ESPN Faces Wrongful Termination Suit: Tennis Announcer Fired for Racist Venus Williams Comment

One of ESPN’s tennis commentators was fired last month after accusations of “racist language” when describing Venus William’s playing style during the Australian Open. Doug Adler, former ESPN tennis commentator, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against ESPN feeling that he had been treated both badly and unfairly.

The controversial comment made by former ESPN tennis commentator, Doug Adler, occurred on January 18th during Venus Williams’s 6-3, 6-2 victory over Stefanie Voegele. Many reported hearing Adler say, “You see Venus move in and put the gorilla effect on, charging.” Twitter exploded with negative responses and appalled reactions. Some called for the immediate termination of the 58-year old former tennis pro, who had been working as a tennis commentator for ESPN since 2008. The next day, Adler apologized, but made sure to clarify that his words were misinterpreted and that he had actually said, “guerilla effect,” in reference to a style of play that was made famous in the 1990s.

Adler’s lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, where he reiterated that he said “guerilla” and noted that ESPN was simply bowing to pressure from social media users when they fired him from his job because social media users believed and actively promoted that he had used the word “gorilla” to describe Venus Williams.

Adler sees the lawsuit as one of the few options he has to fight for his reputation amidst the escalating misinterpretations of his comment. In response to the firing from his position at ESPN, Adler has had other employers in the industry “shun” him resulting in major financial and emotional harm. He is seeking an undisclosed amount in compensation and damages.

Adler was unaware of the controversy caused by the comment until 24 hours later. At that time, ESPN replayed the tape for him and his broadcast partner, asking them if they noticed anything unusual. According to Adler, they didn’t. He states that he was then informed that it had gone viral and why. He was advised that the Twitter community was branding him as a racist. At that point, ESPN instructed Adler to issue an on air apology for the remark, which they wrote for him. Adler issued the apology, did not call any more matches that day and was fired the next.  

Adler’s attorney insists that the entire situation is ironic as Adler called everything professionally and correctly, while ESPN failed to do so. They recklessly made the wrong call and stuck to it. It is being labeled political correctness gone overboard as well as cowardly. Most of all, the actions of ESPN may have ruined a man’s career. When originally commenting upon Adler’s termination, ESPN stated that he should have been more careful in his word selection.

If you aren’t sure what constitutes wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Filed After Cal Women’s Water Polo Coach Fired

Richard Corso, former Cal women’s water polo coach, filed a California wrongful termination lawsuit against Athletic Director Mike Williams, Senior Associate Athletic Director Jenny Simon-O’Neill and Associate Athletic Director of Compliance Jay Larson. Corso seeks $1.38 million in lost wages.

In the suit, Corso alleges gender and age discrimination in the wrongful termination suit. Corso also alleges that in 2015, Simon-O’Neill, a senior woman administrator, said that the administrators were looking for the team to be led by a young woman. According to the suit, before the meeting the former Cal athletic director, Sandy Barbour, said she wanted to see women coaching women.  After the suit was filed, Cal Athletics denied the allegations, calling them false and/or fictitious.

Two months after 62-year old Corso resigned, the Bears hired 39-year old Coralie Simmons. Prior to being hired at Cal, Simmons led Sonoma State. Cal Athletics claims that their search included both male and female candidates. Simmons is currently the only female head water polo coach in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

The wrongful termination lawsuit lists the UC Board of Regents and UC Berkeley as defendants and describes an internal inquiry into the training practices used by the water polo team in accordance with NCAA bylaws. According to the lawsuit, Larson told Corso in March 2015 of over-training violation suspicions. Two months later, O’Neill received an allegation regarding the potential over-training violations that led to an internal inquiry. Further in the lawsuit, it is alleged that the internal inquiry/investigation quickly turned into a crusade against Corso even though the eventual conclusion was that the allegations were “meaningless.”

Cal Athletics suggests differently, stating that the allegations were, in fact, indicative of very serious violations and that the NCAA Enforcement staff initially considered the case as a Level II violation prior to determining that it should be handled as a Level III. They further described the investigation as being “self-reported” to the NCAA and that at its conclusion; it resulted in a reduction of 48 hours of practice time.

Corso alleges that he exhibited exceptional performance, but was mistreated in spite of his record. He cites his 227-98 record as well as the team’s improved graduation rate. Corso took over the Bears in 2005. At that time, the team was described as “lacking” both in academic and athletic standards. The peak of Corso’s Cal career was in 2011 when the Bears advanced to the final game of the NCAA Championships where they lost to UCLA. The Bears are currently 9-1 in their current season, led by new head coach Simmons.

