they do not conform to gender roles
  • Emails with sexual innuendos
  • Supervisor or co-worker watching porn in the workplace
  • Supervisor or co-worker asking questions about your personal life or touching you inappropriately

In cases of sexual harassment, it is very important to keep detailed records of each offensive incident. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton recommend making notes of the time, date and underlying facts of each incident, including any actions you or your company took, as well as copies of all related correspondence or complaints.

Florida laws require an employer to provide a workplace environment free from harassment. Likewise, once employers are notified about any harassment, they are obligated to rectify it. If your company fails to resolve the issue, your next step is to enlist the help of an attorney who can walk you through the process of filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

The law forbids retaliation against employees who report sexual harassment and/or object to or refuse unwanted advances. Retaliation may occur through wrongful termination, unjustified discipline, refusal to promote, demotion, reduction in hours or work, denial of a bonus or raise, transfer to a less desirable shift, or exposure to other less favorable conditions of employment. 

Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to support you if you have been the victim of sexual harassment at work. We negotiate mediate, and litigate claims of sexual harassment and retaliation for employeers complaining of or objecting to sexual harassment. If you believe you are being sexually harassed at work, we urge you to discuss your concerns with us in confidence through a completely free consultation. Taking this first step can provide you with the knowledge you need as it pertains to sexual harassment laws and what can be done to protecting your rights as an employee. We are here to educate you about your rights and offer you sound legal guidance. 

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Uber  has agreed to pay a $4.4 million fine to settle a 2017 charge from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pertaining to sex discrimination and retaliation.

The investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Uber “permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment,” the EEOC wrote in a press release. The EEOC  launched the investigation following reports pertaining to Uber’s workplace while under the leadership of then CEO Travis Kalanick.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that all employees can thrive at Uber by putting fairness and accountability at the heart of who we are and what we do,” Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West said in a statement. “I am extremely pleased that we were able to work jointly with the EEOC in continuing to strengthen these efforts.”

As part of the settlement, Uber will divvy up the $4.4 million to anyone who the EEOC determines experienced sexual harassment and/or retaliation at Uber after January 1, 2014. Uber also agreed to establish a system to identify employees who have been the subject of more than one harassment complaint, as well as identify managers who have not responded to sexual harassment concerns in a timely manner.

For the next three years, Uber will also face monitoring by former EEOC Commissioner Fred Alvarez.

“This agreement holds Uber accountable, and, going forward, positions the company to innovate and transform the tech industry by modeling effective measures against sexual harassment and retaliation,” EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic said in a statement.

Now, a claims administrator will send notices to every female employee who worked at Uber at any point between January 1, 2014 and June 30, 2019. If that’s you, you’ll be able to respond to that notice to make your claim. The EEOC will then determine who is eligible for monetary relief.

The Civil Rights Act protects all employees from any type of sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition to harassment, this law also protects employees from retaliation. Retaliation happens when an employer punishes an employee for filing complaints regarding sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace. What many people do not know is that there are various federal laws in place that protect workers against retaliation and establish the rights of “whistleblowers” (people who file complaints about unsafe workplaces). 

Retaliation can take on numerous forms, including:

  • Demotion
  • Salary reduction
  • Job termination
  • Refusal of a raise
  • Denial of promotion
  • Missed training opportunities
  • Job reassignment
  • Less desirable schedule
  • Poor performance review
  • Micromanagement
  • Exclusion from staff activities

What is important to understand is that not all adverse employer actions are retaliation. In order to establish grounds for a lawsuit, retaliation must have a negative impact on your employment. If you have reason to believe that an employer, manager, or another person in your workplace is retaliating against you for filing a complaint against them, our Florida Whistleblower and Retaliation Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to reach out to us so that we can help with your claim. We have offices scattered throughout Florida and can take cases from anywhere in the state. Our staff of lawyers can investigate your claim and help you understand if retaliation is taking place and what we can do to help it stop. By working with us, we can show you how to get back on your feet and obtain justice for being harrassed, discriminated against, and/or retaliated against at work. 

