Tag Archives: Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission

The NEOC Is Slow To Investigate Claims, Here Are Some Alternatives For Employees Dealing With Discrimination On The Job

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The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission (NEOC) is taking at least upwards of 7 ½ months to assign investigators in employment discrimination cases. In practical terms, this means that discrimination charges wait months before they are investigated, and claimants can wait for over a year for those investigations to conclude from the time they file a charge.

So what is going on and why does it matter? What can employees who believe they were discriminated against on the job do to prosecute cases in the meantime?

Delays at the NEOC

Currently the NEOC is experiencing staffing shortages. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has instituted a state employee hiring freeze and that freeze appears to have impacted the NEOC. A renewed attention to sexual harassment from the #MeToo movement may also be increasing discrimination claims.

What’s the advantage of filing a charge with the NEOC?

In 13 years of representing employees, I believe the primary benefit to filing a charge with the NEOC is to have investigator build a case file. I may quibble with methods or conclusions of the investigations, but the investigations often uncover solid evidence that can be used in later in litigation.

The NEOC is also somewhat helpful in conciliating or settling charges short of trial. There is nothing wrong a prompt resolution of claim that provides closure, certainty and compensation for a wronged employee.

When employees have to wait at least 7-8 months to even have an investigator assigned, wronged employees have to wait for those benefits and, in my opinion, that delay diminishes those benefits that come from filing a charge with the NEOC.

Alternatives to NEOC: OHHR and the LCHR

Employees who work in Omaha or Lincoln, can file charges with Omaha Human Rights and Relations Commission and Lincoln Commission on Human Rights (I have been an LCHR Commissioner since 2014) OHHR and LCHR investigate charges much faster than the NEOC.

At the February meeting of the LCHR three employment discrimination claims were voted on by the Commission. Those claims were filed roughly 60-90 days before the hearing.  OHHR aims to process charges within 100-120 days of filing.

OHHR and LCHR investigators are as good as NEOC investigators and are effective at settling or conciliating claims. OHHR and LCHR also investigate smaller employees that the NEOC can’t. The OHHR also expressly investigates sexual orientation claims while the NEOC would have to shoehorn such an investigation into a “sex-plus” framework.

Why you might not need to file a discrimination charge at all

Nebraska allows employees to file discrimination and retaliation cases directly in state court under Neb. Rev. Stat. 20-148 if they are filed within 300 days of the last act of discrimination. Employees don’t need to file an administrative charge of discrimination with the NEOC, EEOC or any other agency.

There are lots of fair employment laws that don’t require filing a charge with a government agency to file suit. This includes all wage and hour laws, including the Equal Pay Act. Employees also do not need to file a discrimination charge in order to bring a common law retaliation case. Finally, African-Americans do not need to file a discrimination charge to bring an action under 42 USC 1981.

What to do if your claim is stuck at the NEOC

Nebraska law allows an employee to request a “right to sue” letter at any point during the NEOC process. If you jointly file a charge with the EEOC, you can request a right to sue letter on a federal charge after 180 days from filing.

Watch out in disability discrimination cases

Due to recent court decisions in Nebraska about the definition of disability, it is probably prudent for employees in Nebraska to bring charges of disability discrimination under both state and federal law which often times means filing a charge with NEOC and EEOC. The NEOC usually jointly files discrimination charges under state and federal law.

Conclusion

I don’t like writing “pitchy” posts, but because of the backlog at the NEOC, if you feel you have been discriminated or retaliated against on the job in Nebraska, call an experienced employment attorney before you call the NEOC. Bluntly, you may not have a case and you may be making the NEOCs backlog worse by filing a weak claim. But even if you don’t have a strong discrimination claim you can still get advice about a severance agreement, help on an unemployment claim or find out that maybe you have a workers’ compensation or wage and hour claim.

 

If you do have a strong claim, you may not need to file a charge with the NEOC or file a discrimination charge at all in order to pursue your rights in court.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Rule Requiring Disclosure of Labor Law Violations by Federal Contractors Temporarily Blocked by Federal Courts

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President Barack Obama signs the "Fair Pay and Safe Workplace" executive order in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 31, 2014. The President is joined on stage by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez as well as employers who support fair labor practices, workers who have seen firsthand the effects of workplace violations, and advocates who have worked to improve fair pay and safety standards. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplace” executive order in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 31, 2014. The President is joined on stage by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez as well as employers who support fair labor practices, workers who have seen firsthand the effects of workplace violations, and advocates who have worked to improve fair pay and safety standards. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A federal judge in Texas recently issued a temporary injunction against the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. The order would have required contractors applying for federal contracts to disclose any violations of most federal and state labor and employment laws within the last three years in order to receive a federal contract over $500,000.

In an opinion criticized by employees’ groups and hailed by employers’ groups, U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone criticized that the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order overstepped executive authority on a number of grounds, including the fact that the forced disclosure violated the First Amendment rights of government contractors. The order amounted to defamation of certain contractors, which violated their Fifth Amendment liberty interests, and the order’s restriction on the use of arbitration agreement in employment contracts of federal contractors violated the Federal Arbitration Act.

