Human Resources News

HR NEWS YOU CAN USE – March 2017

In This Issue:

Legal Updates & Reminders

  • The EEOC has reported that for FY2016, there were 91,503 charges of discrimination filed. The top 3 types didn’t change from FY2015: Retaliation (45.9% of all charges); Race (35.3%); Disability (30.7%). For the first time, the EEOC also included detailed information about LGBT charges, resolving 1,650 cases and recovering $4.4M for LGBT individuals who filed sex discrimination charges.
  • EEO-1 Forms: Those of your required to file EEO-1 forms have a reprieve in 2017—the next one will not be due until March 31, 2018.


Pregnancy Discrimination

…good intentions, but bad judgement


A New Quizzler!

…dress code or bias?


Health Tip

…everyone needs a pet!



Good intentions are sometimes punished…

In February 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit settlement between the parent company of Rooms to Go furniture stores and distribution centers, and one of their employees. It is an interesting case, highlighting some important points all employers can learn from.


On June 1, 2015, Chantoni McBryde was hired as a shop apprentice at the company’s temporary training facility in NC.  The job required the use of various chemicals to repair furniture. In June 3, McBryde informed the company’s shop trainer that she was pregnant. Later that day, she was called into a meeting with management and asked if she was indeed pregnant. During the meeting, McBryde was shown a can of lacquer thinner that contained a warning that the contents could potentially pose a risk to a woman or her unborn child, and they discussed the warning with McBryde. McBryde was then told that because she was pregnant, she could no longer work at the facility.


According to EEOC’s regional attorney for the Charlotte District Office where the lawsuit was filed, “If there may be a potential health concern, it is up to the woman and her doctors to evaluate. Companies must not impose paternalistic notions on pregnant women, as doing so can result in unlawful discrimination.”


Could the employer have responded differently, preventing the payment of $55,000 to someone employed for only 3 days? Probably, yes. My suggestions for a better way to handle this situation:

  1. Management should have met with the employee, to discuss the chemical warning.
  2. Provide the employee with a copy of her job description, to take to her doctor to ascertain whether she can perform the essential functions of her job. If so, she should obtain a release from her doctor to work around the chemicals. If an accommodation could enable her to do so, the doctor should suggest that. If so, an “interactive process” should be initiated between the employer and the employee to try and identify a reasonable accommodation.
  3. If handling the chemicals is NOT an essential part of her job, the reality is that Rooms to Go is a huge company, with very deep pockets. It is unlikely they couldn’t have come up with an accommodation that enabled McBryde to avoid working with chemicals directly — if the doctor was concerned about that.


The moral of the story is to always carefully think through any decision to terminate an employee. Avoid rushing to judgement in deciding what is best for the health of an employee, and/or letting concern about company liability cloud a careful evaluation of the situation. Termination may well have been the right answer here, but it appears that the decision wasn’t thoughtfully made and in this case, a consult with their employment attorney before acting would have been appropriate.


A New Quizzler!

Your new male engineer has started wearing women’s blouses to the office. Not surprising, this has become the water cooler conversation….what should you do??

  1. Invite him to come to your office for a private conversation, and suggest that he “man up”.
  2. Ask him where he bought the blouse, as you think your wife might like one.
  3. If he isn’t violating your dress code (by wearing something too low cut or see-through, for example), perhaps saying nothing to him would be best. Meanwhile, try to quiet the water cooler conversation by noting that everyone’s taste is different, and perhaps everyone should be more focused on the work that needs to be done.

We’ll be discussing why one answer is better than the others, in next month’s issue!


Aren’t Pets the Best??

If the constant companionship and unconditional love weren’t enough to make you want to have a pet dog or cat, certainly the health benefits should do it!


Reduce your blood pressure: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertensives can lower their blood pressure by having a pet around. By playing with your dog or cat, you will elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which will help you feel calm and relaxed, and reduce anxiety and stress. Even just petting your pet can help!

Improve your heart health: According to the American Heart Association, owning a pet (especially a dog) is linked to a reduced risk for heart disease. Walking a dog contributes to increased physical activity, which translates into improved cardiovascular health. No surprise that dog owners are more likely to exercise daily than non-pet owners.

Cat lovers out there can benefit, too: You can decrease your risk of a heart attack by 30% by owning a cat and reduce your risk of a stroke by 40%.


If you don’t already own a pet, consider getting one for health reasons – there are so many wonderful dogs and cats in animal shelters everywhere, desperate to be adopted and to help you improve your health!


This newsletter is not intended to provide legal guidance to you. We welcome your input on topics you would like to learn more about, and encourage you to contact the author of this newsletter, Caryl Kuchman, at 803.729.8398 or at canaris@hargray.com if you have questions on any information presented.

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