DOL in Action
Expanding Opportunities for Native Americans
In an effort to improve access to good jobs for all Americans, the department announced the availability of approximately $60 million in grants for programs serving Native Americans under the Workforce Investment Act. The department anticipates awarding a total of 178 grants, including approximately $47.5 million for adult programs and $12.4 million for youth programs to provide academic, occupational and literacy skills development for all participants, making them more competitive in the workforce. The program is also designed to promote social development and economic self-sufficiency in accordance with tribal communities.
Providing Young Ex-Offenders a Second Chance
Young people who have been involved in the juvenile justice system should not be marginalized in the labor force. That is why the Labor Department announced the availability of approximately $20 million in grants to help youth gain critical education and training skills to improve their long-term labor market prospects. "Mistakes made at a young age should not mean a lifetime of lost opportunities," said Secretary Solis. "Through the grants announced today, young people who have gone through the juvenile justice system will have a second chance at getting on the right track." Programs funded through this grant will provide young ex-offenders with mentoring and case management services that can guide them to jobs in high demand industries and occupations.
Department Settles Bias Charges with NCS Pearson
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announced that federal government contractor NCS Pearson Inc. has agreed to settle allegations of hiring discrimination on the basis of race involving 67 applicants of Asian descent who were rejected for associate software developer positions at the company's Iowa City, Iowa, facility. Under the terms of the agreement, the contractor will pay $100,000 in back wages and interest to all affected job seekers and offer associate software developer positions and retroactive seniority to at least four class members as positions become available. Additionally, the company will revise its selection policies and procedures to ensure equal employment opportunities for future applicants.
Union Pacific Railroad in Violation of Federal Railroad Safety Act
Union Pacific Railroad Co. and a railroad official have been ordered by the U.S. Department of Labor to pay $20,000 in punitive damages, $3,500 in compensatory damages for emotional distress and $1,323 in attorney's fees to an employee at the railroad's Pocatello, Idaho, facility. The order resulted from an investigation by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration that determined the company violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act by retaliating against a locomotive engineer who had reported he was too sick to continue working safely and needed medical attention.
$256,000+ in Retirement Assets Sought for Heartland Foods
The department has filed a complaint in federal court in Indianapolis seeking to restore $256,457.08, plus lost opportunity costs, to the Heartland Foods Inc. 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan. Based on the findings of an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration, the complaint alleges that co-owners Karen S. Curry and Danny Woods failed to properly manage the plan's assets by comingling employee contributions with the company's general operating accounts, in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Florida's Manatee School for the Arts Sued in Whistleblower Case
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sued Renaissance Arts and Education Inc., doing business as Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla., to reinstate a former employee with full back wages and benefits. The lawsuit resulted from an OSHA investigation that found the privately run charter school had unlawfully and intentionally terminated the worker's employment for voicing and reporting concerns regarding hazards in the school's two theaters activities that are protected by the whistleblower protection provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Wage and Hour Focuses on Louisiana Child Care Providers
An enforcement initiative focused on the child care industry in northern Louisiana, where widespread noncompliance with the minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act have been found, is being conducted by the Wage and Hour Division.
Oil Service Rig Company Cited After 2 Deaths, Injuries
Carlson Well Service Inc. in Powers Lake, N.D., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with three violations for exposing workers to unsafe conditions at an oil service rig. An inspection was opened after an explosion killed two workers and seriously injured two others.
Silicon Plains Technologies Sued to Restore Pension Funds
The Labor Department is suing Silicon Plains Technologies Inc. and former CEO Greg McCormick to restore $36,631.88 in employee contributions and $1,943.79 in loan repayments from employees' paychecks that were withheld but never forwarded to the company's 401(k) pension plan. The lawsuit follows an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration that found employees' plan contributions had been commingled with the general assets of the company, a violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
OSHA Cites Houston Firm for Safety Hazards
Piping Technology and Products Inc. in Houston has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for one willful and nine serious violations, with proposed penalties of $118,000, following a health inspection that found numerous violations. The serious health violations include failing to perform a personal protective equipment assessment, and to identify and evaluate respiratory hazards.
Painters, Sandblasters in Port Arthur, Texas, Receive Back Pay
Performance Blasting and Coating of Port Arthur, Texas, has paid $170,622 to 314 current and former painters and sandblasters following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime and record-keeping provisions. The investigation revealed that the employer paid workers "straight time" for all hours worked and failed to pay them for time spent traveling in a company vehicle on their way to and from work locations.
G & J Enterprises Cited After Worker Injured During Trench Collapse
Morrow, Ohio-based G & J Enterprises has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with three safety including one willful violations, after a worker suffered a back injury when a trench caved in during the installation of an 8-foot-deep sewer line in Loveland. Proposed penalties total $49,200.