Crone also wrote that the executive order violated congressional intent in how labor laws were enforced, because it forced contractors to settle labor and employment law issues in order to remain eligible for government contracts.

But in my mind, abstract concerns about the rights of contractors pale once actual people are considered. I represented a gentleman who was fired from a federal contractor after he complained about not being paid properly. In fact, he was chased off the premises by the owner of the company with a stun gun, and the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission found in a public hearing, after hearing evidence from both sides, that the company, Midwest Demolition, had retaliated against my client. Earlier this year, Midwest Demolition paid a settlement through a consent decree to the U.S. Department of Labor for not paying their employees overtime. To me, the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order is perfectly suited to deal with egregious employer misconduct.

Judge Crone did not order an injunction against enforcement of the paycheck transparency parts of the executive order, which would require federal contractors to inform workers if they were independent contractors and to fully and clearly explain deductions.

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order is the latest example of the use of executive-branch rule-making to expand employee protections. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court upheld a Department of Labor regulation expanding wage and hour protections to home health aides after it withstood a court challenge from employers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s attempt to limit post-work injury drug testing is currently being challenged in federal courts. Executive rule-making is a consequence of partisan gridlock when Democrats control the presidency and Republicans control Congress. Pundits and political forecasters are anticipating more political gridlock after the election, so executive rules that withstand court challenges could be how employee rights expand for the foreseeable future.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Jon Rehm to Speak on Retaliation at NSBA Seminar on Friday

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Shareholder Jon Rehm will present on whistleblower and retaliation law

Firm shareholder Jon Rehm will present on whistleblower and retaliation law to about 40 other employment lawyers at the annual Nebraska State Bar Association’s annual Labor and Employment Law Seminar. Rehm will present on this topic with Mark Fahleson, a prominent and respected employment defense attorney.

“Preparing for this seminar has crystallized for me the importance of employees acting as soon as possible if they think they have been retaliated against in the workplace. The Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act provides strong protections against retaliation, but employees need to act promptly to pursue those rights,” Rehm said. “Nebraska law favors employees who file a complaint in court or with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission within 300 days of when they were fired or forced to quit.

“The main reason that you want to file a retaliation compliant or charge within 300 days is that an employee can be awarded attorney fees and front pay if they can bring a retaliation complaint under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act.”

However, employees who fail to file a charge or complaint within 300 days may have a legal way to address retaliation as well.

“Nebraska courts have held that certain activities, like filing a workers’ compensation claim or opposing some criminal activities, give employees the right to sue their employer for wrongful termination. This is called the public policy exception to employment at will. These cases have a four-year statute of limitations. You can’t win attorney fees or front pay in these cases, but you can win emotional distress damages and economic damages as well. “

Though the public policy exception cases may not allow employees to collect as much in damages, sometimes they are the only remedy available for a worker, Rehm said.

“The Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act only applies to employers with more than 15 employees. So if you work for a small employer, you can’t bring a case under that act, but you can bring it under the public policy exception. The Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act also only applies if you oppose the illegal or unlawful conduct of your employer, not your co-workers. Under the public policy exception, you can actually bring a case for opposing the illegal or unlawful conduct of your co-workers.

“The other lesson that became evident for me in preparing for this presentation is how retaliation can seem straightforward on the surface but can be incredibly complicated. Preparing for this seminar has given me the chance to reflect on over 10 years of representing employees in retaliation cases.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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NEOC Awards Whistleblower Client Misclassified as Independent Contractor

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justiceI was happy to have the chance to represent Theron Chapman in his whistleblower claim against his former employer, Midwest Demolition. While the Lincoln Journal Star headline of “Man chased from job by manager with stun gun awarded back pay” is catchy, the real story here is that an employee who was fired for complaining of legitimately being misclassified as an independent contractor won some measure of justice from the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.

Mr. Chapman had a legitimate grievance about being misclassified as an independent contractor. Nebraska law explicitly prohibits the type of misclassification that he questioned. In 2010, State Sen. Steve Lathrop, who authored the legislation outlawing misclassification in Nebraska, said in his bill’s statement of intent, as quoted in Truckinginfo: the web site of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine, that:

“When a contractor misclassifies an employee, the employee is ineligible for unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits, loses labor-law protections and does not receive employer-provided health insurance. Misclassification creates an unfair advantage to unscrupulous contractors who are able to outbid law-abiding employers who must take into account the payment of taxes and insurance premiums when bidding for jobs. The State’s loss in revenue negatively affects the funding of essential programs such as unemployment benefits.”

The deeper story here is that people on the margins of the workforce can sometimes vindicate their rights in the workplace. My client was hired through a job lottery at the People’s City Mission, a homeless shelter, here in Lincoln. People in his situation are vulnerable to abuse in the workplace. Not every instance of bad behavior by management is legally actionable, but that is true from the executive suite to low-wage workers like my client. But fair-employment laws can protect people who are being abused in the workplace and do sometimes provided protections to the people who need them the most.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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