April was a little light on court rulings, but the other two branches of government have made some news as well. Here are some of the highlights of ongoing and recent court decisions and agency updates:
Staffing in the News: A U.S. District Court ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay more than $750,000 in legal fees to a staffing firm against whom the EEOC had pursued a discrimination case, even when the agency’s own experts couldn’t prove a pattern of discrimination. The EEOC charged Peoplemark of western Michigan with having a blanket policy against hiring anyone with a felony on their record. Peoplemark denied it had such a policy, and proved that of the 286 individuals the EEOC represented in the suit, 22% were actually hired.
The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress earlier this month. It was introduced in 2009 and defeated in 2010, and its chances don’t look much better in this Congressional session. However, it’s not a bad idea to review the Equal Pay Act, which is the law of the land (the Paycheck Fairness Act would’ve amended it), and make sure your business is in compliance. And if you’re worried about one of your clients in this area, this might be a good time to talk about that.
A new law in New Jersey makes it illegal for companies to advertise job openings that include wording to the effect that only applicants who currently have a job will be considered. In this economy, it seems especially cruel to exclude applicants who might be a great fit for a job but have been laid off. You might also point out to your clients that your associates’ current work habits and abilities are being proven with every assignment.
The Social Security Administration began sending out its “no-match” letters again earlier this month. These letters notify an employer that the Social Security number on an employee’s W-2 doesn’t match the SSA’s records. The agency had stopped sending them out in 2007 due to legal action over various Department of Homeland Security rules, and there’s still some confusion over what employers are required to do after receiving such a letter.
While the EEOC was doing wrong against a staffing firm, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has started doing right by 21 employees of an animal hospital in Ohio. The hospital paid its employees their owed wages and overtime—but then required the employees to pay back the overtime in cash! The DOL has filed an injunction against the company to get back the $85,000 in overtime wages owed to the employees.
And finally, we end, as we so often do, with cheese. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ruled that a cheese-making plant was in the wrong for firing a female employee for fighting when two men who had fought at the plant had received only 3-day suspensions. The board ordered the company to pay the woman almost $39,000 in owed wages. But to us, the most compelling part of the story is the fact that when the two men fought, one of them hit the other in the head with a 20-pound block of cheese. For the other guy’s sake, we hope it was Swiss.