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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.

 

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.

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