Thomas Ostrowski,a former Driver Sales Representative for Con-way Freight, Inc., was fired by Con-way for drinking alcohol during non-working hours. After returning to work from a leave of absence to attend a rehabilitation program for alcoholism, Con-way required Ostrowski to sign a document promising to remain “free of drugs and alcohol (on company time as well as off company time) for the duration of [his] employment.” Approximately one month later, Ostrowski admitted himself to an alcohol treatment center for a second time after relapsing. When Con-way got the news, they fired Ostrowski for violating the agreement.
Ostowski filed a lawsuit in federal court in Pennsylvania on November 3, 2011, claiming that Con-way discriminated against him, making him sign an agreement not to drink that did not apply to other employees, and then fired him based upon his disability status as an alcoholic. The complaint included claims for discrimination, retaliation, and failure to accommodate his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951 et seq., and the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. The trial court agreed with Con-way stating, the agreement Ostrowski was required to sign “does not restrict the ability of individuals who suffer from alcoholism to work at Con-way. Rather, it simply prohibits employees subject to its terms from consuming alcohol,” and therefore did not violate the ADA or the FMLA.
Despite the court siding with the employer and enforcing the RWA as nondiscriminatory, Bennett Epstein of Labor & Employment Law Perspectives cautioned that “broad prohibitions on drinking outside the workplace can nonetheless violate state discrimination and disability laws,” citing the the Illinois Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act, which prohibits employers from firing employees for drinking during nonworking hours.
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
Moselle Blanco, a 43-year-old Hispanic former employee of the store’s Meatpacking District branch, is claiming that her boss subjected her to a “persistent barrage of offensive comments based on her race and national origin.” According to the lawsuit, Blanco was called “burrito face,” “Goya princess,” and “taco smoke” while on the job. In another instance, Blanco’s boss told her that she had “greasy hands like a Mexican” and that he did not want the product to “get messy.”
Blanco alleges that she had also been falsely accused of stealing and using cocaine at work. She was ultimately terminated for failing to follow up with a dress loaned to a client. The lawsuit further claims that two other employees were terminated after complaining about racial discrimination. The case, Blanco v. Alexander McQueen Trading, is currently pending in New York State Supreme Court.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for any employer or organization to discriminate against employees in any way on account of an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Act also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting such unlawful conduct. Similarly, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits gender-based harassment or discrimination in an employment context and includes a provision barring retaliatory conduct in response to filing complaints.
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against on account of race, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
On November 6, 2013, a group of 911 Operators, mainly comprised of female minorities, filed a class action lawsuit against the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) for allegedly making them work until they get sick. Hills also assert these mandatory double-shifts violate her and her fellow employees’ rights and could impact the City’s safety.
Hill’s complaint alleges that between May 2013 and July 2013 the NYPD started requiring the Operators to work mandatory double shifts of eight hours each three times per week. Hill further alleges that, since July 2013, the NYPD required Operators to work two 12 hour tours per week as a minimum amount of overtime.
Hill’s complaint also alleges that she and her follow plaintiffs were intimidated when they tried to use their sick leave. She further alleges that those Operators who tried to use their sick leave were retaliated against. The lawsuit even alleges supervisors hid the Operators clock-out sheets and they were required to answer calls even during meal breaks. One Operator even reportedly collapsed out of exhaustion.
The lawsuit highlights the importance of the Operators’ position. “Plaintiffs work in a demanding, high stress environment where every call counts and can be the difference, literally, between life and death,” the class action lawsuit says. Operators are “dedicated and professional civilian employees” who “serve the City of New York and its citizens in times of danger and tragedy, including during the terror attacks of September 11 and the recent Super Storm Sandy.” The Operators “sit at the crossroad of all emergency relief in the City.” Accordingly, their precision and ability to direct calls is crucial to the City’s safety.
The Operators are seeking damages for gender and race discrimination, 1st Amendment violations, labor violations and breach of contract.
If you or someone you loved has suffered workplace violations, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.
A woman who sued Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar for sexual harassment last month, after serving as his aide for seven years, has now sued the city of Los Angeles to prevent it from forcing her to provide testimony to a special committee that is investigating her harassment claims.
