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Customer Tells Lowe’s “Don’t Send a Black Delivery Driver”

Jon Allison

 Monday Blog

Last week a Lowe’s Home Improvement delivery driver in Danville, Virginia was told he could not make a delivery because he is African-American and the customer did not want a black person on her property.

Marcus Bradley has been employed with Lowe’s for 11 years.  He and Alex Brooks, a long-time coworker who makes deliveries with Bradley, were in their truck on the way to make the delivery when their manager called and told them to come back.  Their manager told them that the customer had given specific instructions that she didn’t want a black employee making the delivery.  Both were shocked, but they turned the truck around and went back.  Brooks, who is white, refused to get back in the truck and make the delivery without Bradley.  Another white driver made the delivery.

Upon learning of the situation, Lowe’s terminated the manager involved and apologized to its employees.  Lowe’s also issued a statement saying “Under no circumstances should a discriminatory delivery request be honored as it is inconsistent with our diversity and inclusion core values and the request should have been refused.”  The homeowner who made the request said “I got a right to have whatever I want and that’s it,” and “I don’t feel bad about nothing.”

Even where a company has policies against discrimination, managers still make discriminatory employment decisions.  Follow this link to read more.

14-Year Employee Terminated After Background Check Reveals 1990 Misdemeanor

BMW is going to trial soon on the issue of whether it violated employment discrimination laws when it used criminal background checks at its Greer, South Carolina plant that had a disparate impact on African-Americans.  The background checks were completed in 2008.  After reviewing the background checks 88 employees lost their jobs.  70 were African-American and many had been employed for years.  One was terminated after 14 years of employment because her background check revealed a misdemeanor from 1990 with a fine of $137.

Additional information can be found here.

 

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Ohio’s Message To Plaintiff’s Employment Attorneys: Don’t Help Low Wage Workers

Jon Allison

Having just finished up a jury trial where the plaintiff won a wrongful termination claim and was awarded lost wages and compensatory damages, the timing seems right to discuss attorney fees under Ohio law in employment cases.  Under Ohio law, attorneys who take on cases where an employee was wrongfully terminated must first prove the discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.  If they are successful in doing so, in order to have a chance at being paid for their work without taking some percentage of the employee’s award of lost wages and compensatory damages, they must prove separately and by a higher standard of proof that the employer not only discriminated, harassed and/or retaliated, but that it did so maliciously and should be made to pay a punitive damages award.  Only after the attorney proves that punitive damages are appropriate, is there an opportunity to be paid for the legal work under Ohio law, but there is still no guarantee.

The problem with this scheme is that it operates as a huge disincentive to take on cases for minimum wage or other low wage workers.  An attorney could win trial after trial for minimum wage workers and not be able to pay the bills to keep the law firm going.  Low wage workers are the ones who are most vulnerable to wrongful conduct on the part of their employers.  Most plaintiff’s employment attorneys want to devote time to help these low wage workers.  Ohio says don’t.

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Inside Job

Jon Allison

Monday Blog
Last week a group of four former store detectives filed a class-action lawsuit against CVS alleging that it directed them to racially profile African-American and Hispanic customers and then retaliated against the detectives when they complained that the practice was discriminatory.  The plaintiffs say that two loss-prevention supervisors for the Manhattan and Queens store locations on a regular basis told the detectives to profile African-American and Hispanic customers because they were the ones who were always the thieves.  After complaining to superiors, the plaintiffs say they were subjected to false criticism of their performance.  Three of the plaintiffs were then terminated earlier this year while one was terminated before that.  One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs said that, while there have been profiling cases filed by customers, “this is the first time a group of employees has banded together to provide an inside account and expose the blatant racial profiling policy at one of the largest retailers in the world.”
Find more information here.

The Expectation That Dads Prioritize Work
Josh Levs was the fatherhood reporter for CNN in the summer of 2013 when his wife gave birth prematurely while suffering from a severe pregnancy complication.  Months prior to the premature birth of his daughter he had requested 10 weeks of paid leave.  At the time CNN offered 10 weeks of paid leave under CNN’s leave policies.  He found out that the 10 weeks of leave only applied to men in cases of adoption or a surrogate birth.  He asked if CNN would change the policy.  He was told no 11 days after the premature birth of his daughter.  Instead, when his family needed him most, he got 2 weeks of leave which was at that point used up.  He filed an EEOC complaint which is not yet resolved.  CNN has, however, changed its policy.  Read this article for more details.

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Blog Update: Supreme Court Issues Decision On Religious Accomodation

Jon Allison

On Monday the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Samantha Elauf/Abercrombie & Fitch case ruling in favor of Elauf.  The Court held “Title VII forbids adverse employment decisions made with a forbidden motive, whether this motive derives from actual knowledge, a well-founded suspicion or merely a hunch.”  Abercrombie denied Elauf employment because she wore a headscarf to her interview that Abercrombie says conflicted with its dress code.  But Abercrombie did not tell Elauf of the dress code during the interview so Elauf did not know to request a religious accommodation allowing her to wear it.  Abercrombie then argued that Elauf never brought it up, so Abercrombie should be off the hook.  The Supreme Court found that Abercrombie at least suspected that Elauf wore the headscarf for religious reasons and it could have easily offered her the accommodation of allowing her to wear it.  This case makes it clear that employers can’t just put their head in the sand when it appears an applicant may request a religious accommodation.

This is an update on Jon’s original blog post from March 2, 2015 titled We Don’t Allow Hats. You Got A Problem With That? .  Click on the title to read the original post.

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Retaliation At Al Jazeera

Jon Allison

Monday Blog
Last week, Matthew Luke, a former employee of Al Jazeera America, filed a lawsuit in New York alleging retaliation for complaining of discriminatory conduct on the basis of gender and religion.  According to the lawsuit, Osman Mahmud, senior vice president of broadcast operations and technology, engaged in discriminatory conduct toward female employees, including terminating them without any legitimate reason, taking them off projects and excluding them from meetings, emails and other company communications directly related to their work.  He also allegedly made anti-Semitic comments.  At a December 2014 meeting, high ranking officials within the company discussed the fact that “they had no choice but to accept and deal with Mr. Mahmud’s offensive and discriminatory conduct because he was so well connected within the company.”  In February 2015 Luke began reporting to Mahmud and began receiving direction to remove work from female employees and take them off of email chains.  Luke complained to Diana Lee, executive vice president for human resources.  The company acknowledged that numerous other similar complaints had been made about Mahmud.  Just 10 days later Luke was terminated and told he did not fit into the company’s culture.  After the lawsuit was filed early last week, the company abruptly announced that Lee and Dawn Bridges, executive vice president for communications, were leaving the company.  Sounds like they didn’t fit in either.  For more information read this blog.

No Equal Pay At Farmers

Last week a class-action lawsuit was filed in Northern California on behalf of female attorneys against Farmers Insurance claiming it pays female attorneys significantly less than male attorneys for the same work.  According to the lawsuit, male attorneys are paid more, given higher profile work assignments, and more frequent pay raises and promotions.  Named Plaintiff Lynne Coates says she is being paid less than male attorneys with “decades less” experience.  She says one male attorney with similar experience is being paid nearly twice as much for the same work.  She also says that when she complained to her boss she was demoted to a paralegal position.  Read more here.

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