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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.

 

July 16, 2014 / Alexis Domb

Disneyland May Not Be the “Happiest Place on Earth” to Former Employees

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On June 19, 2014, California resident Reykeel Zorio, a former nonexempt employee of Disney, filed a class action against Walt Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. and Walt Disney Park and Resorts U.S., Inc. in Los Angeles Superior Court (Zorio v. Walt Disney Worldwide Services Inc. et al., Case No. BC549292) alleging that the company engaged in several violations of California labor law.

Zorio claims that the entertainment company failed to provide vacation pay to former employees when those workers left Disney. Six famous Disney properties—all located in California—are named in the lawsuit: Disneyland Park, Disney’s California Adventure Park, Disneyland Hotel, Disney Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Downtown Disney District, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. 

Zorio argues that the two named defendants failed to pay his accrued vacation time when he stopped working for Disney and that such oversight constitutes a violation of the California Labor Code. Zorio also argues that he and other employees who were fired or terminated by Disney were not paid for their vacation time, wages, and other due compensation; and that Disney’s failure was willfull.

California labor law requires that employees who quit be paid such compensation within seventy-two (72) hours of submitting their resignation. Zorio’s class action claims that the defendants did not comply with this legal requirement.

Additionally, the complaint states that “the final wages that defendants eventually paid to each plaintiff did not include all of the wages, vacation time, and other compensation that were in fact due and owing.”

The putative class action would include any and all former nonexempt employees of the two Disney companies named as defendants, who worked at any of the six Disney properties listed above over the preceding four years. According to Lawyersandsettlements.com, the class is expected to exceed over 500 individuals, who would be “entitled to wages for each day they were not paid at their regular rate for up to 30 days from the time they were due, according to California state labor laws.”

According to the complaint, the class action alleges three causes of action—(1) damages for unpaid vacation pay; (2) restitution of wages; and (3) disgorgement of profits due to fraudulent, unfair, and illegal business practices.

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

July 16, 2014 / Blake Gaines

Taco Hell: Class Action against Taco Bell for Dismal Working Conditions

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In 2007, two Taco Bell employees, Lisa Hardiman and Sandrika Medlock, filed a California labor lawsuit against their employer. As the years have gone by, the suit has transformed into a large class action that could potentially benefit thousands of plaintiffs.

As of 2011, a certified class of California based employees is claiming that Taco Bell required employees to take their 30-minute meal breaks after their fifth hour of work, thereby violating state labor laws that require employees to take meal breaks prior to the end of their fifth consecutive hour of work.

At the moment, the suit will represent any nonexempt, hourly paid, Taco Bell employees, who were working in California from September 7, 2003 to July 1, 2013. In order to meet the class criteria, employees must have worked over six hours per day without receiving the required meal break after working more than five hours.

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

 

June 11, 2014 / Priscilla Szeto

Employers are Now Legally Required to Reasonably Accommodate Employees’ Religious Beliefs in Washington

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Employers in the state of Washington are now legally obligated to make reasonable accommodations for the religious beliefs of their employees.

On May 22, 2014, the Washington Supreme Court reversed a trial court’s dismissal of a class action suit against Gate Gourmet, an airport catering service, for having allegedly violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) in its blatant refusal to both label and adapt its lunch menu to accommodate employees’ beliefs and religions. (Kumar v. Gate Gourmet, In., Case No. 88062-0, 5/22/14).

According to plaintiffs, employees are barred, due to security restrictions,  from both bringing their own lunch and from leaving the premises to get lunch, thus leaving them with only the meals provided by Gate Gourmet. Despite having vegetarian options, Gate Gourmet allegedly uses animal by-products in them; and while Gate Gourmet agreed to switch their beef-pork meatballs to turkey after being informed of the various religious beliefs that prohibit employees from eating certain meats, Gate Gourmet later switched back the meatballs without notifying employees.

Plaintiffs are hoping to follow their own respective religious rituals to cleanse themselves; for instance, James Kumar needs to travel to India for a 10-day cleansing ritual.

The lower court dismissed the case in its entirety, reasoning that the Washington Law Against Discrimination does not require employees to make reasonable accommodations for the religious practices of their employees.

The Washington Supreme Court reversed.

