Nike Faces Lawsuit Alleging Systemic Gender Discrimination

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Two women formerly employed by Nike claim in a recently filed lawsuit that women are devalued and demeaned by the company through systemic gender discrimination. The two former employees, Kelly Cahill and Sara Johnston, claim that they were paid significantly less than male co-workers for similar work and that they were also passed up for promotions due to their gender. The suit was originally filed in Nike’s home state of Oregon by the two former employees seeking class action status. The federal suit alleges that Nike violated the Equal Pay Act.

The plaintiffs want the court to order the company to institute new policies that would alter the way the company treats women, providing equal opportunity for employees regardless of their gender and combatting the negative effects of their current (and past) unlawful employment practices. The plaintiffs also seek reinstatement at Nike and back pay.

The spokesperson for Nike cited Nike’s long-standing commitment to inclusion and diversity and claimed that the company opposes any type of discrimination. She also went on to say that Nike is committed to competitive pay and benefits for all employees. She declined to answer specific questions about the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs point to respected news sites in their complaints (The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times) as having described Nike’s culture as allowing gender bias and sexual harassment. Additionally, is has been reported that the CEO, Mark Parker, apologized to employees at the company over the handling of workplace misconduct allegations and 11 or more executives have left the company in the last several months. Other changes happening at Nike that could be related to the current legal trouble is that Nike announced pay increases for 7,000 employees last month. The company described the move as an attempt to support a culture where employees can feel included and empowered.

According to the Suit, Cahill was a former Nike producer and director from 2013 to 2017. She left the company due to a “hostile work environment” and ineffective handling of complaints to HR. She also alleges that she was paid $20,000 less than a male co-worker with similar job duties. Cahill also claims that a former Nike vice president used derogatory names to refer to women and singled out a female employee for overly harsh criticism by yelling at her repeatedly in public.

Complaints were allegedly filed to HR about the employee by Cahill and other women at Nike, but the Nike vice president was promoted in 2017. According to reporters at The Wall Street Journal, he was forced to leave the company in April.

Johnston, the second plaintiff, was employed by Nike from 2008 to 2017. She alleges that she received inappropriate sexual messages and nude photos of himself by a male co-worker after a Nike-organized party. After telling him to stop sending her messages that were not related to work, he continued to send inappropriate messages and photos. He also later started to refuse to attend meetings that she organized at work. The harassment was reported to Johnston’s supervisors, but the response she received from one of the supervisors was that the Nike culture revolved around alcohol and that the rise of the internet and cell phones have simply make drunk messages of that nature a part of the current generation. Johnston complained to HR about the situation, but the male co-worker was shortly after promoted to a management position that required her to work closely with him. She claims she was denied higher ratings on her annual review in retaliation for her response to the situation and her complaints of sexual harassment. Johnston also alleges that her starting salary was $2,000 less than a male co-worker for the same job. She claims she had more relevant work experience and superior credentials and even helped train him on the job.

If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace or workplace retaliation for reporting violations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Chicago Cubs Dealing with Age Discrimination Lawsuit: Email Supports Bias Claims

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A former Chicago Cubs’ scout filed an age bias lawsuit that took an interesting turn when a California federal judge pointed out the potential significance of an email that included both ratings of scouts’ performances AND what the judge described as “beauty contest” descriptions listing their age and physique.

When the Los Angeles hearing started, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson advised both parties’ attorneys that he would be focusing on how the baseball organizations’ pending motion for summary judgment would be affected by a number of internal scouting department emails. The judge ordered the Cubs to provide these emails to the court.

One email, sent in August 2015 by the Cubs scouting department’s second-in-command, assistant director of pro scouting Andrew Bassett was sent to Jared Porter, a recently hired (at the time of the email) Cubs’ director of pro scouting. The email contained information that is receiving a lot of attention from the court.

The Plaintiff’s attorney describes the contents of the email as a “ranking of scouts like Henderson [the plaintiff].” Bassett’s descriptions of the scouts in the email included references to their age, their families, their body types, and other information. The judge called into question what the physical descriptions included in the email had to do with a scout’s performance on the job – referring to the situation as the baseball organization holding beauty contests for their scouts. Henderson, 65 years old, and other older scouts were ranked poorly according to the internal email.

The Defendant’s attorney argued that all the scout’s ages were listed and that the email was presented in a casual tone, but also contained a fair evaluation of their scouts’ performances. He claimed the Cubs were entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff was not fired. Instead, his annual contract was simply not renewed. The Defendants argue this does not constitute a wrongful act and is not liked to any sort of alleged discriminatory action.

The judge responded that he would need to review the emails in detail.

