Compass Group USA, Inc. Facing Allegations of Failing to Pay Overtime

Compass Group USA, Inc. is facing a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all employees who worked as route and delivery drivers in California since June 20, 2013. The California lawsuit claims that the company failed to comply with the California Labor Code mandates. As a result, Plaintiffs allege that they have been underpaid, and denied rest breaks/meal breaks as required by employment law.

The complaint against Compass Group USA, Inc. alleges that the company failed to pay route and delivery drivers for ‘Canteen’ and/or ‘Canteen Vending’ brands minimum wage and overtime wages as required. Drivers for these divisions service vending machines and corporate cafeterias on behalf of the company throughout the state of California. The lawsuit goes further claiming that the Compass Group’s violations are a systemic problem and that they are in violation regularly in a number of ways:

·       Failure to keep and maintain appropriate records of time worked

·       Engaging in policy and/or practice of refusing to offer workers meal/rest breaks

·       Failing to offer a method for workers to receive payment for missed breaks

·       Failing to compensate workers for “off-the-clock” work

·       Failing to reimburse workers for company-mandated use of cell phones

·       Failing to pay all wages in accordance with California employment law

·       Failing to pay overtime wages in accordance with California employment law

·       Failing to pay commissions in accordance with California employment law

The attorney for the Plaintiffs stated on the record that employees such as those represented in this lawsuit are feeling more and more pressure to do more in less time in order to improve the company’s bottom line – and keep their positions at the company. He further indicated that this is the case with the drivers he represents. In an effort to keep their jobs amid the company’s labor practices, they have lost out on wages, reimbursements, and other rightful compensation they are due in accordance with the law.

If you feel you are due overtime compensation that you are not receiving or if you have questions about the legality of your employer’s policies and practices, please get in touch with an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.  

UploadVR Sued by Former Employee for Wrongful Termination and Sexual Harassment

The former director of digital and social media for UploadVR is suing the startup for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and gender discrimination. The lawsuit claims that UploadVR and co-founders, Taylor Freeman and Will Mason, willfully created a “boy’s club” in the workplace that was focused on degrading women and sex with the degradation of women focused on other employees who happened to be female.

The lawsuit was filed on May 15th in the Superior Court of California. The suit described UploadVR as a breeding ground for out of control sexual behavior, inappropriate sexual focus, and an overall unbearable workplace environment for the plaintiff and other female employees.

Some of the claims made by the plaintiff regarding the inappropriate workplace environment include:

·       Mason and Freeman hosting office parties where the co-founders discussed the amount of sex they would have at the party, how many girls they would have sex with, etc.

·       A room set aside at the UploadVR offices with a bed set aside specifically for sex during parties, and/or strippers or prostitutes invited by employees to attend the parties.

·       Male employees receiving higher pay rates than females in equivalent positions.

·       Female employees not being reimbursed for business expenses.

The defendant, UploadVR, is based in San Francisco, California. The company creates and offers training courses for developers of virtual reality software and hardware. Freeman is currently serving as the company’s president. He and Mason both issued a statement that dismissed the claims made in the lawsuit. While declining to comment directly as it is pending litigation, they did express that they felt their employees were their greatest asset and the sole reason they were in the business. They claim to be committed to creating a positive company culture and state that they will continue to further develop that mission in the future. They stated that they felt confident that the truth regarding how they treat their employees and how they operate their business would be made clear during the course of the case. They feel the allegations will be found without merit.

If you need to discuss discrimination in the workplace or if you feel that you were wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik as soon as possible.

California Litigant in Wrongful Termination Suit Has a Heart Attack

Former tennis commentator, Doug Adler, a litigant bringing a wrongful termination suit in a California case, recently suffered a heart attack. Adler, a former tennis commentator who served as a tennis analyst and commentator for ESPN before he was terminated, blames the heart attack on the stress related to the legal dispute he is having with his previous employer.

Based out of California, Adler was working the Australian Open on January 18th of 2017 when he made a comment related to the combative/aggressive style of play being exhibited by the well-known tennis player, Venus Williams, that started the entire ordeal. Adler described her style of play as “the guerilla effect” and quickly came under fire – first by the public on social media and then by ESPN, his long time employer. Adler maintains in his wrongful termination lawsuit that the term “guerilla” he used to describe Williams’ game is a term that has been used previously to describe aggressive tennis play. Many viewers and listeners interpreted the comment as “gorilla” and assumed it was a derogatory and racist remark in connection to Williams being African-American. Adler was essentially accused of uttering a racial slur on air. Instead of backing their analyst, ESPN required him to produce an on-air apology the next day. When the criticism kept coming ESPN fired Adler.

