Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
Federal laws prohibit employers from basing employment decisions on a variety of factors, including “sex.” This term is not defined, leaving its interpretation to change and expand with social changes and court decisions. The central entity creating and applying these interpretations is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which administers and enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a variety of subsequent laws. On July 15, EEOC reaffirmed its present interpretation, in an enforcement decision in which the plaintiff claimed he was denied access to a promotion because he’s gay (Baldwin v. Foxx). The EEOC’s order includes a clear summary of the agency’s approach to sex discrimination cases:
Federal laws protect individuals against job discrimination based on a variety of “protected classes” of characteristics. Most represent physical characteristics, such as race, sex, and disability. In addition, however, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship.
You’ve likely heard it said that “everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten.” Well, that includes the benefits of taking a nap in the middle of the day, which has been shown to improve attitudes and enhance the ability to learn and manage tasks. Young children and elderly persons tend to nap, and napping is an important aspect of many cultures. However, as a nation, the United States appears to be becoming more and more sleep deprived. General reluctance to take naps may be attributed to a busy lifestyle and the demands of the North American workplace, or to the idea that napping will interfere with our nighttime sleep, or the stigma that napping equals laziness and results in poor productivity.
Last weekend’s disastrous earthquakes in Nepal are a reminder that natural disasters can strike anywhere. Employers can and should plan for a broad range of events, and can apply guidance from occupational safety and health agencies standards when doing so. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers with specified activities to prepare and implement emergency action plans (EAPs), provides guidance for EAPs, and recommends that all employers prepare these plans. Employers can use this structure to prepare for earthquakes.
The founder and principal of Northland Properties Corp. (“Northland”), Bob Gaglardi and his son, Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland were found guilty, along with Northland, of two counts of “unlawfully carrying on a work or undertaking that resulted in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat along the foreshore of Kamloops Lake” contrary to the federal Fisheries Act (R. v. Northland Properties Corp., 2014 BCPC 251 (BC Prov. Ct.). The charges related to land clearing and placing of fill on seven of Northland’s properties. The Crown alleged the work was performed unlawfully by Northland’s servants and under the direction of the Gaglardis. Both Northland and Tom Gaglardi denied they intended to cause the resulting damage to fish habitat, pleading that “the project supervisor for the work, Jim Parks, exceeded the directions he had been given on the project regarding landscaping.” They did admit that they had failed to be duly diligent in supervising the project, resulting in the damage to the fish habitat. Bob Gaglardi pleaded he was only briefly and peripherally involved in the project and thus, was not guilty. The Court held that there was sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit him on the charges.
As most readers know, employers have very broad responsibilities to provide their employees with a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards.” To meet this Employer’s General Duty, employers must do more than just identify and comply with applicable safety standards issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its equivalent (I discussed this general provision here). Employers also must take other – unspecified – steps to identify and “recognize” unregulated hazards. One important version of these steps is to watch for non-binding recommendations from OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and other credible organizations in industry, government and academia,
The revision of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems Standard is now in its final stages. The Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) will be released soon for the membership to vote for approval or reconsideration—and voting will continue for two months, at which time, the FDIS will be approved as is, or sent back to the ISO Environmental Management Technical Committee 207 (ISO/TC207). Due to the lengthy and deliberate process built into reviewing and updating ISO standards, it is rare for an FDIS not to be approved.
My most recent blog provided a short summary of chemical evaluation and reporting requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. These requirements apply when a manufacturer or importer is preparing to introduce a “new chemical substance” into commerce in the U.S., to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with information to evaluate whether chemical hazards require regulatory restrictions (up to and including outright bans) to provide adequate protections to human health and the environment. TSCA does not include any blanket requirement for ongoing studies or updated evaluations of an “existing chemical substance” after it has entered commerce—including those already in commerce when TSCA took effect, so some chemicals have never undergone a regulatory review of their hazards.
The Tax Court of Canada reviewed the requirements for a directors’ resignation to be effective in the context of potential personal liability for the corporation’s failure to remit source deductions under the Income Tax Act in determining that a resignation document prepared by corporate counsel was sufficient, even though the directors never saw the document (Gariepy v. The Queen, 2014 TCC 254). In this case, Donna Gariepy and Sally Chriss agreed to act as directors of 1056922 Ontario Limited (“105”) at the urging of their husbands, Derek Gariepy and George Chriss, the actual managers of 105. The directors’ husbands had been directors of CG Industries (CGI) that had become insolvent and owed significant unremitted source deduction amounts to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).