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June 2011 Archives

A former employee of the U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch filed a lawsuit against the company in a Northern California federal court his week, alleging religious discrimination. Reuters reports that the plaintiff in this case, Hani Khan, now has support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Kahn claims that she was fired from her retail job at Abercrombie for wearing a religious head scarf, or hijab, even though she was told that she would be able to wear the head scarf when she was hired in October 2009. But four months into Kahn’s employment, a pair of managers asked her to remove the hijab while working and terminated her when she refused to do so.

Employees can always sue their employers if they’re denied wages or if they’re victims of wage and hour violations. But due to the passage of Senate Bill 1024, employers in Texas can now be subjected to severe legal penalties for wage theft that involve more than just paying out a large sum of money.

El Paso Times reports that SB 1024, the Wage Theft Bill, makes it easier for law enforcers to arrest and for prosecutors to charge employers who cheat workers out of their pay. The law specifically closes a loophole that at one time allowed employers to avoid criminal theft-of-services charges if they were making minimal payment to their workers.

Employee Fired For Too Many Absences -- Is This Violation of FMLA?

An employee of Nestle Waters in Tyler, Texas claims that he was terminated from his position as a forklift driver in June 2009 after he had too many absences from work. Now through a lawsuit, the ex-employee is claiming that he was denied medical leave and is alleging violations of the Texas Labor Code and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the complaint.

According to The Southeast Texas Record, the employee Ruben Correa suffered from an on-the-job injury when he stepped off the forklift and twisted his right leg in March, 2008. He underwent surgery after the accident and returned to work two months after the surgery, but said that he was still in pain from the injury. The employee claims that he was denied requests to be placed in another position and was also denied additional requests for medical leave.

Best Buy Settles Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

Walmart is not the only retail company that faced a class-action lawsuit that alleged sex discrimination. America’s largest electronics retailer, Best Buy, was recently accused of employment discrimination as well. According to Reuters, Best Buy agreed to settle the class action suit last week that was brought against them in California. The company will now pay as much as $10.3 million to the plaintiffs and their lawyers with this case.

The Best Buy lawsuit was filed in 2005 by eight current and former employees along with one job applicant. Together, the nine plaintiffs alleged that the company denied desirable job assignments and promotions to African-American, Latino and female employees.

Supreme Court Blocks Walmart Class Action Lawsuit

Employee rights groups and gender equality organizations have expressed disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court decision this week. This anger and frustration comes after the majority of the Supreme Court panel sided with Walmart yesterday in the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history.

According to Forbes, the court held that the 1.5 million female employees of the class action suit are too diverse and failed the test of commonality that is required in class action cases. In other words, there’s not enough evidence that all 1.5 million employees suffered from the same type of discrimination, as the class consisted of both former and current employees, both management and labor, in various metro areas.

Unemployment Update: Houston Jobless Rate at 8.2 Percent

The unemployment numbers are now in for May 2011, with Texas Workforce Commission data revealing that the Houston metro area has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. This is slightly higher that the state’s unemployment rate of 8.0 percent, but at least it is far below the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.

Houston Chronicle reports that the local unemployment rate for May increased slightly from April’s 8 percent rate of unemployment. However, it should be noted that the Texas jobless rates are adjusted for seasonal variations, such as holiday and school schedules. The reported Houston jobless rate is not seasonally adjusted.

A federal jury recently awarded $95 million to Ashley Alford,a former Aaron’s Inc. employee, in a very disturbing sexual harassment case in St. Louis. Forbes reported that this might be a record breaking verdict to a single plaintiff, where the associate was awarded $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages.

Perhaps this case will encourage more victims of sexual harassment in the workplace to speak up when they’re sexually harassed or subjected to a hostile work environment. With the case against Aaron’s, the plaintiff Ashley Alford alleged that her supervisor Richard Moore held her down and ejaculated on top of her. According to the Madison County Record, Alford claimed that the company had knowledge of her supervisor’s conduct, but that no action to discipline or remove Moore from his employment was taken.

Ashley Furniture HomeStores to Pay Back Wages to Employees

Ashley Furniture HomeStores might sell nice furnishings, but perhaps they should make their understanding of federal wage laws as highly polished as their furniture.

After federal investigators found that Ashley Furniture HomeStores in Texas violated several provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the owner of the store agreed to pay more than $57,000 in back wages to 170 present and former employees of the company's Texas stores in Lubbock, Amarillo and Midland, as well as employees in Hobbs, New Mexico. According to Lubbock Avalance-Journal, the key executive with the store group is claiming that the wage and hour violations were not deliberate and arose from a lack of knowledge of federal wage regulations.

At the age of 69, Sue Jeans allegedly lost her job as a clerical office worker after nearly two decades of employment with Central Title Co., reports The Southeast Texas Record. Jeans claims that she was terminated from her position in January and then replaced by a younger employee. For this reason, Jeans feels that she's been a victim of age discrimination and has filed a lawsuit against Central Venture, which does business as Central Title.

Not only is Jeans claiming age discrimination in her lawsuit, but she also alleges that the defendant retaliated against her after she filed a workers' compensation claim for an on-the-job injury.

Lawsuit Filed Against CPS For Unpaid Overtime Wages

Investigators and caseworkers who are employed with Child Protective Services in Texas work hard to protect children. But the hard work apparently translates to employees working off the clock. According to the Houston Chronicle, a U.S. Labor Department lawsuit alleges that the state of Texas owes more than $1 million in unpaid overtime wages to CPS employees.

The Labor Department claims that its investigation found that 800 current and former employees of CPS worked certain hours for no pay at all and that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' Child Protective Services Division told their employees not to record all of the hours that they worked.

OSHA Finds Repeat Violations at Sam Kane Beef Processor Inc.

A Texas meat processing company could be ordered to pay $61,000 in penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued multiple citations for safety hazards that were found at the company’s facility in Corpus Christi.

According to Claims Journal, Sam Kane Beef Processor Inc. employs 800 workers at the Corpus Christi location. Serious violations that OSHA found in December 2010 at the facility included failing to ensure the safe and proper use of step ladders, failure to keep floor surfaces free of water, and failure to provide an adequate and timely emergency response plan for night shift workers. OSHA also issued a repeat citation at Sam Kane Beef Processor for failing to provide guardrails for work areas more than 4 feet above the ground.

Former Life Time Fitness Trainer Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Dirty text messages and inappropriate touching may just be leading a Minnesota-based gym into a great deal of legal trouble. Lisa Ryan Flores of Cypress, TX claims that she was subjected to inappropriate and unwanted sexual behavior while she worked as a trainer at the Life Time Fitness, reports The former trainer is now seeking damages in a lawsuit that include back pay, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Among the accusations in the lawsuit, Flores claims that her team leader at Life Time, Todd Buckland, put his hand down her pants and sent her unwanted text messages outside of work late at night. The alleged behavior reportedly took place in July 2009 while Flores worked at the company’s Houston City Centre location.

Most Mothers Don't Take More Than 12 Weeks of Maternity Leave

Only 10 to 20 percent of new mothers who give birth remain at home with their babies until they reach the age of one year, reports In fact, most mothers will return to work at their job within just one to twelve weeks after giving birth.

Perhaps this is because the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only protects covered employees with job security for up to 12 weeks. FindLaw states that this federal law will let employees take time away from work to handle family or medical needs, but that this leave doesn’t have to necessarily be paid leave.