The woman, Francine Godoy, claims that the councilman sexually harassed her and then prevented her from running for a seat on a community college board because she resisted his sexual advances. However, though Huizar admits to having an extramarital affair with Godoy, he has denied any sexual harassment. In an effort to investigate the claims, City Council President Herb Wesson moved to form a special committee tasked with the investigation of her claims. The issue, according to the most recent lawsuit, is that Wesson and Huizar are good friends which will prevent a fair and impartial investigation of her claims.
In fact, the complaint alleges that Wesson recently stated, “Mr. Huizar is like my brother, he is my best friend on the council. I trust him with my life, he does the same for me.” As a result, Godoy explains that the special committee is “fatally tainted by Wesson’s deep, intimate personal and professional ties to Huizar and Wesson’s unbashed and enthusiastic public support of Huizar.”
Godoy’s complaint requests that the court prevent the special committee from making her appear and testify before it.
If you or someone you know has been the victim or harassment or discrimination, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.
Demetria Peart, a former Latham & Watkins secretary, filed a claim in federal court against the legal firm for gender and pregnancy discrimination after she was terminated from the firm. After Latham & Watkins challenged Ms. Peart’s complaint, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled that Ms. Peart has sufficiently asserted a claim for discrimination and disparate treatment in violation of Title VII. Accordingly, Ms. Peart will be able to proceed with her lawsuit against Latham & Watkins.
Ms. Peart began working at Latham & Watkins in April 2007. Six months later, Ms. Peart learned she was pregnant. She notified her secretarial supervisor that she was pregnant. Ms. Peart continued to work. In November 2007, Ms. Peart suffered some serious medical complications relating to her pregnancy which required her to go on doctor-mandated bed rest.
On January 24, 2008, Ms. Peart asserts Latham & Watkins terminated her. She claims her human resources manager informed her via telephone that she was fired because “she was no longer needed.” Peart also alleges the manager told her that “her pregnancy complications were not his problem.”
In April 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued Ms. Peart a right-to-sue letter. On April 22, 2013, Ms. Peart filed a claim against Latham & Watkins for discrimination. Subsequently, Latham & Watkins challenged Ms. Peart’s complaint.
On October 23, 2013, Judge Collyer ruled on Latham & Watkins challenges. Judge Collyer held that Ms. Peart did not establish a sufficient basis for hostile work environment and dismissed this portion of her claim. However, Judge Collyer did not dismiss Ms. Peart’s claim entirely. Judge Collyer found that Ms. Peart stated sufficient facts for discrimination and disparate treatment claim in violation of Title VII. Judge Collyer also found that some of Ms. Peart’s claims were time-barred and dismissed those claims. Lastly, Judge Collyer found Ms. Peart’s D.C. Human Rights Act Claim remains pending because it is not clear whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.
If you or someone you loved has been discriminated against at the workplace, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a private consultation.
Toys “R” Us, Inc. has reached a settlement agreement with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to pay $35,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit.
According to a report by EEOC, Toys “R” Us contacted Shakirra Thomas regarding her application for a team member position at the giant toy maker’s Columbia, Md. store. After learning that she is deaf and would need an interpreter for the interview, Toys “R” Us denied providing one and asked that she provide one for herself. Thomas attended the interview with the help of her mother as the interpreter. Despite her qualifications and her ability to perform fully as a team member with or without accommodations for the required position, Toys “R” Us did not hire her.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations necessary to individuals with disability; this also covers those individuals applying for a position in a business, failure of which results in violation of the law and would bring legal consequences. EEOC initially attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement with Toys “R” Us through its conciliation process however those attempts were futile. A lawsuit was subsequently filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division.
Ultimately, in the settlement agreement reached between EEOC and Toys “R” Us, the toy maker agreed to pay $35,000 in monetary relief to Ms. Thomas. In addition, a three year consent decree enjoins the corporation from future discriminatory acts on the basis of disability. Toys”R”Us is also required to conduct training with regard to regulations of ADA on its hiring processes for its managers and supervisors at the Columbia store and 24 of its other stores in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
This settlement reminds the employers that absent an undue hardship, they are required to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees and job applicants. Our firm investigates conducts involving discriminatory hiring practices. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of discriminatory hiring practices, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a consultation.
