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UBER BACKGROUND CHECKS MISSED CRIMINAL RECORDS

“The background-check service that ride-hailing company Uber uses to screen potential drivers did not flag the criminal records of 25 drivers who gave thousands of rides to customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The findings were made public in an amendment to a consumer protection lawsuit filed last year by the district attorneys for Los Angeles and San Francisco. The suit alleges that Uber has misled customers about the safety of the app-based ride service, including how they screen potential drivers.

In the amended 62-page civil complaint, prosecutors detailed the criminal histories of 25 people who gave rides to passengers in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the last two years.

“I support technological innovation,” San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a prepared statement. “Innovation, however, does not give companies a license to mislead consumers about issues affecting their safety.”

The Times reported this month that four Uber drivers cited at Los Angeles International Airport had criminal records that would bar them from driving a taxi in Los Angeles.

Whether ride-hail drivers should be held to the same background-check standards as taxi drivers has been the subject of hours of testimony at Los Angeles City Hall, as lawmakers prepare to vote on a permit process that would allow Uber and its main competitor, Lyft, to pick up passengers at LAX.

Prospective Uber drivers are not required by state law to submit fingerprints as part of their background checks. The company says its background-check service identifies all criminal convictions in the last seven years.

By contrast, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation runs the prints of potential taxi drivers through federal criminal databases.

Uber and Lyft use services that can process screenings within days. They have both argued that using fingerprint checks would be redundant.

In a prepared statement, Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend said that no background check is “100% foolproof.” Running fingerprints through state and federal databases can flag the criminal records of people who have been arrested but not convicted, “which can discriminate against minorities,” she said.

According to the amended lawsuit complaint, one driver was convicted of second-degree murder in Los Angeles and spent 26 years in prison. He gave a different name when he applied to drive for Uber, and a background report said he had no known aliases and no criminal history, the complaint said. The driver gave 1,168 rides over seven months, according to the prosecutors’ court filing.

Using fingerprints and checking federal databases would have identified the man’s criminal history, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said they found three unlicensed drivers who used someone else’s account to drive for Uber.

Five drivers had convictions for driving under the influence in the last seven years, the complaint said, and some still drive for Uber. The company has said it bars applicants with convictions for DUI in the preceding seven years.

Several drivers were convicted of fraud, including one driver convicted in 2010 of 29 felony counts of theft, grand theft, filing false or fraudulent real estate deeds, and money laundering, according to the complaint.”

ANOTHER CIRCUIT COURT RULES PAID SUSPENSION IS NOT ADVERSE EMPLOYMENT ACTION FOR TITLE VII

“Addressing an issue of first impression, the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania), recently held that an employee’s suspension with pay is not an adverse employment action for purposes of Title VII. In doing so, the Third Circuit has joined several of its sister Circuits across the country, including the Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Circuits.

The case, Jones v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authorityinvolved an employee who was suspended with pay while her employer investigated allegations that she had submitted fraudulent timesheets. She didn’t suffer any loss of income or compensation. She was off workwith pay. Nevertheless, the employee sued her employer claiming, among other things, sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

In evaluating whether or not the paid suspension could be considered discriminatory, the Third Circuit observed that Title VII prohibits discrimination with respect to decisions concerning hiring, firing, compensation and other terms and conditions of employment. Because suspending an employee with pay does not neatly fall within these categories, the court concluded that such a paid suspension could not be an adverse employment action for Title VII purposes. The lack of an adverse employment action similarly negated the plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim.

All in all, the decision is good for employers and ensures that those who do go the extra mile to suspend with pay do not get burned for doing so. Although the decision does not guarantee that an employee will not sue over a paid suspension, it does effectively curtail a Title VII claim in this context – and particularly in the Circuits that have adopted this rule. And doing so makes perfect sense: it smacks of unfairness that a company which pays an employee on leave might then be forced to also pay to fend off a discrimination or harassment claim filed by the very same employee who was on the paid suspension.

Practically, what does this case mean for employers? They have a choice to make: (a) pay the suspended employee and eliminate the potential for a discrimination claim; or (b) choose not to pay the suspended employee and accept the risk that the employee – and a court – would find the lack of payment as an adverse employment action.

Whatever choice employers make, they also must make certain they handle similar decisions uniformly and not in a way that would be perceived as discriminatory: selectively suspending some employees with pay but not others (i.e. those who are not be in protected classes) would only create a bigger problem. As with everything in the employment arena, employers constantly must evaluate the risks and benefits of their individual actions, while simultaneously keeping the big picture in mind.”

Originally posted by The National Law Review. Article can be found at http://www.natlawreview.com/article/not-all-good-deeds-are-punished-paid-suspension-not-adverse-employment-action-title-

TRUCKING FIRM TO PAY UP IN EEOC PRE-EMNPLOYMENT EXAM CASE

“An Indianapolis trucking firm has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability discrimination case, in which it was charged with requiring pre-employment medical exams.