If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace of if you are a victim of wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Patent Attorney Loses Discrimination and Wrongful Termination Suit

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A patent attorney, Geneva Lai, claiming wrongful termination recently lost her lawsuit against Silicon Valley firm LegalForce RAPC. The wrongful termination suit was tossed by a California judge. The attorney claims she was fired for challenging an allegedly biased revenue requirement that was imposed on women working at the Firm. After hearing the arguments, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James L. Stoelker ruled in favor of the Defendant, noting that the law firm stated they had fired the attorney, in part, for creating a fake client.

The judge issued a written tentative decision before the hearing, but after hearing oral arguments during the June 26th hearing, he stated the matter needed additional consideration. On Friday, the judge dismissed the plaintiff’s gender discrimination claims, retaliation claims and wrongful termination claims.

According to court documents, the firm hired Lai as a patent attorney in September of 2015. The Firm had three others working in their patent department at the time: Raj Abyhanker (law firm principal), Laura Figel, and Oscar Au. Abhyanker met with the team in April 2016 and advised Lai and Figel they would need to start finding their own clients. According to LegalForce, Lai failed to meet the new revenue requirement, so they ended her employment. There were also questions about a client that Lai said she had secured.

The judge noted that there was an investigation regarding whether or not Lai made up a client that ended up hitting the target goal set by the Firm. The judge noted that when an employee is attempting to “game the system” in that way, it’s hard to ignore.

In the initial, written tentative decision, the judge said he was inclined to toss the plaintiff’s cause of action for unlawful sex discrimination because the roles of Lai and Figel at the Firm were different than Au’s role at the Firm. He was not a licensed attorney. Therefore, it was not an act of discrimination to impose the new revenue requirement just on the two women. Lai could not establish that a male employee at the firm in a similar work position was treated more favorably.

The judge also found that Lai failed to support her cause of action for unlawful retaliation in the workplace and wrongful termination claims.

If you need to talk about retaliation in the workplace of if you are struggling with workplace discrimination, please get in touch with an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

VW’s Rebranding Effort Allegedly Included Policy to Purge Older Workers

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In response to a 2015 diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen AG instituted a rebranding strategy. According to a 53-year old worker, Jonathan Manlove, the rebranding strategy allegedly included a policy to remove older employees from the company. The worker claiming age discrimination filed a collective action in Tennessee federal court.

Manlove claimed in the complaint that VW’s attempt to create a distraction from the diesel emissions scandal fallout or what has become known as the Dieselgate scandal with two different rebranding labor campaigns included clear discrimination violations. Particularly, the company planned to get rid of management positions that were filled by “older” employees. The plaintiff alleged that the new policy was in clear violation of U.S. age discrimination laws.

The rebranding strategies were implemented in 2016 with the twin policies: TRANSFORM 2025+ and Pact for the Future. They were implemented globally. According to American law, VW’s policy of purging older employees from their management ranks is illegal age discrimination.

The plaintiff stated in the complaint that VW’s own press releases on their new strategies made clear their intentions to eliminate older employees. The company openly stated that they would be using early retirements and “natural fluctuations” in order to reach their rebranding strategy goals to become “slimmer, leaner and younger.” 

Manlove filed suit on behalf of VW employees in the United States of America over the age of 50. Manlove worked as a VW assistant manager in logistics before he was demoted in June 2017. The demotion came only days after the VW announcement that the company would be creating a younger workforce at management levels.

VW advised Manlove he had one hear to find and obtain another assistant manager position at the company before the move would become a permanent demotion. Yet somehow Manlove’s positive performance reviews did nothing to keep him from being assigned to remain in the demoted position by VW Human Resources as well as being advised he was not allowed to apply for openings at the company.

According to the complaint, many others were affected. Since the announcement of the policy change, six employees under the age of 30 were promoted to assistant manager positions at the logistics department of VW at the Chattanooga, Tennessee manufacturing facility where Manlove was employed. At the same time, only two over 50 employees retained their assistant manager positions.

If you are experiencing age discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Alleged Gender Bias Amid Jones Day Fraternity Culture Leads to Lawsuit

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A former partner at Jones Day sued the firm recently alleging that they treat women as “second class citizens” and indulge in a fraternity culture with rampant gender bias. The gender bias lawsuit was filed in California court and outlines a workplace culture where men are given preferential treatment. The plaintiff further claims that she was fired for speaking out about the situation.

Wendy Moore, attorney and former partner at Jones Day firm, alleged that the firm promotes a “boy’s club” or what she frequently referred to as a fraternity culture. In said fraternity culture, the plaintiff claims that male partners hold the majority of management and other leaderships positions at the firm. She also claimed that male partners (and therefore the majority of the managers and others in leadership positions) provided more support and mentoring for other men at the firm. Women were not offered the same opportunities.

Allegedly, the firm discouraged attorneys from discussing pay rates. The plaintiff also claims that the firm relied on a subjective performance evaluation system the she claims favored male attorneys at the firm. The firm’s pay practices allegedly allowed Jones Day firm to pay females less than their male counterparts.