New York Contractor Cited for Exposing Workers to Asbestos Hazards
Avon, N.Y.-based contractor John K. and Associates Inc. have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 17 serious health violations carrying proposed fines of $71,400 for exposing workers to asbestos hazards at a Rochester work site. An inspection by OSHA found that the employer failed to identify and determine the level of asbestos exposure, establish a regulated area in which to perform the asbestos work, and provide the workers with asbestos training, respirators and protective gear.
Labor Department Files Suit for ERISA Violations
The Labor Department has filed a lawsuit against the trustees of the pension plan, annuity fund and vacation fund of Exhibition Employees Local 829 of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees in New York for numerous violations of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act following an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The suit alleges that the defendants violated their fiduciary duties as trustees by engaging in a series of prohibited financial transactions between 2006 and the present.
OSHA Proposes $178,000 in Penalties for Yogurt Manufacturer
Agro Farma Inc. has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 34 alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards at its New Berlin, N.Y., facility. Inspections by OSHA found instances of mechanical, electrical and fall hazards, missing or inadequate energy control procedures and training for employees, inadequate confined space training and labeling, deficiencies in the plant's process safety management program and a failure to provide audiometric testing for employees exposed to excess noise levels. The manufacturer of Chobani Greek Yogurt faces a total of $178,000 in proposed penalties.
Hotel/Motel Industry Enforcement Initiative Launched
The Wage and Hour Division has launched a concentrated enforcement initiative focusing on the hotel and motel industry in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Investigations by the division's Dallas District Office in 2011 found misclassification of employees as independent contractors and systemic violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping violations.
Olde Atlanta Recycling Cited for 23 Safety and Health Violations
Olde Atlanta Recycling of Cumming, Ga., has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 23 safety and health violations following a complaint received in November. The violations include improper use of PVC piping to transport compressed air, exposing workers to laceration hazards and electrical deficiencies. Proposed penalties total $69,200.
Tennessee's Countryside Veterinary Services Pays Back Wages
Following an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division, Countryside Veterinary Services in Louisville, Tenn., has paid $61,097 in back wages to 11 employees who were denied overtime pay. The employer also failed to maintain proper records of the number of hours worked by employees.
OSHA Finds Railroad Retaliated After Injury Reported
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined that Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. violated the employee protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act by taking retaliatory action against an employee who reported a workplace injury. OSHA found that the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, interfered with the worker's medical treatment and forced him to work in violation of his physician's orders. OSHA has ordered Metro-North to pay $10,000 in punitive damages to the worker and $8,830 in attorney's fees, and to expunge any adverse references relating to the employee's exercise of his FRSA rights from his personnel, safety and department files. Metro-North also must post an OSHA notice for employees on its internal website.
Florida Companies Cited by OSHA for 17 Safety Violations
Merlin Industries Inc. and Thermal Concepts Inc. of Davie, Fla., have been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 17 safety violations following a September inspection. These involve failing to certify periodic inspections of energy control procedures, unguarded equipment and electrical hazards. Proposed penalties total $59,100.
New Jersey Union Official Sentenced for Embezzlement
An Office of Labor-Management Standards embezzlement investigation has led to penalties for a union official. Kevin McKnight, former secretary-treasurer of United Transportation Union Local 1390 in Laurence Harbor, N.J., was sentenced to four months of community confinement, four months of home confinement and three years of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution. The OLMS investigation found that McKnight embezzled approximately $68,000 in union funds through checks to cash, checks to himself and unauthorized expenses.
Alabama's Stella-Jones Corp. Cited Following Fatality
Stella-Jones Corp., a manufacturer of railroad ties, has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 16 safety, including one willful, violations, following the crushing death of a worker who was caught in a machine at the company's facility in Warrior, Ala.
IFCO Systems North America Cited for Multiple Violations
Houston, Texas-based IFCO Systems North America has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for serious and repeat violations, with proposed penalties totaling $163,900, for exposing workers to safety and health hazards in San Antonio. Serious violations include failing to refit employees for, and retrain them on, hearing protection and to secure dock boards when they were driven over by forklifts.
Calif. Restaurant Ordered to Pay $404,000 in Back Wages, Damages
A U.S. district court judge has ordered a buffet-style Chinese restaurant in Sunnyvale, Calif., to pay $201,950 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 32 employees. The order results from a Labor Department lawsuit against United Buffet Inc., operating as Crazy Buffet, and its manager after the restaurant refused to pay $44,569 in unpaid minimum wages and $157,380 in overtime compensation for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The restaurant issued paychecks but required employees to return their wages, keeping only tips; did not pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a week; and falsified records of time, attendance and pay.