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November 15, 2013 / Steven Soliman

Woman Sues LA to Stop ‘Inappropriate’ Sexual Harassment Probe

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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.

November 14, 2013 / Amanda Greenburg

Fired Latham Secretary is Allowed to Proceed on Some of Her Discrimination Claims

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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.

 

November 13, 2013 / Soheil Bahari

Toys”R”Us Reached a Settlement with EEOC Over a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Exchange-Looser Layaways

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.

November 12, 2013 / jlinder2013

Florida Art School Loses Lawsuit against Whistleblower

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.

November 8, 2013 / Teresa Mkhitarian

St. Joseph’s Hospital Sued for Disability Discrimination

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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.

November 5, 2013 / Teresa Mkhitarian

Sues 99 Cents Only Stores Alleging Wrongful Termination

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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.

October 30, 2013 / Jaspreet Tiwana

Irony At Its Worst: Disability Services Provider Sued For Disability Discrimination

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.

 

 

 

October 29, 2013 / Fontaine Yuk

Lawsuit Against Silicon Valley Hiring Practices Gets Class Action Status

In 2011, five software engineers sued a few of the biggest names in Silicon Valley – Google Inc., Apple Inc., Intel Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc., among others – over their hiring practices. The lawsuit alleged violations of the Sherman Act and Clayton Act antitrust laws by conspiring to eliminate competition for labor and depriving workers of job mobility. Moreover, the plaintiffs claimed these Silicon Valley companies entered into an “overarching conspiracy” to artificially lower employee compensation and claimed lost compensation in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Much of this case has been built on email exchanges between top executives, including the late Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt.

Judge Lucy Koh recently certified the proposed class of technical employees, which includes software and hardware engineers, component designers, application developers, and others. The plaintiffs believe the proposed class will include upwards of 50,000 members. The original complaint sought certification of an “All Employee” class which included every salaried employee in the United States who worked for the defendant companies between 2005-2009, estimated to be more than 100,000 people.

This case, In re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 11-02509, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is being closely watched in Silicon Valley.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of violations of antitrust laws, you may be entitled to relief. Please call Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.

October 25, 2013 / jlinder2013

Hospital Employer Settles with Employees over Systemic Wage and Hour Violations

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A hospital in Houston was investigated for systemic violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Its employees alleged that it failed to properly record their hours worked, and that this resulted in many hours of unpaid overtime.  The hospital, doing business as Harris Health System, agreed to pay more than 4 million dollars in back wages and liquidated damages after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division.  Thousands of employees were affected by the hospital’s errors.

Specifically, the Department of Labor found that the hospital failed to pay the correct amount of overtime owed to certain employees who worked more than forty hours in a week.  In addition, the record keeping system in which employees logged their time was found to have systemic defects that went uncorrected during the time period that was at issue in the settlement.  Both of these actions constituted violations of the FLSA.

The FLSA requires employers to maintain accurate records of their employees’ hours.  Moreover, employees who work overtime are required to make time and a half of their regular rate.  Furthermore, the FLSA provides that violators, as a general rule, pay both back wages and an equal amount of liquidated damages directly to the affected employees.  Liquidated damages usually come into play when the violations are found to be willful.

If your employer has failed to accurately record your hours, or refused to fully compensate you for overtime hours worked, you may be entitled to relief.  Please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.

October 17, 2013 / Steven Soliman

EEOC Sues Farmers Insurance for Discriminating Against Asian-Americans

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against Farmers Insurance Exchange, alleging a violation of federal law due to the termination of employees on account of their race.

Two of the claimants, who are of Hmong descent, constituted the only Asian-American employees at the company’s Fresno office. According to the lawsuit, Farmers Insurance employees had been instructed to code insurance payments in a specific manner so as to avoid automated prompting of customer surveys. When an audit revealed several cases of improper coding, the two Asian-American employees were terminated. A Caucasian employee who had a similar number of coding cases was not terminated. The Caucasian employee later testified during the EEOC’s investigation into the charges and was placed on leave soon after providing this testimony.

The EEOC brought suit alleging race discrimination and retaliatory termination in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. The lawsuit was filed after first attempting to reach a settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees for opposing a discriminatory practice or for making charges, testifying, assisting, or participating in an investigation of unlawful employment practices. Title VII also makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees based on race or national origin. Further, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), makes it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of race or to retaliate against employees for reporting discrimination in the workplace.

If you or someone you know has been discriminated against at your place of work, please contact Khorrami Boucher Sumner Sanguinetti, LLP for a confidential consultation.

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