Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
LEGAL BRIEF: Channel 25 (Oklahoma) Settles EEOC Race and Sex Bias Suit
OKLAHOMA CITY – KOKH-TV (Fox 25) in Oklahoma City will pay $45,000 and additional consideration to a veteran African-American TV news reporter to settle a race and sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced on March 3rd. The settlement terms are set forth in a proposed Consent Decree, approval of which is pending before the Court.
The EEOC charged that Phyllis Williams’ employers, KOKH and its parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, paid her lower wages than comparable white female reporters and male reporters of all races, and subjected her to unequal terms and conditions of employment until August 2007, when she signed an employment contract for a higher salary. Sinclair and KOKH had routinely offered employment contracts to other reporters at Channel 25. Williams has reported for Fox 25 since 1996.
Fox Broadcasting Company, which has an affiliate agreement allowing the station to use the Fox name, did not employ Williams and was not a party to the lawsuit.
Race and sex discrimination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC, et al. v. KOKH, et al., Case No. 5:07-cv-01043-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
After the EEOC filed its charges, Williams intervened in the EEOC’s suit and added a retaliation claim under a separate civil rights statute known as Section 1981, which prohibits race discrimination and retaliation for reporting the same. KOKH and Sinclair agreed to resolve her Section 1981 claim in a private settlement for consideration in addition to the $45,000 being paid to resolve the Title VII claim.
In addition to monetary payment, during the three-year term of the consent decree KOKH and Sinclair must post an anti-discrimination notice, disseminate an anti-discrimination policy, and provide live training on preventing sex and race discrimination on at least an annual basis to all KOKH employees.
“This decree will remind KOKH Channel 25, Sinclair and all news organizations to treat their employees equally as required by law, including women and people of color, who traditionally have been the victims of job discrimination,” said Barbara Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Oklahoma. “The notice posting and training required by the consent decree will go far in educating the station’s managers on their employees’ right to work in an environment free of race and sex discrimination.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
LEGAL BRIEF: Don't Empower Me When Things Go Wrong!
In this legal brief, a Black electrician was fired when lighting equipment was damaged on a project. He didn't oversee the work crews, but was made responsible for it anyway.
Oh, the white supervisor and white foreman were in charge of the work crew, which was also a non-Black work crew.
Double Oh, all the Whites and non-Black workers kept their jobs. The Black electrician was the only person shown the door. For details, see below:
Salem Electric Company Sued By EEOC For Race Discrimination: Company Fired Black Employee Because of His Race, EEOC Charges
WINSTON-SALEM , N.C. – A Winston-Salem, N.C. –based, family-owned and operated electric company discriminated against a black electrician when it fired him because of his race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on February 14th.
According to the EEOC’s suit, around Dec. 17, 2007, Salem Electric Company terminated Rodney Tonkins’ employment as a journeyman electrician, alleging that he was responsible for a crew of employees who damaged light fixtures on a light installation project. The EEOC contends in the suit that as a journeyman electrician, Tonkins did not supervise work crews and therefore was not responsible for the damaged light fixtures. Instead, according to the EEOC’s complaint, the company’s superintendent and foreman, both white, were in charge of the project and the crew workers. Neither of those individuals, nor the non-black employees who actually caused the damage to the light fixtures, was terminated.
Discrimination on the basis of race violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Winston-Salem Division (EEOC v. Salem Electric Company, Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-00119), after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. In its suit, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Tonkins. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Salem Electric from engaging in further racial discrimination.
“This case is a reminder to employers that fair and equal treatment of its employees must be applied in all phases of employment, including addressing performance concerns,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes of the agency’s Charlotte District Office. “The EEOC will continue to vigorously protect the rights of workers who are targeted for adverse treatment based on race or other illegal factors.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
IN THE NEWS: Out of Work, Out of Luck? EEOC Examines Employers’ Treatment of Unemployed Job Applicants at Hearing
“Throughout its 45 year history, the EEOC has identified and remedied discrimination in hiring and remains committed to ensuring job applicants are treated fairly,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “Today’s meeting gave the Commission an important opportunity to learn about the emerging practice of excluding unemployed persons from applicant pools.”
According to Helen Norton, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, employers and staffing agencies have publicly advertised jobs in fields ranging from electronic engineers to restaurant and grocery managers to mortgage underwriters with the explicit restriction that only currently employed candidates will be considered. “Some employers may use current employment as a signal of quality job performance,” Norton testified. “But such a correlation is decidedly weak. A blanket reliance on current employment serves as a poor proxy for successful job performance.”
“The use of an individual’s current or recent unemployment status as a hiring selection device is a troubling development in the labor market,” said Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment of the National Women’s Law Center. She noted that this practice “may well act as a negative counterweight” to government efforts to get people back to work. Women, particularly older women and those in non-traditional occupations, are disproportionately affected by this restriction, testified Goss Graves.
Denying jobs to the already-unemployed can also have a disproportionate effect on certain racial and ethnic minority community members, Algernon Austin, Director of the Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy of the Economic Policy Institute, explained. Unemployment rates for African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are higher than those of whites. When comparing college-educated workers, the unemployment rate for Asians is also higher. Thus, restricting applications to the currently employed could place a heavier burden on people of color, he concluded.
The use of employment status to screen job applicants could also seriously impact people with disabilities, according to Joyce Bender, an expert in the employment of people with disabilities. “Given my experience, I can say without a doubt that the practice of excluding persons who are currently unemployed from applicant pools is real and can have a negative impact on persons with disabilities,” Bender told the Commission.
Dr. William Spriggs, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy, offered data supporting this testimony. Spriggs presented current national employment statistics showing that African-Americans and Hispanics are overrepresented among the unemployed. He also stated that excluding the unemployed would be more likely to limit opportunities for older applicants as well as persons with disabilities.
“At a moment when we all should be doing whatever we can to open up job opportunities to the unemployed, it is profoundly disturbing that the trend of deliberately excluding the jobless from work opportunities is on the rise,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. In addition to presenting statistical evidence, she recounted stories unemployed workers have shared with her organization where they were told directly that they would not be considered for employment due to being unemployed.
James Urban, a partner at the Jones Day law firm, who counsels employers, expressed doubt as to the extent of the problem. Fernan Cepero, representing the Society of Human Resource Professionals, told the Commission that his organization is not aware of this practice being in regular use. But both Mr. Urban and Mr. Cepero noted that the automatic exclusion of unemployed persons from consideration does not constitute “due diligence” in the screening of job applicants.
The EEOC enforces the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov. Materials from this Commission meeting, including statements and biographies of the witnesses, may be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-16-11/index.cfm.