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December 2010 Archives

Reporting A Child Labor Violation In Texas

State laws and federal laws prohibit children under the age of 18 from working long and excessive hours and ensure that a child is not employed in an occupation or manner that is detrimental to the child’s safety, health, or well-being. Under the Texas Child Labor Law, children under the age of 14 cannot be employed unless they get special authorization by the state, as stated by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas Workforce Commission has adopted specific rules that authorize the employment of children under the age of 14 if they are performers in a motion picture or a theatrical, radio, or television production. These rules contain provisions that are designed to ensure that employment does not interfere with a child’s education.

Apple Accused Of Age Discrimination

Age discrimination in the workplace seems to be a heated issue in the tech industry. Information Week reports that a 2001 study by Techies.com found that more than two thirds of tech professionals over the age of 45 believe that age discrimination is a significant problem. Most recently, a former Apple retail store employee in his 60s accused Apple Inc. of age discrimination. The former employee is now filing a lawsuit against the company.

Dollar General Employee Claims She Was Fired For Taking FMLA Leave

A store manager at Dollar General alleges that she was terminated after taking time off to care for her sick husband, who was receiving cancer treatment. According to the Southeast Texas Record, she said that her husband needed chemotherapy treatments every 14 days, so she requested leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, FindLaw states that covered employees can take as much as 12 weeks off in a 12-month period in order to handle personal or family medical problems. FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more workers, who have employed 50 or more workers for at least the past 20 weeks. In the case with the Dollar General store manager, the plaintiff Susan Sizemore claims that she was approved for FMLA but that the company's regional manager refused to give her assistance to cover the store.

Houston Unemployment Rate Now At 8.6 Percent

The unemployment rate in the Houston area rose to 8.6 percent in November 2010 after holding a steady unemployment rate of 8.2 percent for the prior two months. Yet the Houston Business Journal reports that the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area is continuing to add jobs around the holiday season.

The Business Journal cited a report released by the Texas Workforce Commission, which stated that there were about 10,900 non-agricultural jobs added to the Houston area last month. Most of these new jobs were in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. Unfortunately, the thousands of new jobs in the metropolitan area were outweighed by 11,700 people in Houston that joined the ranks of unemployment last month.

TWC Encourages Equal Employment Opportunity Training

Houston employers that are looking to avoid discrimination and harassment lawsuits may want to look into Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) training that is provided by the state of Texas. The Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission writes that they offer a variety of comprehensive EEO training programs.

The purpose of the training programs is to provide supervisors and managers of companies with an understanding of EEO. The EEO training programs cover legal issues, including guidelines for hiring, administering evaluations, disciplinary action, terminations and layoffs. The Civil Rights Division offers the EEO training at the requestors site at a minimum cost. The length of the training varies, but is usually from four to eight hours depending on the program.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Cheesecake Factory

A former employee of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Brandon, Florida claims that he was a victim of sexual harassment while working as a line chef for the company and is now taking legal action over the matter. The 42-year-old man has filed a federal lawsuit against the restaurant chain and is seeking compensation for "mental anguish and loss of dignity," as stated by Brandon News and Tribune.

The plaintiff Michael Knight claims that other line chefs in the Cheesecake Factory continually grabbed each others' buttocks and genitalia and simulated sexual intercourse in front of him. He says that he was mocked, punished, and later terminated from his position after expressing discomfort with such behavior.

Discrimination Suit Against FMC Technologies Results With Hung Jury

Past and present employees of the company FMC Technologies claim that they were subjected to racial discrimination on the job and decided to file a lawsuit against the company that asked for $120 million in damages. KHOU News reports that plaintiffs in the case included seven African-American employees that said they were victims of extreme forms of racial harassment.

During one instance, employees said that they found two nooses hanging from the company's shipping dock. Racist name-calling, KKK symbols, confederate flags and swastikas were allegedly in the workplace as well. Employees stated that a lawsuit was filed after FMC Technologies failed to take appropriate action.

ACE American Accused of Wrongfully Denying Workers' Comp Claims

Did ACE American Insurance Co. improperly deny claims in some Texas workers' compensation cases? The Insurance and Financial Advisor reports that the Texas Insurance Department's Division of Workers' Compensation says that ACE American did not meet mandatory payment deadlines on some workers' compensation claims in 2008 and in 2009.

High Unemployment Rate For College Graduates

The unemployment rate for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1 percent last month, which USA Today reports as the highest unemployment rate among college grads since the year 1970. The national unemployment rate also rose to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent last month.

A high unemployment rate among college graduates could be problematic around the country and in the state of Texas, because students often graduate from college with loans. Not being able to pay off student loans or other bills could drive some individuals into debt. Economists now know that times are tough when the college unemployment rate is at a 40 year low.

Hotel Employee Claims Retaliation After Filing EEOC Complaint

Mark Reed claims that he worked as a maintenance employee with La Quinta Inns & Suites Inc. for 11 years, but the man is now suing his employer claiming that he was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation because of his disability.

The Southeast Record reports that Mark Reed is disabled and suffers from a deformity of his left arm and left hand. The employee claimed that he was called derogatory names such as "short-handed" while working with La Quinta and felt humiliated because of his disability. After filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the man claimed that he was retaliated against by having his workload increased and having his overtime opportunities reduced.

Sexual Harassment Claims In Williamson County

Two former female employees of Williamson County that worked under now-retired County Court-at-Law Judge Don Higginbotham claim that they were victims of sexual harassment when working with the judge. The Austin American-Statesman reported that the two women have filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and that the former employees are now suing for damages.

In this case, the plaintiffs are former court reporter Kimberly Lee and former court secretary Sharon McGuyer. On one occasion, Don Higginbotham allegedly told one of the plaintiffs to "come here, that he needed help going to the bathroom because it was too heavy for him to hold it up," according to the lawsuit. The judge also allegedly uttered profanity and other sexual comments.

Millions of People to Lose Unemployment Benefits This Month

Nearly two million people across the country will no longer be receiving unemployment benefits this month, as Congress voted not to renew extended jobless benefits by November 30. Unless Congress changes its mind, MSNBC reports that benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end.

People that are jobless will still be able to collect benefits, but compensation will expire after just six months of unemployment. This puts millions of unemployed individuals in a financially unstable position right before the holiday season.

Frito Lay Employee Files Age Discrimination Suit

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or older based on their age. One 52-year-old employee at Frito Lay is filing an age discrimination suit against the company, alleging violations of ADEA.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that the employee Ismail B. Dhanani was a temporary worker with Frito Lay in Sherman and that he had expressed interest in obtaining a permanent position with Frito Lay on several occasions. Ismail B. Dhanani claimed that his supervisor stated that the permanent accounting positions required a Certified Public Accountant qualification. However, the employee argues that the company hired a 23-year-old female for the position who was not a CPA.