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November 3, 2014 / Shauna Madison

EEOC Sues Fed Ex for Discrimination Against Deaf Employees

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On October 10, 2014, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (FedEx) for its discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and job applicants. The EEOC asserted that FedEx, a shipping company with over 65,000 ground shipment team members in the US and Canada, failed to provide accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants in violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

According to the EEOC, such accommodations should have included American Sign Language interpretations as well as closed captioned training videos during mandatory new hire orientations. The EEOC also alleged that Fedex failed to provide equipment substitutions and equipment modifications that would better alert deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers of moving objects and electronic notifications.

This lawsuit includes nineteen (19) deaf and hard-of-hearing applicant and employees throughout the country. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with a disability unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship. Here, the EEOC is adamant that Fedex, a company that made over $11.6 billion during the 2014 fiscal year, failed to provide reasonable accommodations as well as show any undue hardship that would arise from such accommodations.

If you or someone you know has been unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a free confidential consultation.

October 21, 2014 / iymanstrawder

Judge Orders Microsoft to Pay $2 Million for Workplace Bullying

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After 7 long years, plaintiff Michael Mercieca finally saw the court order demanding his former employer, Microsoft, to pay him $2 million for bullying him to a near breaking point. After finding the global tech giant culpable for acting “with malice and reckless indifference” for office retaliation against Mr. Mercieca, Texas employment and labor law judge, Tim Sulak, issued a final judgment ordering Microsoft to pay $2 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

For 17 years, Michael Mercieca traveled the globe on Microsoft’s behalf. He was one of the company’s top sales people in Austin and had received numerous awards and positive performance reviews for his sales, long service, and customer service. According to his attorney, Roy Pollack, Mr. Mercieca was as a self-made man who “lived and died for his company.” In 2007, Mercieca’s unblemished record soon deteriorated after he ended a sexual relationship with co-worker Lori Aulds, who later became his direct manager.

After ending their relationship, Aulds would inappropriately comment about her new sexual relationships and insist that Mercieca get involved in her disputes with her new boyfriends, even though it made him uncomfortable. In 2009, the retaliation commenced when Aulds had a sleepover with friend Tracey Rummel, who was soon after hired by Microsoft as a marketing consultant. Together, Aulds and Rummel, created a plan where Rummel would make false accusations that Mercieca sexually harassed her. Rummel passed on her false claim to her boss, National Sales Director, David Tannebaum who passed it on to his supervisor, Vice President Eddie O’Brien.

In response, supervisors Tannebaum and O’Brien began punishing him for missing deadlines off by a few hours and calling Mercieca’s customers to try and dig up negative information about him. In addition, Aulds, Mercieca’s direct manager, cut his expense budget, cut him off from customer communications, and questioned his request s for vacation. Mercieca further noticed that when he was at work, co-workers would scatter, and he was excluded from customer events and conferences. After 5 months of working in this hostile environment, Mercieca filed an internal complaint against Aulds, the other managers, and human resources, alleging that he was being harassed and discriminated against.

In response to his internal complaint, tensions worsened in the workplace. Microsoft conducted a bad-faith investigation that found his complaint unsupported and cut his bonus and stock options. While Aulds, his ex-lover was promoted, Mercieca was demoted and given the worst possible performance review despite the fact that he reached all his sales numbers and was making millions for Microsoft. After 16 months of working under these conditions, Mercieca sent a letter to Microsoft stating that he had been constructively terminated and filed a lawsuit for defamation against Tracy Rummel and wrongful discharge against Microsoft. Two weeks and 600 documents later, the jury found that Mercieca never harassed Rummel and that an HR worker was part of the scheme to help Rummel write the complaint. In response, the jury awarded Mercieca with over $11 million in back pay and benefits. The judgment was later reduced to $2 million, as permitted by law.