If you have questions regarding what constitutes wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Catholic Teacher Files Wrongful Termination Suit: Fired After Sharing Gay Marriage on Social Media

Kenneth Bencomo, a former Catholic high school teacher, claims he was fired from his job after his legal marriage to his same-sex partner. Bencomo states in the lawsuit that until he was fired, he was unaware of the church’s stance on homosexuals and gay marriage. Bencomo, now 49 years old, was raised Catholic and graduated from an all-male Catholic high school in La Verne.

Bencomo and his same-sex partner, Christopher Persky, met in April 2003. The two were among a large group of same-sex couples that married when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that gay weddings could resume in California for the first time since 2008. Bencomo was fired from St. Lucy’s Priory High School in Glendora, California in July 2013. The firing occurred less than two weeks after Bencomo publicly shared news of his nuptials through social media.

Bencomo filed suit against St. Lucy’s in March 2014 citing wrongful termination claims in violation of public policy as well as violations of state Labor Code and breach of employment contract. The attorneys representing the school filed a motion for dismissal on the grounds that the school was founded by a Catholic-affiliated organization and therefore has immunity from the claims included in Bencomo’s suit. Bencomo’s attorney argues that the school’s argument for dismissal is a misguide application of the ministerial exception.

During Bencomo’s deposition, he was asked about his knowledge of the Catholic Church’s view of gays and gay marriage. Bencomo stated that at the time he took the job at St. Lucy’s, he had no idea what the Catholic Church’s stance was regarding being gay. He further stated that he learned about the church’s position on the matter when he was terminated. He said that he doesn’t remember who it was that told him that it was okay to be gay, but that you couldn’t act on it. Bencomo stated that he didn’t believe that the information he was provided was an actual representation of the Catholic Church’s official viewpoint on gays.

If you feel that you may have been wrongfully terminated from your job, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

US Airways Requests Rejection of Overtime Claims

Legal representation for US Airways in the California class action overtime lawsuit filed in 2012 requested that the federal judge hearing the case on January 13th, 2017 reject overtime claims brought by the certified class of US Airways fleet service agents. The company claims that the unionized workers’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) as well as the Railroad Labor Act (RLA) makes the workers involved in the suit exempt from some state labor laws.

The attorney argued that it is not uncommon for state legislatures to remove RLA collective bargaining agreements because of interstate commerce concerns and that these concerns are often applicable to flight crews. In a January 26th motion, it was requested that the court consider legislative history materials in regards to Assembly Bill 60 concerning overtime exemptions. It was argued that the legislative history does not support the plaintiffs’ arguments that the collective bargaining exemption in the California Labor Code is in conflict with the RLA exemption. Legal Representation pointed out the plain language of the two statutes failing to indicate a conflict.

The judge will need to rule on an October 2016 motion filed by US Airways legal counsel to decertify “grace period” fleet workers that were previously certified in 2014. These workers claimed they should have received payment for work during “downtime” required between clocking in and clocking out. The company stated that workers were free to do as they wished during the unpaid time and that in some cases they had enough time to fulfill preparatory duties on the clock. The judge found that discovery suggested that requests for compensation in regards to putting on gear (“donning and doffing”) were handled differently depending on the airport. The judge also questioned the difference between the estimated time for “donning and doffing” as offered by the opposing attorneys. Plaintiffs indicate five minutes is necessary, but the judge questioned the accuracy of the estimate. US Airways attorneys suggest the task can be completed in less than a minute.

If you have questions or concerns regarding off the clock work or unpaid overtime, please get in touch with an experienced southern California employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Minimum Wage Lawsuit Vs. California Club Filed by Exotic Dancers

Two former exotic dancers out of San Francisco recently joined the growing ranks of dancers who are pursuing litigation against California clubs allegedly in violation of labor law. Elena Pera and Sarah Murphy filed their California minimum wage lawsuit on January 11, 2017 listing S.A.W. Entertainment LTD as the defendant in the case. In this case, the company, doing business as Condor Gentleman’s Club, allegedly filed to provide legal minimum wage to exotic dancers as a result of misclassification as independent contractors rather than employees.

Pera and Murphy seek damages and restitution on behalf of themselves and other exotic dancers in similar positions. The plaintiffs filed the minimum wage lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Legal counsel involved in the case stated that dozens of cases have been handled with similar claims and circumstances in the last four years, that there is currently a nationwide push for this type of case, and that virtually ever court that has decided similar cases held that the exotic dancers were employees – not independent contractors.