Adler has since stated that he regrets the way that ESPN handled the non-issue. Their response to the public misinterpretation and subsequent backlash effectively branded Adler, his character and his reputation for life and essentially black listed him in his industry. Future opportunities that were previously open to Adler in the sporting and business worlds are now closed to him because his previous employer, ESPN, has branded him a racist publicly. He states in his suit that he has suffers serious emotional distress and harm due to the false accusations and is adamant that he is not and has never been a racist. He is also adamant that the word “guerilla” is a word that is commonly used in the world of tennis to describe aggressive/combative play and that it is an acceptable description.

Adler’s recent heart attack came after the wrongful termination lawsuit was filed. It is not known how this will affect the lawsuit going forward. According to major news outlets, Adler is claiming intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and economic hardship. The suit names ESPN, ESPN Senior Vice President Mark Gross, and Vice President Jamie Reynolds and seeks unspecified damages. Some are now wondering if these “damages” will now include medical costs.

If you need to discuss wrongful termination with an experienced California employment law attorney, please contact us at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Wrongful Termination Suit Against Malibu Rehabilitation Center

More than $375,000 in attorneys’ fees was granted to an ex-human resources director for a Malibu-based rehabilitation center. She had already been awarded $1.8 million by the jury after allegations of being fired for reporting workplace violations.

Judge William Fahey, Los Angeles Superior Court judge, stated that Cynthia Begazo of Playa del Rey was entitled to $375,570 from Passages Malibu. His legal counsel sought close to $680,000, but Passages Malibu insisted this amount was excessive considering the case. Begazo filed the wrongful termination lawsuit in September of 2015. Allegations included workplace retaliation, age discrimination and disability discrimination. Arguments regarding attorneys’ fees were heard on May 8th and Fahey took the motion under submission prior to ruling on May 17th.

Other defendants named in the case in addition to Passages Malibu, included: Grasshopper House LLC, Passages Silverstrand in Port Hueneme, Passages Malibu co-founders (Chris Prentiss and his son, Pax Prentiss), and Begazo’s direct supervisor, Marina Mahoney.

According to the suit, Begazo, aged 55, advised her supervisors on the job that she had been diagnosed with leukemia upon her hiring in March 2015. That same month, she states she informed Pax Prentiss that there were some maintenance workers, servers and housekeepers who were not receiving appropriate overtime pay, meal and rest breaks in accordance with both state and federal law. According to Begazo, Prentiss replied by stating, “Don’t worry about it, you have bigger things to worry about.”

In direct contradiction to Begazo’s claims, Pax Prentiss testified that he fired Begazo because her performance was sub-par. He also stated that she did not follow orders on the job to meet with managers at other locations or put in the extra time necessary to get the department running or assist required recruiting efforts.

According to the suit, a patient at the Passages facility in Ventura was found dead in his room with a bag and trashcan over his head as well as scratches to his face. When this occurred in April 2015, Mahoney spoke to detectives about the patient’s death, but when Begazo insisted that the incident should be reported to appropriate civil authorities as well as the center’s insurance carrier, Mahoney advised her not to report any of it before leaving the room. The suit continues, stating that Begazo took a week off in early May 2015 due to an infection related to her previously discussed leukemia. She returned to work two months later, but was advised that same day that she was terminated.

If you have questions about what constitutes wrongful termination or if you have been wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Barnes & Noble Facing Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

In an April 14th opinion, a California appeals court offered a summary judgment in a Barnes & Noble wrongful termination lawsuit. The summary judgment may have branded the popular retail bookstore as having wrongfully firing an employee who had been with them for 23 years.

The opinion was handed down by the California Sixth Appellate District Chief Justice Conrad L. Rushing and associate justices, determining that the issues raised by Christine Oakes were valid issues to try in court in regards to wrongful termination claims based on gender discrimination, public policy and contractual obligations.

Oakes worked as a manager for Barnes & Noble’s West Valley-Mission Community College in Saratoga for eight years (2002-2010). At the end of this time period, she was fired. Unhappy with the termination of her employment, Oakes filed a complaint in 2012 listing various defendants: Barnes & Noble, West Valley College, Laurie Gaskin, and Rhea Kaston.

In 1999, according to the opinion, Barnes & Noble received acknowledgement that Oakes received and signed off on their company code of conduct and ethics. As Oakes signed off on the policy, the company notes that she was aware that she was free to leave Barnes & Noble at any time during her employment and that she was an “at will” employee. Oakes agreed that she understood the “at-will” employee status and agreed to no promise of tenure or any form of employment contract at that time. According to the opinion, Oakes stated that her understanding of her status as an “at-will” employee was that she had to “do something” to the company in order for them to dismiss her from employment.