If you have been a victim to workplace bullying, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

October 6, 2014 / Shauna Madison

Ten Women Expose California Correction Official’s Tolerance of Male Prisoner Sexual Harassment Against Female Employees

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Ten female employees of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) filed a lawsuit in a California federal court against the CDCR for failing to address their claims of sexual harassment. The ten Plaintiffs alleged that, on multiple occasions, various inmates participated in “inmate exhibitionist masturbation” and other perverse sexual acts. The Plaintiff’s worked as security guards, medical technicians, counselors and other positions at CDCR facilities that required continuous, close contact with male inmates. During their employment at these facilities, the Plaintiff’s alleged that when they told CDCR officials about the sexual harassment they were experiencing, their complaints were ignored.

On September 16, 2014, a federal Judge denied the CDCR’s request to end the litigation. In denying the CDCR’s motion, the Judge noted that there are several factual disputes within the Plaintiffs’ workplace discrimination and civil rights claims that a jury should hear. Some of these disputes included whether CDCR officials knew about the sexual harassment and whether the officials chose to do nothing about the allegations because the complaints were coming from female employees. All ten cases are currently ongoing.

If you or someone you know has been subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a free confidential consultation.

October 6, 2014 / iymanstrawder

Family of Former Professional Football Player sues NFL for his Tragic Suicide

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On Monday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the family of former NFL player, Paul Oliver, filed a lawsuit against the NFL alleging that head injuries caused Oliver’s death. After playing professional football for the San Diego Chargers from 2007 to 2010 and briefly with the New Orleans Saints in 2011, defensive back, Paul Oliver, committed suicide in September of 2013.

According to Court documents, Oliver‘s wife and children witnessed the tragic death of Paul Oliver, who shot himself in the head in front of them in their family home. Including Paul Oliver, nine NFL players have committed suicide since 2010. At the time of his death, Paul Oliver was suffering from undiagnosed brain injuries as a result of repetitive head trauma and concussions while playing professional football.

According to NFL reports, professional football players are more likely to develop severe brain injury at a “significantly higher“ rate than the general population. Retired players ages 50 to 59 year old develop Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at rates 14 to 23 times higher, while retired players ages 60 to 64 increase the risk of developing Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as much as 35 times the rate of the general population.

The complaint alleges that “the NFL has held itself out as the guardian and authority on the issue of player safety.” In response to the manner in which the NFL protects players’ safety, the complaint explains that the “undertaking of this voluntary duty has been at minimum—an unmitigated disaster, and at worst, [an] outright conspiracy to fraudulently conceal.”

In addition to the NFL, the lawsuit also names the New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, and helmet makers as defendants. The family of Paul Oliver seeks damages for fraud, negligence, and wrongful death claims.

If you or someone you know has lost a loved one due to fraud or inattention, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

September 16, 2014 / Shauna Madison

Costco Sued For Creating Sexual Hostile Work Environment

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In a recent lawsuit, Costco, the multibillion dollar global retailer that boasts about its “friendly and supportive work environment,” has failed to live up to its own standards. On August 25, 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of former Costco employee, Dawn Suppo.

The EEOC alleged that Costco discriminated against Suppo “because of her sex by creating and tolerating a sexually hostile work environment of offensive comments of a sexual nature, unwelcome touching, unwelcome advances, and stalking by a customer.” The EEOC also asserted that the work environment forced Suppo to resign from her position at Costco.

Suppo alleged that she repeatedly complained to her managers about the sexual harassment that she was experiencing from the Costco customer. Although Costco managers said that they would monitor the situation, Suppo alleged that after she filed a police report against the harasser, Costco management yelled at her and told her to be friendly to the customer. While Costco has not yet responded to the complaint, its company website claims that it provides a “family atmosphere in which [its] employees thrive and succeed.”

The EEOC reiterated that Title VII “protects employees from sex discrimination, including sexual harassment in the form of stalking on the job.” The EEOC noted that this is “particularly true when the harassment is especially egregious.”

Sexual harassment in the workplace includes unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature from a supervisor, co-worker, client, or customer.
If you or someone you know has been subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a free confidential consultation.