The Manatee School for the Arts in Florida recently faced a lawsuit brought in federal court by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA filed the suit on behalf of stage craft assistant David Shack, who was fired after reporting safety violations.
Shack noticed that there were improperly placed extension cords in proximity to the sprinkler system located above the theaters at the school. He mentioned this issue to the school, but got no response. Subsequently, he filed formal complaints with both the Manatee County School Board and OSHA. He was fired soon after these reports were made. OSHA inspected the school in response to Shack’s complaints, and cited the Manatee School for the same violations that Shack had reported.
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers when the employee reports wrongdoing in the workplace. OSHA brought suit alleging that the Manatee School violated this section by firing Shack for reporting serious safety concerns. The jury awarded Shack $150,000 in back pay and punitive damages. Two-thirds of the verdict was for punitive damages, which arose because the jury found that the school violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act while acting with “reckless indifference” to it.
If you have faced retaliation by an employer for reporting wrongdoing in the workplace, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa Bay, Florida for violating federal anti-discrimination law.
According to the lawsuit, a veteran nurse who worked in the psychiatric department for 21 years had been using a walking cane without incident for two years. The hospital decided that the nurse could no longer use the cane, claiming it was unsafe and could be used as a weapon. A hospital official then told the nurse that if she wanted to continue working, she would have to compete for a new position with all other non-disabled applicants.
The hospital failed to find reasonable accommodations that would allow her to continue working in the psychiatric department and also failed to reassign her to other vacant positions for which she was qualified. The nurse was ultimately terminated from the hospital.
Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals on the basis of disability in regard to hiring, advancement, discharge, compensation, or terms of employment. The ADA mandates that employers must make reasonable accommodations to mental or physical limitations of employees. Similarly, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination by all business establishments in California because of age, ancestry, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation.
If you or someone you know has been discriminated in the workplace due to a disability, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
An employee of 99 Cents Only Stores has sued the company, its president Richard Anicetti, and its managing agent Tony Year in Superior Court in Los Angeles claiming he was wrongfully terminated after 33 years of employment at the store.
Jose Gomez was the first employee ever hired by 99 Cents and the manager of the first ever 99 Cents store. In 1997, Gomez was promoted to Vice President of Retail Operations. Gomez subsequently moved his family to Houston and bought a house in order to fulfill this role. However, when the founder of the company died in April 2013, defendant Anicetti asked Gomez to move to California, where he would be given the title of Vice President of New Store Openings and Remodeling.
One hour into Gomez’s first day at work in California, he was called into a meeting and informed that 99 Cents no longer needed a V.P. of Store Openings and that his employment was thereby terminated.
Gomez is seeking punitive damages as well as damages for loss of income and lost earning capacity. California law provides causes of action for employment fraud, breach of employment contracts, and wrongful termination. Further, employees such as Gomez can also sue employers for misrepresentation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully terminated, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.
A company that assists the disabled has engaged in discriminatory hiring practices by refusing to hire an otherwise qualified woman because of her disability. The Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has brought a disability discrimination lawsuit against Pace Solano (Pace), a California company that provides training and employment services for adults with developmental disabilities.
Katrina Holly had her employment offer withdrawn from Pace after a pre-employment physical, when she disclosed that she had a condition that caused her to suffer from partial paralysis in her left hand. Despite her condition, Holly had successfully completed all tests and was given clearance by Pace’s own occupational health provider to pursue employment. As a result of its conduct, Pace agreed to a consent decree, which will require Pace to pay $130,000 and implement preventative measures. More specifically, Pace will be required to pay Holly $130,000 over a five year period and will also be required to provide anti-discrimination training to human resources, develop written policies on disability discrimination, post notice of the decree, and make periodic reports with regards to hiring and training to the EEOC.
Pace’s conduct is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our firm investigates conduct involving discriminatory hiring practices. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of discriminatory hiring practices, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a consultation.