Oakes claims in the lawsuit that as a manager, she was advised to use progressive discipline prior to firing anyone on staff. She was not instructed to use every disciplinary step in every case of potential termination. During her 23 years with Barnes & Noble, Oakes received annual performance reviews. From 2001 through 2008 these reviews indicated that she lacked communication skills and organizational skills necessary for her job. Yet her overall scores in her reviews met or exceeded company standards. While individual categories in her reviews usually met or exceeded company standards, she had a below standard score in fiscal matters. This is particularly true of 2009 when she reportedly ended with $66,000 of excess inventory at her bookstore. Amid student complaints, reported absence from meetings, etc. Oakes began to defend her behavior with claims of discrimination against her by Michael Renzi, a frequent contact as the college vice president’s primary liaison. In 2010, Renzi and the College President contacted Oakes’ supervisor with the decision that Oakes was not a good fit for the university.

With no alternative position with Barnes & Noble, Oakes was fired in 2010 without notice. In 2013, Barnes & Noble moved for summary judgment claiming that Oakes was an at-will employee terminated for legitimate reasons. Oakes argued gender discrimination as the company failed to protect her from alleged sexual harassment by Renzi. The court ruled that Oakes’ deposition testimony would be considered at trial as it favored neither her nor the defendants. A date for the trial has not been set.

If you have concerns regarding a potential wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Lamar Dawson’s Lawsuit Against the NCAA, Pac-12 is Dismissed

Lamar Dawson, ex-USC football player, filed a California lawsuit against the NCAA and Pac-12 that was dismissed earlier this month by a federal judge, Judge Richard Seeborg. Dawson’s class action was filed in September 2016 seeking minimum wage and overtime pay as well as additional compensation as a result of alleged NCAA and Pac-12 Fair Labor Standards Act and California Labor Code violations.

Lamar Dawson started out at USC as a linebacker his freshman year in 2011, but was injured. His injuries disrupted his football career and he lost his shot at the NFL – mostly due to a torn ACL that occurred in 2013. He redshirted in 2014 and played in 8 games throughout the 2015 season, finishing with 31 tackles.

This decision to dismiss was reminiscent of a similar case last year involving former track and field athletes from the University of Pennsylvania. The three-judge panel in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in that case ruled former student-athletes at NCAA Division I schools are not technically considered employees under the rules set down by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Dawson contended during the course of the case that his specific situation was different than the case of University of Pennsylvania’s track and field athletes because football is a revenue-generating sport (in comparison to track). The judge ruled that revenue generation as a determination of employment status is not supported legally. Seeborg set aside the policy question of how Division I FBS college football players should be compensated for what he considered a more fundamental issue determining the direction of the case and his eventual ruling: legal basis for finding them employees under the FLSA. He found none.

The NCAA and Pac-12 were not surprised by the ruling. Both had previously stated similar opinions regarding the validity of Dawson’s claim dating back to the original filing. The NCAA is pleased with the outcome and reiterated their stance that there is no legal support for college athletics participation constituting “employment” with the university. They went on to specify that playing college sports is an opportunity for students to obtain a quality education and build skills that prepare them for educational success at the college level. They concluded their thoughts on the matter by regretting the wasted funds and resources that are spent on cases such as this that will eventually be dismissed. The Pac-12 was also pleased with the ruling finding that it reaffirmed their conviction that college athletes are students – not employees.

If you have questions regarding employment status or whether or not you are misclassified on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Disabled Worker Files Discrimination Charges Against Citizens of Humanity

Noe Abarca, a 61-year old employee who formerly worked for Citizens of Humanity, recently won a major verdict. While the court case took over three weeks to argue, in the end he was awarded $650,000 in compensatory and punitive damages by a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury.

Noe Abarca felt he was wrongfully dismissed after a shoulder injury limited his ability to work. Prior to the injury, Abarca worked for six years at minimum wage as a quality control inspector for the well-known blue jeans label. In the jury’s opinion, Abarca was treated with malice, fraud and oppression. Plaintiff’s counsel indicates that this can be viewed as a message to employers on how to treat their employees.

According to court documents, Abarca was hired to work for Citizens of Humanity in 2006. Approximately three years later, he started to feel pain in his chest/shoulders. This made it difficult for him to lift items. Eventually, he saw a doctor who issued a restriction that Abarca not lift anything over 20 pounds. In response, Citizens of Humanity brought in another employee to handle Abarca’s loading and distribution duties and advised him to only inspect merchandise. The day after Abarca’s lifting restrictions ended, he was still feeling pain. He was fired.

Abarca’s case alleges retaliation, failure to provide reasonable accommodation and disability discrimination. The court ruled that Citizens of Humanity’s HR director was fraudulent in statements pertaining to worker’s compensation upon learning of Abarca’s injury originally as well as on the day he was terminated.

If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated or otherwise unfairly treated on the job, please get in touch with one o the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.