FRIDAY FLURRY: UPDATES ON NEWS FROM THIS WEEK

Posted in: Employment Law by Dowling Aaron on

Albertsons Pays $210,000 to Settle National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit

 By: The Saqui Law Group and Heather Domingo

Albertsons, Inc. agreed to pay $210,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the grocery retailer prohibited Hispanic employees from speaking Spanish around non-Spanish speakers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleged that an Albertsons store in San Diego instructed all employees that they could not speak Spanish anywhere on the premises, including during breaks. Supervisors were accused of publicly threatening to discipline employees for speaking Spanish. When an employee called the Albertsons’s hotline to complain about the supervisor’s conduct, she was told she needed to speak English because she was living in the United States.

In addition to paying the settlement amount, Albertsons was ordered to take steps to prevent future discrimination. Those steps included providing training to managers, supervisors, and personnel, hiring human resources to do annual audits relating to complaints involving discrimination and harassment, and creating a record-keeping procedure that tracks harassment and retaliation complaints.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

This case is another reminder for employers to review their policies and practices to make sure they are not discriminating, or have the appearance of discriminating, against employees based on national origin.  Even policies that have the unintended effect of discriminating against employees on the basis of a protected category can result in significant liability. If you have questions or concerns about your company’s policies and practices, contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a Division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Pay $10 Million to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit

By: Nathan Kingery

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (“JPL”) agreed to pay $10 million and revamp its employment practices to settle an U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) lawsuit alleging JPL’s layoff and rehiring policies had an adverse impact on employees 40 and older when conducting layoffs and rehiring. A copy of the EEOC announcement can be found here.

JPL agreed to a three-year monitoring program, during that time EEOC representatives will check the laboratory’s compliance. JPL also agreed to provide age discrimination training to workers and hire a diversity director, the EEOC announced.

According to the lawsuit, since at least 2010, the world-famous Southern California laboratory systematically laid off employees over the age of 40 in order to retain younger workers. The complaint also alleged that older employees were passed over for rehire in favor of less qualified, younger employees. Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). The settlement money will go into a fund for the employees who allegedly faced discrimination.

JPL didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing in the agreement, which was initially reached in April.

“We commend JPL for its willingness to commit to compliance with the ADEA, for already making proactive efforts to implement much of the injunctive relief, and for taking measures that will have a positive impact on older employees,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District. “We encourage other employers to follow JPL’s lead and review their hiring and recruitment policies and practices to make sure they are in compliance with federal law.”

JPL is based in La Canada Flintridge, just north of Los Angeles. It manages NASA’s Deep Space Network, a worldwide system of radio antennas that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft. It also has operated Mars exploration missions.

COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:

This case illustrates the importance for employers to eliminate barriers in recruitment, especially targeted group-based recruitment and avoid employment practices that discriminate against or adversely impact racial, ethnic and religious groups; older workers; specific gender groups, and people with disabilities. If you have questions or concerns about your company’s hiring and recruitment policies and practices, please contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group, a Division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.

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