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April 2011 Archives

Digital Evidence in a Discrimination Lawsuit

If you feel that you’re experiencing discrimination in your place of work, then perhaps it’s best to start documenting proof of the employment discrimination by saving all of your work-related text messages and emails. Some employees will go as far as secretly recording conversations in their office or even videotape illegal behavior in their workplace without anybody else’s knowledge.

ABC News reports that an outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Houston estimated that one third of people who come into the Houston EEOC office bring some form of digital evidence with them. These forms of digital evidence can include photographs, video recordings, emails, Facebook posts, and other electronic messages.

CARTS Settles Lawsuit With Edwin Graning For $21,000

Edwin Graning, a former bus driver with Capital Area Rural Transportation System, recently won a $21,000 settlement after refusing to drive two women to a Planned Parenthood clinic last year. It’s no surprise that the driver was fired from his position with CARTS after refusing to transport clients, but many legal experts still do not believe that his situation was considered a from of wrongful termination as Graning had claimed.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, CARTS decided to settle the lawsuit filed by Graning after determining that the cost of defending the suit could exceed the settlement amount. The settlement bars Graning from ever seeking employment again with the transportation system, which serves the nine-county area around Austin.

Texas Unemployment Rate Drops to 8.1 Percent in March

Everything is bigger in Texas, including rates of employment and job growth. According to a Texas Workforce Commission press release, the state added 37,200 new jobs to the workforce in March, dropping the statewide unemployment rate down to 8.1 percent.

This is significantly lower than the national average unemployment rate in March, which was sitting at 8.8 percent for that month. The Houston metro area reportedly has an unemployment rate slightly above the state average at 8.3 percent, but this isn’t too worrisome because job growth in the region is clearly improving.

Age Discrimination Filed Against Orkin Pest Control

Most people who are 67 years of age are out of work and well into their retirement years. However, this doesn't have to be the case for all older workers.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that 67-year-old Norman Cowger filed an age discrimination suit against his former employer Orkin Pest Control in the Eastern District of Texas, claiming that he was terminated from his manager position because of his age.

Levi Strauss Ordered To Pay Back Wages to Nearly 600 Employees

America’s favorite denim company has apparently not given proper pay to hundreds of its employees, which has led up to some legal issues. Reuters reported that the U.S. Labor Department found that Levi Strauss & Co violated federal overtime provisions, where an investigation revealed that the company failed to record all the hours employees worked in its payroll system.

Several groups of workers with Levi Strauss were misclassified as exempt from overtime pay, meaning some employees should have been earning more money by not having to work “off the clock.”

Texas Tied With Mississippi For Most Minimum Wage Employees

Hourly wages aren't so high in Texas. Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 9.5 percent of Texas workers are paid at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. This makes the Lone Star state tied with Mississippi for the state with the highest proportion of hourly-paid workers earning at or below minimum wage levels.

Perhaps the worst news of all is that the state is seeing more low wage workers getting paid at or below minimum wage levels each year. According to the Houston Chronicle, about 550,000 Texans were getting paid these low wages, which is up by 76,000 workers from that of 2009. The median wage for hourly workers in Texas was at $11.20, which is below the national median of $12.50. Hence, it looks like employers in Texas might need new efforts to pay their workers higher wages.

Employee Claims Disability Discrimination in Suit Against Comcast

Daniel Antley claims that he worked for Comcast of Houston LLC and its predecessor Time Warner for nearly a decade before being fired without reason in December 2010. The former employee is now taking legal action against Comcast through a lawsuit that alleges that the termination was a form of retaliation based on long-term disability, reports The Southeast Texas Record.

Antley filed a lawsuit against Comcast in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas. In his lawsuit, Antley claims that he applied for and received short-term disability while he underwent back surgery in August 2007, which required him to be out of work for at least six months. However, Comcast reportedly instructed the employee to come back to work after just four months, according to the Record.

Victoria Firefighters Terminated Over Nude Photos at Station

The Houston Fire Department is not the only fire department in the state of Texas that has faced problems regarding allegations of a hostile work environment and subjecting employees to sexual harassment. Firefighters in Victoria, TX recently complained about their work environment by claiming that provocative photos were displayed at Victoria Fire Station No. 2, according to the Victoria Advocate.

The city of Victoria decided to act quickly in this situation and fired two firefighters after an investigation revealed that they had been responsible for displaying the inappropriate photos, according to the Advocate.

Starting a Business Could Be As Easy As Selling Lemonade

It's never too early or too late to start your own small business. In tough economic times, maybe going it on your own rather than scrambling for just one more job is an idea we can all consider. In fact, kids and adults alike can even get a taste of the benefits and challenges of being an entrepreneur by setting up their own lemonade stand.

Lemonade Day, a community-wide initiative to teach children how to start and operate their own business, occurs each May. According to Greene County News, this initiative first took off in Houston in 2007 and has since spread to other cities. Last year, the city of Houston had 27,000 lemonade stands on Lemonade Day and two million glasses of lemonade were sold. Perhaps it's time to stop collecting Unemployment Insurance and start selling lemonade.

Should All Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave?

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers with more than 50 employees are required to provide up to 12 weeks of leave for workers who must take care of certain medical needs. However, the law doesn't require this time off to be paid time off.

Yet certain cities across the country are trying to create their own laws that would require employers to provide paid sick leave. The Milwaukee Business Journal reports that voters in Milwaukee approved a law in 2008 that would require employers with at least 10 employees to let workers in the city of Milwaukee have up to nine days of paid sick leave. Companies with fewer than 10 workers must provide up to five paid sick days. This law, however, has not yet gone into effect.

McDonald's Easing Unemployment By Adding 50,000 Jobs to Workforce

If you’re unemployed and actively looking for a job, then you may want to consider picking up an application at McDonald’s. According to CNN Money, the company is planning a one-day hiring spree, with the fast-food chain stating that they plan to add 50,000 new employees to its workforce on April 19.

While most people probably don’t see McDonald’s as the most desirable employer to work for, the company brags that McDonald’s offers medical benefits, opportunities for advancement, and flexible working hours. The new jobs being offered are also not all just over-the-counter positions, but management positions as well. It might not be a bad idea to see what’s specifically being offered.

ENDA Reintroduced in U.S. House of Representatives

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts reintroduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last week, but it seems to be unlikely that the bill will pass during the current Congressional session because of the conservative majority. reports that ENDA legislation has been introduced in every Congress but one since 1994, but so far the bill has failed to make it past the legislature.

The Human Rights Campaign is one of the main organizations behind ENDA. The group has stated that passage of this bill would create federal protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Many U.S. states have state laws to protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but no such law exists at the federal level or in the state of Texas. Hence, many people in the Houston community have been pushing for the passage of ENDA for over a decade.

Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International, has been accused of making a store employee do a pole dance as well as displaying pornographic images in the workplace. If true, this would be a classic example of a hostile work environment, which is why one employee is taking legal action in New York against Duffy, Marc Jacobs International, and corporate parent LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

NBC News reports that the plaintiff in this case is the company’s ex-Chief Operating Officer Patrice Lataillade, who claims that he was fired from the company after he complained about the hostile work environment. However, the company denies this claim and has stated that Lataillade was fired over “serious matters” unrelated to his allegations. Duffy has also stated that the company plans to fight the Lataillade’s sexual harassment claims vigorously.