The EEOC said Tuesday that Indianapolis-based Celadon Trucking Services Inc. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by subjecting applicants to medical exams before making a conditional offer of employment, and discriminating against applicants based on disability or perceived disability.

The agency said that on June 30, the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis ruled that the company violated the ADA by conducting unlawful medical inquires and exams of applicants for over-the-road truck driving positions, and that in two cases, it unlawfully dismissed two class members from a driver orientation program because of their disabilities, in violation of the ADA.

In addition to paying $200,000 in damages to 23 former Celadon applicants, the settlement requires the company to train its management employees on disability discrimination, among other provisions.

“The law is clear: Celadon cannot subject applicant drivers to disability-related inquiries and medical examinations without first extending to these applicants a conditional job offer,” said Laurie A. Young, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Indianapolis district office, in a statement.

“Celadon’s policies must conform to the requirements of the ADA. We are satisfied that this settlement serves the public interest, and we are confident that the relief obtained will prevent the recurrence of this type of discrimination,” Ms. Young said.

Celadon’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Earlier this year, an Arkansas trucking firm was ordered to pay $477,399 in an EEOC disability discrimination lawsuit in which it was charged with subjecting its truck-driver workforce to overly broad medical inquiries.”

Originally posted by Business Insurance. Article can be found at http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20150804/NEWS06/150809951/trucking-firm-to-pay-up-in-eeoc-pre-employment-exam-case?tags=%7C338%7C70%7C75%7C80%7C83%7C302

SEC CLARIFIES WHISTLE BLOWER PROTECTIONS AGAINST EMPLOYER RETALIATIONS

“The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued an interpretive rule clarifying that whistleblowers are protected by retaliation by employers even if they have not reported their concerns to the SEC first.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 included a section offering incentives and protections to individuals who report possible violations of the federal securities laws, including protections against employer retaliation. The SEC issued rules in 2011 spelling out how the whistleblower protections would work, but there was some ambiguity when the SEC specified how whistleblowers should report a tip to the SEC in order to qualify for a whistleblower award, and those who would be protected from employer retaliation.

In particular, questions arose over whether an employee who first reported the matter internally to their employer, such as a compliance department, would be protected from retaliation from that same employer, or only those who reported directly to the SEC.

“Our interpretation best comports with our overall goals in implementing the whistleblower program,” said the SEC in the rule it issued last week. “Specifically, by providing employment retaliation protections for individuals who report internally first to a supervisor, compliance official, or other person working for the company that has authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct, our interpretive rule avoids a two-tiered structure of employment retaliation protection that might discourage some individuals from first reporting internally in appropriate circumstances and, thus, jeopardize the investor-protection and law-enforcement benefits that can result from internal reporting. Under our interpretation, an individual who reports internally and suffers employment retaliation will be no less protected than an individual who comes immediately to the Commission. Providing equivalent employment retaliation protection for both situations removes a potentially serious disincentive to internal reporting by employees in appropriate circumstances. A contrary interpretation would undermine the other incentives that were put in place through the Commission’s whistleblower rules in order to encourage internal reporting.”

The Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection advocacy organization, and Labaton Sucharow LLP, a law firm that specializes in securities class-action lawsuits, wrote a letter Tuesday to SEC chair Mary Jo White thanking her for the interpretive rule, but also asked for further protections.

They pointed out that the new rule clarifies that any disclosure protected by the Sarbanes Oxley Act is shielded from retaliation under its Whistleblower Program. In effect, according to them, protection extends to disclosures within a corporation, to other law enforcement audiences, or to the public. Protection also extends to any violation of federal law, not just those enforced by the SEC. However, they cautioned that the SEC should take additional measures to address the remaining vulnerabilities they identified in a petition last summer to the SEC.

“Our July 2014 petition emphasized that new and creative forms of corporate prior restraint are preventing disclosures from happening at all, making academic the issue of subsequent retaliation,” wrote GAP legal director Tom Devine and Labaton Sucharow partner Jordan Thomas. “Merely presenting employees with nondisclosure agreements creates a chilling effect, and there are no rights for refusing to agree—only for violating one with protected speech. Further, corporations regularly file breach of contract lawsuits, theft of corporate records actions, and other litigation attacks outside the employment context. Realistically, to prevent a chilling effect on the flow of evidence necessary for SEC oversight, it is necessary to go beyond interpretations that restrict harassment of incumbent employees.” ”

Article posted by Accounting Today. Original article at http://www.accountingtoday.com/news/audit-accounting/sec-clarifies-whistleblower-protections-employer-retaliation-75468-1.html