Voudris Law Blog

North Carolina Hotel to Pay $45,000 in Religious Discrimination Settlement

     A hotel group has agreed to pay $45,000 to settle a religious discrimination charge filed by the EEOC. The hotel group was charged with refusing to provide a religious accommodation for one of their employees who had requested to have all Sabbaths off from work. Initially the request was honored until a change in management took place, after which her requests for religious accommodation were ignored.  She was then fired.   In addition to providing monetary relief to the employee, the hotel group will implement policies designed to prevent religious discrimination and conduct training on anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination laws.  The hotel group will also be required to report any future requests for accommodation to the EEOC.  See Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Landmark Hotel Group, LLC d/b/a Comfort Inn Oceanfront South, No. 4:12-cv-158 (E.D.N.C.).  

EEOC Settles Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Charges

     A Lexington, North Carolina restaurant, The Silver Diner, has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit. The EEOC filed the lawsuit after the restaurant allegedly subjected a waitress to a sexually hostile environment, such as the restaurant co-owner rubbing up against her.  The restaurant limited the waitress’s hours and then fired her after she complained about the harassment.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and retaliation for complaining about discrimination. In addition to paying the $25,000 settlement, the restaurant, under a five year consent decree, will conduct annual training that will focus on sexual harassment and retaliation.  See Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Silver Diner, Inc., No. 1:12-CV-01002 (M.D.N.C.).

EEOC Sues Extended Stay Hotels for Sex Discrimination

     The EEOC has sued Extended Stay Hotels in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for allegedly paying their male employees higher wages than their female employees, even though they all performed equal work, in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Latoya Weaver worked as a guest services representative for five years at Extended Stay Hotels.  Extended Stay Hotels, however, allegedly paid new male employees more than it paid Ms. Weaver, even though they allegedly performed equal work.  The EEOC is seeking equitable relief that provides equal employment for the female employees as well as lost wages, punitive and compensatory damages, and other affirmative relief for the female employees who were affected by the wage discrimination.  See EEOC v. HVM L.L.C., dba Extended Stay Hotels, No. 8:13-cv-01980 (D. Md.).

EEOC Files Lawsuit Against Lifecare Medical Services

     The EEOC has filed suit against Lifecare Medical Services in Cleveland, Ohio under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Lifecare Medical Services allegedly fired an employee because of his Multiple Sclerosis after he requested additional leave time for his disability.  additional leave as a reasonable accommodation for his MS, but instead was issued disciplinary actions for absences related to his disability.  In October 2010, Adair requested, as a reasonable accommodation, additional points under the company's no-fault attendance policy.  Lifecare Medical Services responded to the request for accommodation by firing Adair on Oct. 13, 2010.  See Case No. 5:13-cv-01447 (N.D. Ohio).

Sales Tax On Attorney's Fees

     Can you believe that Ohio's Governor has proposed a 5% sales tax on attorney's fees?  If enacted, this proposal could require employees like you to pay sales tax on any attorney's fees that they pay to enforce their employment rights.  Additionally, you would have to pay sales tax when you need to hire an attorney for legal services such as to write a will or administer an estate, to adopt a child or get divorced, or to file for bankruptcy.  I am a member of bar associations that have spoken against this legislation, such as the Ohio State Bar Association and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association.  We believe that it places an unnecessary burden on Ohio workers and impedes access to the legal system.  Hopefully, the proposal will not become law.  I will keep you informed of the status of this proposal. What can you do???  Contact your state representative and ask him or her to vote against a sales tax on legal services.

Top Rated Lawyer in Labor and Employment

     American Lawyer Media and Martindale-Hubbell™ recently selected me as a 2013 Top Rated Lawyer in Labor & Employment.  American Lawyer Media is a leading provider of news and information to the legal industry.  

Illegal For Employer To Take Portion Of Tips

     With rare exception, it is illegal for an employer or supervisor to take a portion of a waiter or bartender's tips. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, "tips remain the property of the employee that received them and the employee cannot be required to turn over his or her tips to the employer."  U.S. DOL Fact Sheet #15A.  Although tip pooling among certain employees is permitted, a "valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly receive tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors."  U.S. DOL Fact Sheet #15.

Arbitration Agreements

     Upon hiring an employee, some employers require the signing of an arbitration agreement.  By agreeing to arbitration, the employee may waive the right to a jury trial even if the employer engages in illegal activities, such as discrimination, years later in the employment relationship.  Instead, if the arbitration agreement is valid, any dispute would be resolved by an arbitrator, who often is a retired judge or other lawyer (rather than a jury of the employee's peers).  An employee should consider any requirement to sign an arbitration agreement when weighing job offers.  

Complaining To Co-Workers About Work Conditions

      The National Labor Relations Act protects workers from being fired or disciplined for discussing or complaining about work conditions with fellow employees.  Although the Act generally governs union activities or efforts to form a union, Section 7 of the Act applies to non-union work places as well.  It provides:  "Employees shall have the right . . . to  engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection."

Severance Agreements

     When terminating employees, the employer often asks the employee to sign a severance agreement, where the employee agrees to accept a nominal sum of money in exchange for releasing his or her right to sue for employment discrimination and other types of wrongful termination.  If your employer asks you to sign a severance agreement, you should have an attorney review it and advise you of your rights.  



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