Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
Last week, John Barrie, a staff services analyst for the California Department of Transportation, won a $ 3.3 million dollar verdict against CDT because it failed to accommodate his disability, subjected him to a hostile environment and retaliated against him when he complained. Barrie began working for CDT in 2005 and during the first week of his employment told his supervisors of his condition (severe allergies to perfumes and certain cleaning products). He was granted an informal accommodation which meant that CDT took steps to make sure perfumes and certain cleaning products were not near his work space. After 5 years of smooth sailing Barrie got a new supervisor in 2010. She was not interested in adhering to the informal accommodation. Barrie began having trouble with perfumes in his workplace and talked to his boss. She told him she didn’t want to hear it. So he started making internal complaints to human resources. Then he was told he was a trouble maker. He also faced retaliation. He came into work to find that his work space had been intentionally sprayed with perfume. A lumbar pillow was doused with perfume. He continued to complain. In 2012 CDT found during a surprise inspection that Barrie was being retaliated against via intentional spraying of his work area with perfume and placement of scented products in his work area. He was then relocated to another facility and told he had to do the janitorial work at that facility, which would require using cleaning products. He filed suit in 2013. The jury trial lasted 12 days and resulted in the several million dollar verdict. Now, CDT is letting Barrie perform his analyst duties from home. His attorney couldn’t believe it came to this. He didn’t think it would even get to the point of filing a lawsuit. All CDT had to do was keep perfumes and chemicals out of Barrie’s work space.
Jury Awards $3 Million To Caltrans Employee Bullied At Work
Caltrans worker wins $3 million allergy lawsuit
Nevada City Cal Trans Worker Gets $3 Million Award
Caltrans Employee Awarded $3 Million In Bullying Lawsuit
Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
With the Reds playing so well (all alone in first to start the day) it’s easy to be paying attention to baseball. Consequently, I read about what happened last Tuesday at Fenway Park where I otherwise might not have. Many are aware that on Monday night, fans at Fenway Park shouted racist slurs at Orioles center fielder Adam Jones during the game and one fan hurled a bag of peanuts at him. The reaction was swift. The owner of the Red Sox personally apologized. The Mayor of Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts condemned the conduct. An investigation was launched. Boston NAACP President said it is concerning that someone would think they could go to a crowded stadium, use that type of racially charged language, and suffer no consequences. Then the next day fans gave Jones a standing ovation before his first plate appearance.
But it happened again Tuesday night (the night Jones would receive a standing ovation) right after the singing of the national anthem. According to Calvin Hennick, a white Boston Rex Sox fan who was attending the game with his 6 year old son, who is African-American, and his Haitian father-in-law, a “middle-aged white fan” complained aloud that the Kenyon woman who sang the national anthem made it “too long, and she n****** it up.” Hennick was concerned, particularly for his son who was attending his first game. When Hennick turned and asked the man if he really just said that, the man repeated the slur and said “that’s right, and I stand by it.” Hennick reported the incident to an usher and the man was eventually kicked out. Hennick was surprised the man would make these comments to him of all people as he was sitting next to his African-American family. Hennick said, “then I realized that that was the whole point. He wanted to prove that he could say whatever he wanted. It was a finger to the eye.”
There are a lot of parallels between what happened at Fenway Park and what ought to happen at the workplace when conduct like this occurs – bad conduct, bad conduct reported, bad conduct investigated, consequences for the offender. Just a couple of weeks ago the United States District Court for the Second Circuit held that, in the employment context, a single racial slur might provide sufficient basis for a hostile work environment claim under the right circumstances. It seems a no brainer that asking a 6 year old African-American kid who was attending his first ever baseball game to sit next to an adult using the N word and then “standing by it” would have a significant negative impact on that kid.
