Articles | Cases

Things you should know

Charges filed with EEOC hit record high in Fiscal 2011

Discrimination charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have hit another record. According to the EEOC's annual Performance and Accountability Report, released Nov. 15, 2011, the agency received 99,947 charges of employment discrimination in fiscal year 2011, the largest number of charges filed in one year since the agency was established in 1965.

The report revealed that the agency also had a record 10% reduction in the EEOC's backlog of pending cases and $364.6 million in back pay and penalties paid to victims of workplace discrimination. In addition, the EEOC's private-sector national mediation program hit a milestone by collecting more than $170 million in monetary benefits for plaintiffs and by resolving 9,831 cases-another record.

Since 2009, the agency has added more than 200 employees to its staff.

FMCSA delays publication of proposed HOS changes

Publication of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) proposed changes to the Department of Transportation's hours-of-service rule - originally due Oct. 28 - has been delayed. The proposed changes, which would reduce the maximum daily driving time and on-duty time for commercial drivers as well as add restrictions on weekly driving limits, was forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget for review on Nov. 1.

Studies on shift workers:

Young shift workers have increased risk of developing MS

Shift work at a young age is linked to an increased risk of multiple sclerosis, suggests a new study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Researchers analyzed data from two previous studies and found that people younger than 20 who had worked shifts between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. for at least three years had a twofold increased risk of MS, compared with those who never worked such shifts.

The study, published in Annals of Neurology concluded that the increased risk of developing the central nervous system disease stems from off-shifts disrupting the younger workers' circadian rhythms and sleep patterns.

Shift work may put women at risk for heart disease

Female shift workers may be at greater risk for heart disease, finds research from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Researchers examined 227 female hospital workers ages 22 to 66 for metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of factors - including abdominal obesity and high blood pressure -that increase the risk of heart disease.

Researchers found a connection between age, length of employment and risk. Almost 75% of women working shifts for more than 15 years had metabolic syndrome, compared with 8% of women with less than six years of shift work. The condition may be linked to the disruption of biological rhythms and rest patterns associated with shift work, researchers suggested.

NIOSH expands list of disease resources for emergency responders

NIOSH on Nov. 2 released updated resources to help prevent emergency response employees from exposure to infectious diseases.

In addition to previously recognized diseases such as HIV, hepatitis B and tuberculosis, the list now includes anthrax, cutaneous, novel influenza A and other influenza strains with pandemic severity index greater than or equal to 3, hepatitis C, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), smallpox, vaccinia, varicella disease and select agents.

Study links solvents' exposure to Parkinson's disease

Exposure to certain chemical solvents may increase a worker's risk of Parkinson's disease, according to a study from the Parkinson's Institute, a nonprofit research organization. Researchers analyzed the occupational histories of 99 sets of twins in which one twin developed Parkinson's and found a link between the neurodegenerative disorder and exposure to the industrial solvents trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene.

The risk for developing Parkinson's was six times greater for participants exposed to TCE and nine times for those exposed to TCE or PERC, according to a press release from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, which funded the study.

TCE is commonly used to degrease metal parts, and PERC is used by most dry cleaners.