Disability Discrimination Claims On The Rise According to EEOC

New data obtained from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests that employees are filing more disability discrimination complaints. Here is what we know about the report:

  1. For example, in Texas: although disabled persons make up 17.5% of the workforce, 30% of the complaints filed with the EEOC in 2016 were those having to do with disability discrimination.
  2. In 2016, a total of 28,073 disability complaints were filed. 
  3. After the EEOC investigated those complaints, 5,680 were found to have been supported by evidence. 
  4. $131 million was collected and distributed to those who were discriminated against.

What caused the increase in disability discrimination complaints?

Though it’s possible that there has been an increase in overall discrimination, it’s more likely that the increase has to do with the fact that those being discriminated against feel more confident to report their claims. Good news, considering many disabled individuals probably already feel like the process of getting interviews and then getting hired is hard enough. Discrimination such as harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and being refused promotions may go underreported if the individual fears losing their job and starting the hiring process over again.

More importantly, many temporarily disabled employees are wrongfully terminated when they request some time off or other reasonable accommodation.  Many employers will fire a disabled employee because they have exhausted their FMLA leave or don’t qualify for FMLA leave.  This is illegal in most situations.   

As a disabled worker, it’s important to remember that you are entitled to certain accommodations. If you feel that you are being discriminated against by your employer, don’t suffer quietly alone. Instead, consider contacting an employment attorney to assist you with building a factual case against your employer.

*image by Marc Fulgar

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Obama Orders Paid Sick Leave for Government Contractors

President Obama recently signed an executive order that will require government contractors to be given at least seven paid sick days a year. For every 30 hours worked, contractors will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave. The new regulations will go into affect starting in 2017 and will affect around 300,000 people. 

Some studies have shown that paid sick leave not only contributes to friendlier worker relations and increased loyalty, but it is especially beneficial to workers with families. As Obama nears the end of his second term, the White House has been working diligently to expand access to paid leave. In addition to the most recent executive order, Obama has also directed the following changes this year:

1. In January 2015, Obama issued a presidential memorandum to advance up to 6 weeks of paid sick leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

2. Obama is currently pushing Congress to pass a law that would grant government employees 6 additional weeks of paid maternal leave.

3. Obama is pressing Congress to pass The Healthy Families Act which would require any business with 15 or more people, to give employees up to 7 paid sick days per year.

The United States is the only advanced nation that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. As it currently stands, only 60 percent of the total private-sector workforce in the United States, has access to some sort of paid sick leave.  In California, mandatory paid sick leave went into effect on July 1, 2015.  Over a decade ago, California also instituted paid family leave, but those funds come from the taxpayers, not employers.

What do you think of government mandating sick and family leave pay by employers?

*image by Marc Nozell, Flickr

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Home Improvement Company Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination

The CEO of Carl’s Fencing, Decking and Home Improvements and his wife are being sued by a former employee for pregnancy discrimination. Ashley Meyer, the plaintiff, claims that she was harassed by Carl and Donna DelPizzo, the defendants, when she informed them of her pregnancy. She said she was then fired after she took time off after her premature son was released from the hospital.

Meyer was hired by the DelPizzos in January 2014 as the Marketing Coordinator. According to the complaint, Meyer was asked if she had children during her interview. Under New Jersey state labor law it is against the law for a prospective employer to ask this. 

When Meyer became pregnant a few months after being hired, she said her $57,000 was cut in half. In addition to the pay cut, she began experiencing harassment in the workplace. The harassment included making comments about her hair and makeup, being rude and abrasive, and saying she had a “baby brain” when she made mistakes at work. 

When Meyer returned to work after the birth of her son, she was demoted from Marketing Coordinator to a part-time administrative sales assistant who primarily answered phones. When Meyer found out her premature son was being released from the hospital, she told the DelPizzos she would be taking six weeks of leave to be with her baby. Though Meyer is protected under the Family Leave Act (and she gave the DelPizzos 30 days notice,) they tried to convince her to continue working for the company part time. When she refused, they refused to tell Meyer whether or not she would have a job when she returned from her leave. Meyer was let go in March 2015. 

Under the Family Medical Leave Act “FMLA”, parents have 12 months from the birth of their baby to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  In addition, a company with 50 or more employees cannot fire an employee for taking unpaid leave to care for a family member or baby. 

How prevalent do you think pregnancy discrimination is in the workplace?

*image by KT Lindsay, Flickr

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Oprah Winfrey’s TV Network Sued for Employment Discrimination & Wrongful Termination in Los Angeles

Oprah Winfrey’s TV network OWN is one of the latest celebrity owned companies sued for wrongful termination and discrimination.  Former employee and Senior Director Carolyn Hommel filed suit against OWN in Los Angeles Superior Court.  Hommel alleges she was replaced by a temporary employee after going on pregnancy leave.

A month after giving birth, Hommel alleges that OWN “laid her off” after she had already been demoted and given an undeserved bad review.

Under California law, most employers are not allowed to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for taking pregnancy or disability leave.  The question is did OWN fire Hommel for other reasons.

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Price is Right Model Gets $8.5 Million Award for Pregnancy Discrimination

“The Price is Right” has been hit with an $8.5 million jury verdict for pregnancy discrimination against former “Barker Beauty” model Brandi Cochran.  The 41 year old former Price is Right model says that she was not allowed to return to work after her maternity leave in violation of California law.

The Los Angeles jury determined the former model’s pregnancy was the reason she wasn’t rehired and awarded Cochran $776,944 in regular damages and $7.7 million in punitive damages.  In their defense, producers FremantleMedia North America and The Price is Right Productions said they were satisfied with the five models working on the show at the time Cochran sought to return.

“I’m humbled. I’m shocked,” Cochran said after the jury announced its verdict. “I’m happy that justice was served today not only for women in the entertainment industry, but women in the workplace.”

The producers will appeal the verdict stating: “We believe the verdict in this case was the result of a flawed process in which the court, among other things, refused to allow the jury to hear and consider that 40 percent of our models have been pregnant,” and further “important” evidence.

This was not the first employment lawsuit by a “Barker Beauty” against the show’s producers.

What do you think of this huge verdict for failing to bring back an employee who went on pregnancy leave?

Please post your thoughts on ShiraziLawFirm.com/blog

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