September 10, 2014 / Shauna Madison

Victoria’s Secret Faces $37 Million Lawsuit for Skimping on Wages

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On July 9, 2014, Mayra Casas filed a class action against former employer, Victoria’s Secret, in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The case has since been moved to the United States District Court for the Central District of California because of the possibility of awards for damages entering into the millions territory.

More specifically, this anticipated $37 million claim alleges that Victoria’s Secret has violated several California and Federal labor and business laws. Casas, a former store clerk at the Victoria’s Secrets in the Puente Hills Mall, has worked with Victoria Secret’s since 2010 and asserts that Victoria’s Secret has, on repeated occasions, locked employees inside the store after they have clocked out. Casas explains that during the closing shift, employees complete their required tasks, clock out, and then must wait for their a manager to unlock the doors.

Casas states that, “because this occurs after the employees have clocked out for the day, they are not compensated for time spent under their employer’s control, waiting to be let out of the store.”

Casas, on behalf of similarly situated individuals , including employees who Victoria’s Secret classified as “non-exempt,” also asserts that Victoria’s Secret failed to pay reporting time for regularly scheduled shift and call in shifts, as well as failed to keep the required records, failed to provide accurate wage statements, and participated in conduct that amounts to unfair business practices.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of employment violations, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

August 21, 2014 / Parham NIkfarjam

Lawsuits over Athlete Pay Filed in California

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Two separate lawsuits recently filed in California are shedding light on the seemingly rampant wage and hour abuses taking place under the surface in professional sports. One such lawsuit alleges athletes in the Legends Football League have been misclassified as independent contractors, a classification which negatively impacts their earning capacity. Similarly, a wage and hour lawsuit filed in March by Minor League Baseball players accuses Major League Baseball of intentionally suppressing wages for decades. According to the lawsuit, Minor League players are paid so little, many of them live in poverty.

The Legends of Football League is an all female football league. The lawsuit, filed by Melissa Margulies on June 30, alleges players in the league are improperly classified as independent contractors and, as such, are not paid overtime. The suit claims the athlete-employees should not have been classified as independent contractors because the league has considerable control over all of the players’ job duties and responsibilities. These duties include required attendance of practices, attending promotional events, and conferring the athletes’ publicity rights to the league. Players violating such rules face termination. Additionally, according to the suit, players were not given reimbursement for expenses related to work and not provided with wage statements.

Since players’ pay was based on ticket sales and team performance and not on a wage, the lawsuit claims some athletes received no compensation during several seasons.

The Legends of Football League lawsuit comes only months after another professional sports wage and hour suit was filed by a group of Minor League Baseball players against the Major League Baseball organization. According to court documents, Minor League Baseball players have constantly been unable to unionize which has resulted in a lack of job protection and the inability to collectively bargain for better pay. The lawsuit alleges that the owners of MLB have purposefully suppressed Minor League wages for decades. The result, players allege, is that a majority of Minor League players earn between $3,000 and $7,500 per year – whereas Major League players reportedly earn a minimum of $500,000 per year, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims Minor League players do not earn overtime pay despite regularly working over 50 hours a week and sometimes up to 70 hours during championship time. Furthermore according to the lawsuit, there are periods during which the players make no money, while they still perform Minor League duties such as during spring training.

The football lawsuit is Melissa Margulies v. Legends Football League LLC et al., case number BC550244, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles. The baseball lawsuit is Senne et al vs. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, et al, case number 3:14-cv-00608-JCS, US District Court, Northern District of California.

If you or someone you know has suffered similar damages, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

July 23, 2014 / Blake Gaines

Home Depot Faces a Background Check Class Action

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Trent Henderson filed a class action lawsuit against Home Depot, Inc. for allegedly violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by running credit reports and background checks without notifying employees and job applicants. Additionally, Home Depot allegedly violated the FCRA by failing to give current and potential employees copies of their credit and background reports prior to taking administrative actions against them based on the results of these reports.

After willingly disclosing information regarding his past, completing an interview, and performing a drug test, Henderson was contacted by a Home Depot agent who notified Henderson that he did not pass the background check.