2011: Courts handed down a decision favoring a group of exotic dancers out of Georgia claiming they should be classified as employees and not independent contractors (Clincy v. Galardi South Enterprises operating as Club Onyx). This ruling was designated as a “road map” for cases involving dancers and clubs. It included a number of definitions of factors determining if a worker is, in fact, an employee in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Legal trends indicate that the law will support the argument that the girls are employees rather than independent contactors. Categorization as employees would entitle them to minimum wage, overtime payment, and liquidated damages due to the misclassification.

Due to the legal trend, more dancers are coming forward with lawsuits against their clubs and dancing establishments across the country mainly citing misclassification as well as other general labor-law violations.

If you have questions regarding misclassification or unpaid overtime, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Social Media Giant, Snapchat, Facing California Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

There seems to be a tech company constantly in the news facing a lawsuit – recent news has given the spotlight to the social media giant, Snapchat. The plaintiff in the case alleges wrongful termination.

The plaintiff, Anthony Pompliano, claims he was fired after alerting supervisors to potential misrepresentation on the part of the company. Pompliano filed the California wrongful termination lawsuit in January 2017. He claims that Snapchat intentionally misled their investors in order to inflate Snapchat’s valuation prior to its initial public offering (IPO). In addition, Pompliano alleges that Snapchat has actively sought to destroy his career since the termination.

According to news reports, Pompliano filed his California wrongful termination lawsuit against Snapchat alleging that he advised his supervisors on the job of Snapchat’s activity, mainly alleged misrepresentation of growth metrics. Snapchat hired Pompliano in August 2015. Prior to working with Snapchat, Pompliano worked for Facebook. Pompliano alleges that he was given false information during the hiring process that resulted in him taking a job with Snapchat. The company has a fierce rivalry with Pompliano’s previous employer, Facebook, another social media giant that has been on the seen years longer than the relatively new Snapchat. Pompliano claims that Snapchat fraudulently enticed him away from his position with Facebook to run Snapchat’s new user growth and engagement team. After working for Snapchat for only three weeks, it became apparent to Pompliano that Snapchat has falsely represented the Company’s growth, among other things.

In court documents, Pompliano states that during his time with Snapchat he learned that the metrics he was provided during his hiring process were false. Upon realizing this, Pompliano notified the Snapchat Vice President of Finance. Allegedly, some of the company’s superiors agreed with Pompliano, but afterward he was fired. Pompliano claims that Snapchat only hired him in order to obtain Facebook’s proprietary information. He further claims that he did not breach any agreements that he had with his previous employer, Facebook.

Pompliano claims he was fired because Snapchat accurately perceived that he would not turn a blind eye to continued misrepresentations of Company data to the public, advertisers, prospective employees, investors, etc. In addition to terminating his employment, Pompliano claims that Snapchat sought to destroy his career and his professional reputation through false misrepresentations about his termination. While Snapchat (and their maker, Snap Inc.) claim the allegations have on merit, Pompliano’s suit seeks to prevent the company from misrepresenting why his was fired.

If you have questions about wrongful termination or what constitutes a wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

CNN Faces Discrimination Lawsuit from Former Employee

Stanley Wilson, a former writer and producer for CNN will pursue racial discrimination and retaliation claims after being allegedly fired for a plagiarism incident. Wilson, a longtime employee for CNN allegedly failed to attribute credit to parts of a news piece that never ran. In the wrongful termination lawsuit, Wilson claims that he was only promoted once during his 13 years of work with the company and alleges that the failure to receive appropriate promotion on the job was due to the fact that he is African-American.

Wilson’s suit is filed under California law for race, age, ancestry, disability discrimination and retaliation. CNN already attempted to dismiss Wilson’s claims through the use of the “anti-SLAPP law” (strategic lawsuit against public participation). According to the California anti-SLAPP law, when a lawsuit infringes upon a party’s right to freedom of speech or participation in the legal process, the party can request the court dismiss the case. The court ruled that the anti-SLAPP law did not apply in Wilson’s suit – even after CNN presented argument that allowing Wilson to sue over his termination would inhibit CNN’s free speech rights for public interest.

Many see this ruling as a victory for workers making discrimination claims – particular in the entertainment and media industries. Employers in these fields are sometimes negatively affected by their employer’s abuse of the anti-SLAPP law and the findings in this case indicate they can be protected when they file a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the job. In effect, this ruling is the court reminding the industry and the public itself that discrimination is not the same as free speech.

If you have questions about what constitutes discrimination in the workplace or harassment on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.