In the majority opinion ruling in favor of plaintiffs, the court referred to federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in interpreting the WLAD. The Washington Supreme Court ultimately concluded that the WLAD includes an implied “duty to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practices.”

If you or someone you know has an employer who failed to make reasonable accommodations for its employee’s religious beliefs, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

 

June 4, 2014 / Scott Tillett

Former Wal-Mart Loss Prevention Employee Files Class Action in Los Angeles for Unpaid Overtime

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On May 14, 2014, Polo Garcia filed a class action against his former employer, Wal-Mart, in Los Angeles Superior Court (Case No. BC545663), alleging various California Labor Code violations, including unpaid overtime and failure to provide legally compliant meal and rest breaks.

According to the complaint, Garcia had worked as an hourly-paid “Asset Protection Associate,” responsible for loss prevention at Wal-Mart, in Los Angeles, California from approximately October 2007 to March 2012. Garcia alleges that Wal-Mart was aware that its loss prevention employees regularly worked more than 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week, but failed to pay them overtime as required by law. The complaint also includes causes of action for failure to provide uninterrupted meal and rest periods, failure to pay minimum wages for all hours worked, failure to pay final wages upon termination or resignation, wage statement violations, and failure to reimburse employees for necessary business expenses.

Garcia filed the class action on behalf of all current and former hourly-paid or non-exempt California-based Asset Protection Associates employed by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. within California since November 27, 2009. The complaint seeks actual and consequential damages, statutory penalties, liquidated damages, injunctive relief, pre-judgment interest, and attorneys’ fees for Wal-Mart’s alleged California Labor Code violations.    

If you or someone you know has not been paid overtime or provided with uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

May 19, 2014 / Corina Valderrama

Enterprise Settlement Part of Growing Wage & Hour Violations

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In August 2013, a federal judge approved a $7.75 million class action settlement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company (“Enterprise”) over alleged wage and hour violations. This settlement is part of a growing trend of wage and hour lawsuits that allege companies violated labor laws by not paying their employees what federal law requires.

A former assistant branch manager employed at Enterprise filed a nationwide Fair Labor Standards Act-class action for unpaid overtime on behalf of himself and all individuals employed during the putative class period as assistant branch managers at the various Enterprise locations. According to the lawsuit, branch managers were improperly classified as exempt employees, a trend that has become more common as employers look to cut corners in a weakening economy.

The FLSA regulates the compensation of employees and sets rules for overtime, minimum wage, and other aspects of employee compensation. State wage and hour laws can provide greater protection than the FLSA but they cannot fall below the bar set by the federal law. Exemptions to these requirements must meet certain qualifications. Like California, Pennsylvania is one of the states that require higher minimum wages and different rules for overtime than the FLSA.

At least 15 class action lawsuits against Enterprise were consolidated into a multidistrict litigation titled In Re: Enterprise Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Employment Practices Litigation, Case No. 2:09-mc-00210, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

If you or anyone you know have been improperly classified as an exempt employee, please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a private consultation.

May 16, 2014 / Maria Weitz

Suit Alleges Staples Subsidiary “Makes More Happen” by Forcing Employees to Perform Off-the-Clock Work Without Compensation

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An employee has filed a class action against Staples Contract and Commercial Inc., the company that warehouses and supplies products to Staples stores for allegedly failing to pay all hourly and overtime compensation due to its workers. The employee, an “order picker,” claims the company required employees to clock out before undergoing mandatory security checks prior to leaving the warehouse floor to take a break and at the end of a shift. The suit, filed on behalf of all non-exempt hourly employees in the company’s California warehouses, alleges the employees should have been paid for time spent standing in line and undergoing these “airport style inspections.” The suit claims the inspections cut into the employees’ mandatory meal and rest breaks, and added up to nearly two hours of uncompensated work every week.  

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.

May 5, 2014 / Maria Weitz

Silicon Valley Tech Giants Settle Allegations of Anti-Competition Conspiracy

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Google, Apple, Intel, and Adobe have agreed to settle a class action lawsuit alleging the companies conspired to stifle competition and suppress wages. Unconfirmed reports suggest the companies agreed to pay $324 million to settle the case brought on behalf of 64,000 employees. Intuit, Pixar, and Lucasfilm previously settled claims against them in this case for $20 Million.