Boston Red Sox Fan Reports A Racial Slur, And A Lifetime Ban
Red Sox eject, ban fan from Fenway Park for life for racial slur
Boston Red Sox fan reports another for racial slur at Fenway Park
Racial slur leads to fan being banned from Fenway Park
Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
In addition to the multiple claims of sexual harassment Fox News has been dealing with, a high profile African-American reporter and the only African-American anchor at Fox News, Kelly Wright, last week joined a lawsuit brought by more than 10 employees complaining of systemic race discrimination at Fox News. Wright, an Emmy-winning anchor and an employee of Fox News for 14 years, said at a news conference “The (network) failed to be fair and balanced for all of our employees regardless of race, gender, faith, creed or color.”
It should not be surprising to see the reports of discrimination/harassment mounting. The women who made internal complaints about Bill O’Reilly say they were told by Fox News there was nothing that could be done because it’s Bill O’Reilly so they just had to put up with it. So, a number of employees with legitimate complaints chose to suffer in silence rather than push the issue. Now that employees are seeing some results, they are speaking up.
Of course, “there’s nothing we can do” is simply not the right response to a complaint of discrimination and/or harassment. If you have a legitimate concern that you are being discriminated against or harassed at work, you should investigate your rights. Many companies have policies in place that address discrimination, harassment, retaliation, procedures for making complaints and what is supposed to happen when a complaint is made. You can also consult an employment attorney.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on April 23, 2017 that Ohio’s nursing home inspectors are seriously understaffed. The U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMMS”) regulates and monitors nursing homes in part by inspections. The purpose of these inspections is to assure that nursing homes are following the federal regulations that promote a safe environment for the nursing home residents.
In most states, CMMS hires the state’s health department to inspect that state’s nursing homes on behalf of CMMS. Likewise in Ohio, CMMS contracts with the Ohio Department of Health to conduct mandatory annual and complaint inspections, also known as surveys. The ODH hires and trains nursing home inspectors to conduct these inspections. But, since 2011, ODH has failed to meet the federal deadline for conducting annual inspections. The reason is serious understaffing of nursing home inspectors.
In Ohio, there are currently 153 nursing home inspectors who examine Ohio’s 960 nursing homes and over 600 assisted-living facilities. But, many more are needed. The newspaper reported that Ohio’s neighboring states Michigan, Kentucky, and Illinois have one inspector for every four nursing homes. Using the numbers above, Ohio has one inspector for every ten nursing home and assisted living facilities.
The recruitment and retention of qualified, experienced nursing home inspectors is difficult because of the low pay. These inspectors are nurses, dieticians, environmental health professionals, and social workers. The state’s median entry level salary is $31,014. But, a registered nurse in Northeast Ohio can make $20,000 more in an entry-level position, according to interviews and statistics from Lorain Community College.
For more details, and to read this excellent report.
Jon Allison’s Monday Blog
No doubt almost everyone is aware that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News parted ways last week following new allegations of sexual harassment. This happened less than a year after Fox News had to get rid of Roger Ailes for the same reason. The New York Times published an article on April 1 detailing a series of sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly and how Fox News and its parent company repeatedly stood by O’Reilly and paid out tens of millions to settle with the women who complained. In fact, Fox News settled two of the sexual harassment cases against O’Reilly after Ailes left. It also extended O’Reilly’s contract. Women at Fox News questioned whether the company was serious about creating a different culture as it had promised last year following the Ailes scandal. Those questions still remain.
What drove O’Reilly out was most likely dollars rather than a desire to do the right thing. A month ago, there were at least 30 nationally broadcast commercials each night on “The O’Reilly Factor.” In the weeks following the article, most major brands withdrew all advertising dollars from the program.
For his part, O’Reilly (and Ailes for that matter) has denied all of the allegations. But consider this. The women who made the allegations against O’Reilly worked for him and/or appeared on his show. If there was a place to advance your career, his show was it. Yet many still complained, even though they feared it could ruin their careers.
The Ailes and O’Reilly fiascos should result in corporations taking the issue of sexual harassment more seriously. As an employment attorney I’ve consulted with many women who told me of sexual harassment but were concerned that if they complained they would suffer retaliation. Hopefully after these two high profile men were forced out, more women with legitimate complaints will be willing to come forward and more employers will address the concerns appropriately.