Moore, plaintiff in the case, claims that speaking about the boys’ club culture and the gender pay inequality led to workplace retaliation. She also claims that her discrimination complaints were not addressed. She claims that the firm eventually terminated her stating they had “cause,” despite the fact that Moore had a stellar client service record as well as recognition from outside sources for her high quality of work.

Moore started working at the firm in early 2013 as a partner – it was a lateral hire. She worked as an equity and executive compensation attorney out of the Jones Day Palo Alto, California office. In 2015, she was promoted to hiring partner for the Silicon Valley and San Francisco offices. She received high praise for recruiting one of the “best classes Jones Day (NorCal) ever had,” according to Moore’s complaint. She claims that despite being a partner at Jones Day, she was regularly paid less than male attorneys at the firm. In fact, according to the complaint, Moore was at one point paid less a male sixth-year associate even though she was a sixth-year partner at the time.

If you have questions regarding a gender bias workplace or if you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Morrison & Foerster Faces $100M Pregnancy Bias Lawsuit

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Three associates out of California allege that Morrison & Foerster LLP delays payment and promotion opportunities to female attorneys that schedule maternity leave or use the working mother benefits provided by the firm. The $100 million proposed class action was filed in May 2018. According to citations online, claims are based on the allegation that the firm has an “old boys’ club” culture (Law360).

The three associates sued under a pseudonym (J. Doe) in San Francisco federal court. The plaintiffs claim that expected promotions and pay increases were held at bay when they took (and returned from) maternity leave yet the attorneys’ hourly billing rates were increased as they would be if they received the expected promotion.

Other claims include:

·      Male attorneys and female attorneys who are not pregnant/have no children are offered more access to partners and mentoring allowing them to stay on track for partnership.

·      The practice noted above means that women are vastly underrepresented amongst senior levels at the firm.

·      Standard procedure at the firm when an associate is pregnant is to hold her back from advancement with her peers and deny opportunities for progression and/or pay increases.

·      The firm is aware of the problems and has not taken the necessary remedial measures to current problems or prevent future infractions.  

Each of the three associates that filed the complaint work at one of Morrison & Foerster LLP’s California offices, but the firm has four California locations and the document did not specify which one employed the women.

The firm does offer a number of benefits and programs that are designed to improve the situation for working mothers: parental leave, adoption leave, parental transition time upon returning from leave, backup caregiving, flexible work options, a reduced hours program, etc. The existence of the various programs seems to support and encourage female employees to take up to six months off for maternity leave.

In reality, the associates claim that women who take advantage of maternity leave or are working mothers advance through the firm’s ranks at a significantly slower rate than their peers. They are also paid less than the male associates.

If you have questions about pregnancy bias in the workplace or if you have experienced gender discrimination on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$13 Million Verdict Awarded to UCLA Doctor in Retaliation and Gender Discrimination Case

A California man was awarded a $13 million verdict in February 2018 after filing against a former employer, The Regents of the University of California (UCLA). The plaintiff, Dr. Lauren Pinter-Brown, alleged that UCLA discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and then retaliated against her for complaining about the problem. The escalating issue eventually led to Dr. Lauren Pinter-Brown’s resignation.

The doctor started work with the UCLA Medical Center in 2005. She was the Director of the UCLA Lymphoma Program. During her entire tenure at UCLA, she received exemplary peer reviews, awards and even accolades. For her first 8 years with the university, Pinter-Brown was one of only two senior female faculty members in the program.

When Pinter-Brown raised harassment concerns with a male co-worker, she became the target of various workplace audits, her research privileges were suspended, her title was taken, etc. Throughout the ordeal, Pinter-Brown’s reputation was irreparably harmed. The university made no apparent efforts to solve the problem or alleviate the situation even though Pinter-Brown made both verbal and written complaints about the issues. The plaintiff claims that she was forced to “play dead” at work in order to avoid further confrontations or an escalation of the problem the university chose to ignore until she eventually simply resigned from her position.

In February 2018, a California jury found her Pinter-Brown’s favor on claims of discrimination and retaliation. Pinter-Brown was awarded $3,011,671 in lost earnings from the university and an additional $10,000,000 in damages for her emotional distress. The total awarded was over $13 million.

The plaintiff’s attorney was quoted discussing the doctor’s time with the university and describing her has an “outstanding employee.” The plaintiff’s legal counsel felt it was very clear that Pinter-Brown experienced workplace retaliation as a direct result of openly complaining about harassment by a male colleague. The jury of her peers from California vindicated her complaints and those in favor of Pinter-Brown hope it can be another step in fixing a wide-spread problem with ignoring the problem of gender inequality.

If you have a problem with workplace retaliation or if you have attempted to resolve employment law violations in the workplace unsuccessfully, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.