On May 5, Henderson requested his file from Home Depot, including copies of background checks, and consumer reports. Home Depot did not respond. Consequently, Henderson’s lawsuit claims that Home Depot habitually fails to provide copies of consumer reports or provide notice of these reports to employees and job applicants.

Furthermore, Henderson’s lawsuit also addresses how Home Depot violated the FCRA because their online application does not use the term consumer report. Therefore, the online application fails to indicate that Home Depot may search for personal information from consumer report agencies.

Henderson and his attorneys hope to certify a class of individuals who applied to work at Home Depot, agreed to the terms and disclosures, and were subject to consumer report without being informed on or after July 3, 2013. Henderson’s class action lawsuit also includes members who did not receive copies of these reports. Due to the number of Home Depot job applicants, the class could include thousands of plaintiffs.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of unfair credit or employment policies, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

July 23, 2014 / Parham NIkfarjam

Orchard Park Settles Unpaid Wages Lawsuit

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On June 19, 2014, the Town of Orchard Park settled a lawsuit brought by city police officers. The suit alleges police officers were not properly paid for time spent donning and doffing their uniforms.

The city police officers alleged they should have been paid for time spent putting on and taking off uniforms in addition to gathering their equipment and gear at the start and end of every workday. The lawsuit claimed each officer lost at least 130 hours of overtime per year by not being paid for time that was required for their job, such as putting on their uniform, which could take on average 30 minutes longer than the scheduled shift.
The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by the officers and recently resulted in a $72,000 settlement with the city. The town has also agreed to pay attorneys’ fees, but reportedly did not admit to wrongdoing.

Recently, the federal government and even the president have gotten involved in protecting workers’ rights. In March, President Obama announced that he is directing the Labor Department to use its rulemaking authority to beef up federal overtime protections, leading to higher wages for millions of workers.

In addition to lawsuits filed over putting on and taking off uniforms, unpaid wages lawsuits have also been filed against other companies claiming employees should be paid for time spent waiting to undergo security checks before leaving their place of employment. The lawsuits allege that because the security checks are a benefit for the employer and because it is mandatory, employees should be paid for time spent waiting around.

If you believe you have been required to perform off-the-clock work, including mandatory security searches, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

July 17, 2014 / Priscilla Szeto

Female Yahoo Executive Sued for Sexual Harassment and Wrongful Termination

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Maria Zhang, a Senior Director of engineering at Yahoo Mobile, has been sued by the company’s principal Software Engineer, Nan Shi, for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination. Yahoo is also named as a defendant in the complaint.

Maria Zhang and Nan Shi both moved to Sunnyvale, California from Seattle, Washington after Maria Zhang’s mobile company, Alike, was acquired by Yahoo in 2013. Upon moving to California, Zhang and Shi both lived in Yahoo temporary housing where the alleged harassment took place. According to the complaint, Zhang allegedly forced Shi to have oral and digital sex with her on multiple occasions, “even after [the] Plaintiff told her she did not want to have sex.” Zhang allegedly assured Shi that “she would have a bright future at Yahoo if she had sex with her,” and also allegedly threatened to “take away everything from her including her job, stocks, and future if she did not do what she wanted.”

According to the complaint, “Yahoo’s human resources personnel refused to conduct an investigation when Shi complained about her direct supervisor’s advances.” Instead, Yahoo placed Shi on unpaid leave and eventually terminated her position from the company. Shi is now seeking monetary and punitive damages.

A Yahoo representative has stated that “[t]here is absolutely no basis or truth to the allegations against Maria Zhang. Maria is an exemplary Yahoo executive and we intend to fight vigorously to clear her name.”

This lawsuit is one of a number of high-profile employment discrimination lawsuits recently filed in the tech industry. For instance, Tinder’s chief executive, Sean Rad was sued by Whitney Wolfe for the alleged sexual harassment and discrimination she faced as Tinder’s former Vice President of marketing; allegations include Wolfe being stripped of her status as a cofounder “because having a young female cofounder ‘makes the company seem like a joke.’”

If you or someone you know has been subjected to sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

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