The case, In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, N.D. Cal. Case No. 11-cv-2509, accuses the tech giants of obstructing job mobility by agreeing not to “poach” talent from one another. The agreements—acknowledged in various emails by high-level executives—served to avoid a salary war over top talent by precluding the companies from affirmatively soliciting any of each other’s employees. Experts for the companies acknowledged in court filings that such long-term, all-employee agreements have never been seen before.

An attorney for the plaintiffs, while not confirming the settlement amount, praised the result as “a wake-up call for [Silicon] Valley” and a reminder that even a tech giant like Google or Apple “cannot make up its own rules.”

If you believe you have been denied consideration for employment because of an anti-poaching policy, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

April 28, 2014 / Maria Weitz

Department of Labor’s Amicus Brief Urges Second Circuit to Unmask Unpaid Workers Disguised as “Interns” by For-Profit Businesses

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The U.S. Department of Labor filed an amicus brief last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, supporting an appeal by former unpaid interns seeking “employee” status and wages.

The case, Wang v. The Hearst Corporation, Case No. 13-4480, arrived at the Second Circuit after the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York’s denied plaintiffs’ request to be classified as “employees” under the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq. The plaintiffs in this case previously interned, without pay, for various magazines at Hearst Corporation. Discovery in the case revealed that, in 2008, 229 full-time employees were eliminated, and staff members at the magazines were instructed to use interns to save costs.

Rather than follow the Department of Labor’s six-part test for a narrow “trainee” exception to the FLSA, the district court adopted Heart’s suggested “balancing of the benefits test” and denied the plaintiffs’ plea for FLSA protections. In its amicus brief, the Department of Labor argues that the district court’s approach makes it more difficult for employers, interns, and courts, to determine whether interns are employees entitled to the protections of the FLSA. The Department argues its test will ensure unpaid internships provide the sort of training that serves only the intern’s interest, rather than a source of free labor to accomplish routine, productive work for a for-profit business.

The plaintiffs in this case have also drawn amicus support from the Economic Policy Institute; the National Employment Law Project; the National Employment Lawyers Association; the Writers Guild of America East; Ross Perlin, an international voice on issues of internships and unpaid labor; and Professor David Yamada of the New Workplace Institute at the Suffolk University School of Law.

If you believe you have been unlawfully classified as an unpaid intern, you may be entitled to relief. Please contact Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

April 24, 2014 / Scott Tillett

KBSS Investigation: Are California Rental Car Companies Compensating Employees Fairly?

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Recently, the rental car industry has come under scrutiny for violating various labor laws. These violations include an employer requiring employees to perform work before they have clocked in or after they have clocked out for the day, delaying or forcing employees to skip meal and rest breaks, failing to pay overtime, and failing to provide employees with legally compliant wage statements, among others.

Often, an employer’s liability to any one employee is too small to warrant a lawsuit in the California Superior Court and the matter can end up in small claims court. Does the small amount of damages at issue mean that employers should be allowed to take advantage of their employees by violating labor laws designed to protect them? Of course not! This is why class actions, where the claims of several individuals (employees) are consolidated against a defendant (the employer), are so important.

One area of focus in many wage and hour class actions is an employer’s failure to fairly compensate employees, including failing to pay proper overtime. Pursuant to federal law, employers must compensate their non-exempt (hourly) employees at 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. Additionally, under California law, non-exempt (hourly) employees are entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 8 hours a day and 40 hours per week, and 2 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 12 hours a day.

In a recent case against Avis Budget Car Rental LLC, two employees filed a class action in New Jersey federal court for failure to pay overtime, failure to keep time records, and other labor law violations (Joshua Mayberry and Wayne Zelinsky, et al. v. Avis Budget Car Rental LLC, Case No. 2:13-CV-04833-KM-MCA, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, Newark Division). The employees sought all unpaid overtime pay as well as liquidated damages for Avis Budget’s willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The employees were ultimately victorious as the parties resolved the plaintiffs’ claims in a confidential settlement.  

Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP is currently investigating potential labor law violations committed by rental car companies in California. If you or someone you know is a current or former rental car company employee, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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