When you obtain legal counsel from a law firm, you are taking a giant step in the right direction towards eliminitating sexual harassment in the workplace. Our Florida Employment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have extensive knowledge and experience with all workplace issues and will be able to provide valuable insight into your unique situation.

When we build a retaliation case, we must be able to demonstrate and prove there is a connection between your recent sexual harassment or discrimination complaint and your employer’s adverse actions. As soon as you suspect retaliation, we urge you to start documenting everything. Take record of each and every time something retaliatory occurs. This may include keeping copies of reports or emails that can help your case, like a positive performance review prior to the complaint and a negative one after. The more information you have to support your claim, the stronger your case may be.

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Under federal and state laws, disabled people are a protected class. These laws make it illegal for employers to discharge, fail to promote, fail to hire, or otherwise treat the person differently because of a physical or mental disability so long as that person is able to perform the job. These laws also require employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with any physical or mental disabilities.

A recent settlement involving Walmart highlights disability discrimination in the workplace. 

Walmart Inc. will pay $80,000 and implement nationwide changes to its disability reassignment policy to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to the federal agency. 

The EEOC’s lawsuit claims that Walmart violated federal law by failing to reassign a long- term employee at its Augusta, Maine location to vacant positions in its  Waterville or Thomaston, Maine locations after she became disabled. The lawsuit alleged that the disbaled woman, who had worked for Walmart since 1999, developed a disability that, according to Walmart,  prevented her from continuing to work in a sales associate position in Augusta. Walmart determined that the only positions that could accommodate her disability were fitting room associate and people greeter. While there were no such positions vacant in Augusta, there were two fitting room associate positions open in Waterville and one in Thomaston. Walmart’s policy, however, was to search for open positions only in the store where the employee had been working. Because of this, Walmart did not transfer the woman to the positions in  Waterville or Thomaston, which she would have happily accepted. As a result, the woman never worked for Walmart again.

The  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and imposes a requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship on the employer. The ADA states that one of these accommodations is reassignment to a vacant position.

The  EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00170-JDL) in U.S. District  Court for the District of Maine in Bangor after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

As  part of the settlement, Walmart will change its policy so associates with a disability that are eligible  for job reassignment under the ADA as a reasonable accommodation can request that Walmart search at up to five stores beyond  an associate’s then-current store location (“home store”) or in the home store’s entire market. The revised procedures will be applied to all hourly field associates working in Walmart retail stores in the United States.

Walmart is also enjoined from failing to offer to reassign a qualified individual with a disability to a vacant position. Finally, the woman will receive payment of $80,000.

“Federal law requires employers to reassign employees with a disability to vacant positions as the reasonable accommodation of last resort,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office.  “We are very pleased that this lawsuit, which arose from a single employee’s complaint, resulted in the nationwide change we sought, and we applaud Walmart for making that change.”

EEOC New York District  Director Kevin Berry added,  “Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable accommodation required by law absent undue hardship. This case demonstrates that looking beyond the home store  for a vacant position is not an undue hardship.”

The EEOC’s New York District  Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey,  Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. 

The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. These accommodations can include:

  • Medical leave or even the extension of medical leave
  • Allowing an employee to work from home
  • Reassigning to an available position
  • Modified equipment or devices
  • Modified work schedules
  • Adjustment of policies or additional training
  • Interpreters or any other required assistance
  • Accessible workspace

Once an employee tells their employer that they have a disability that requires accommodations, there are certain state laws that kick in requiring an interactive process between the employer and the employee. In the state of Florida, this interactive process requires the employer to communicate with the employee in selecting an appropriate accommodation. The best way to initiate this process is for the employee to request a reasonable accommodation. This interactive process involves various things, such as analyzing the particular job involved to determine the essential functions, speaking with the employee to learn their job-related limitations, talking with the employee to identify potential accommodations and get their preferences as far as the job duties are concerned. 

Reasonable accommodations can include things such as making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to individuals with disabilities, restructuring jobs, modifying the position to part-time, modifications of equipment used, adjusting the training materials and policies related to the job, and/or providing qualified readers or interpreters.

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