Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed Against Local California Business

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Susanne Bjornson, a former employee of a local home furnishing store, filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming wrongful termination and emotional distress. Bjornson claims that her previous employer falsified a declaration and forged her signature in order to defeat a valid Workers’ Compensation claim. Bjornson filed an employment lawsuit in the Santa Barbara Superior Court against Celadon House.

Celadon House operates retail furniture stores in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Bjornson, who was employed at the Santa Barbara retail location, alleges she was working on the day that one of her co-workers was injured in the course of moving some furniture. The employee who sustained the injury filed a Workers’ Compensation claim.

According to the plaintiff’s legal counsel, Celadon House did not carry Workers’ Compensation insurance (a violation of California law). The two owners of Celadon House, Kelli Thornton and Cherisse Sweeney, allegedly prepared a Declaration including Bjornson’s name without her knowledge or consent. In the Declaration, it stated that the injured employee had not moved furniture on the day they sustained their injury and that the employee did not report the injury. Allegedly, one of the two Celadon House owners then completed the false Declaration with Bjornson’s forged signature.

Bjornson insists she was never questioned by the two owners or anyone else at the company about the injury or the day the injury was sustained and that the statements that are being attributed to her in the official Declaration document are false. Due to the false Declaration, the injured employee’s Workers’ Compensation benefits were denied. Soon after the denial, Bjornson was notified of the Declaration. Bjornson, fearing that she could be implicated in an unlawful act, felt compelled to immediately resign her position with Celadon House.

The plaintiff’s counsel argues that as the working conditions were so intolerable that Bjornson, as a reasonable person, had no other alternative than to resign her employment, it constitutes a “constructive” discharge of employment – meaning that the resignation is equal to termination.

If you have questions about what constitutes wrongful termination or if you have been wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Wrongful Termination Alleged by LA UPS Worker in California Lawsuit

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A former Los Angeles United Parcel Service (UPS) center manager, Mason McConn, claims his employment was terminated in order to appease Hispanic employees after he was falsely accused of racism in the workplace. McConn is suing UPS alleging that as a white worker for the company he was wrongfully terminated in 2017 describing himself as a “sacrificial victim” so the company could appease a Latino employee who made unfounded claims and filed discrimination complaints against the massive package delivery service.

The suit was brought in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging wrongful termination, racial discrimination, retaliation, defamation, and false light invasion of privacy. There are three defendants listed in the suit, UPS, the previously mentioned Latino employee of UPS, Pedro Flores, and one of the company’s human resources employees, Gerald Yee. McConn filed the wrongful termination lawsuit seeking unspecified damages and an injunction ordering UPS not to discriminate or retaliate against their employees.

According to court documents, McConn was employed by UPS for 12 years. His job duties included supervising drivers who distributed freight throughout the Los Angeles County. McConn had two decades of experience in the industry, was well-liked by drivers and UPS management, and was regularly commended for his work at the company.

Due to a shortage of drivers, it became necessary for McConn to assign additional work to drivers in the UPS work force. This action angered Flores. When McConn assigned Flores the additional workload, Flores reacted in an insubordinate manner. McConn claims that at times Flores refused to perform his job duties outright. McConn claims that Flores then called McConn a racist out of spite and alleged the McConn was discriminating against Flores because he was Latino. Flores then violated McConn’s seniority and physically assaulted him. After the incident, Flores reported the claims that McConn alleges were false and malicious to UPS human resources as well as the company’s upper management.

According to McConn, UPS knew Flores was lying, but because they did not want to agitate Flores further for fear of escalating claims of discrimination, retaliation, etc. and due to his history of filing grievances against the company, they responded by acting against McConn.

Allegedly, the company’s fear of being sued by Flores resulted in the firing of McConn even though they were well aware that Flores’ accusations were unfounded. McConn was fired in May 2017. The company claimed the firing was based on McConn’s use of a “swear” word on the premises, but this was a regular occurrence in the organization and no one had ever been reprimanded for swearing before – let alone fired. By firing McConn in this situation, the company held McConn to different standards of accountability than non-white employees and sacrificed his position at the company simply to avoid escalating racial tension that was incited by Flores’ false accusations.

If you fear you have been wrongfully terminated or if you are experiencing workplace retaliation, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Marin Woman Files Suit Alleging Hostile Work Environment, Discrimination and Wrongful Termination

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A former church pastor is being sued by an employee/parishioner. The woman, Kimberly Labozzetta, alleges that the preacher, Joe Everly, manipulated her into a sexual relationship, impregnated her, pressured her into having an abortion, shamed her before the church congregation, and then caused her to lose her employment.

Labozzetta is a former parishioner and employee at the Quest church in Novato. She also named Quest church as a defendant in the suit. The church is operated under an incorporated nonprofit organization, Crossings of Novato. Everly resigned from the church earlier this year. According to the president of the church board, Eric Brandt, Everly was pastor for Quest church for approximately 15 years and the church’s congregation was less than 100 members strong.

According to the lawsuit, Labozzetta and her husband joined Quest church in 2011. Everly, their pastor, provided couples counseling on various issues: marriage, sexual relations, family, grief, etc. In 2016, Labozzetta was employed by the church as a youth pastor and the church’s project manager. This left Everly in a unique position: spiritual leader, personal counselor and employer. According to the lawsuit, Everly used necessary work meetings and counseling sessions to create a sexual relationship with Labozzetta. She claims Everly told her that God approved of their relationship and that he was going to leave his wife to be with her.

In February, Labozzetta learned that she was pregnant. Labozzetta’s husband had a vasectomy years before so the baby was Everly’s who immediately began attempting to persuade Labozzetta to get an abortion. He promised her that they would marry and have children later. She did so – despite her moral opposition to doing so. Once the abortion was completed, Everly ended their relationship and announced their extramarital affair to the church’s congregation. Labozzetta was put on administrative leave while the church investigated the situation.

According to the complaint, many members of the flock blamed her for the preacher’s departure, and she was left isolated from the group. She was eventually forced to leave the church – her reputation in the church community was irreparably sullied. The suit seeks unspecified damages and claims sexual assault, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, fraud, gender discrimination, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination, etc.

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

Former Coast Hills CEO Files Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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Former Coast Hills Credit Union CEO, Jeff York, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit including 16 allegations of misconduct. The Coast Hills board chairman, Bill Anders, responded claiming that York is asserting “false allegations.” York filed the wrongful termination suit on July 6th, 2018, just a few months after he was allegedly terminated “without cause” after an administrative leave that began on February 6th, 2018.

Claims of misconduct made against Coast Hills include:

·      Wrongful Termination

·      Retaliation

·      Labor Code Violations

·      Defamation

·      False Light

·      Breach of Contract

York claims he endured a year-long period during which the credit union and its board of directors acted against York through various events and conduct.

The company claims allegations made by York are an attempt to sully the reputations of named directors and stating that they wish York had limited his claims to a suit against the credit union. They reiterate that just because claims are made in a lawsuit does not mean that they are true. Coast Hills continues to vigorously defend the credit union’s reputation, the reputation of their members, their staff and their volunteers. The credit union claims that in terminating York’s employment, as in all their personnel decisions, they were acting in the best interests of their members.

Both parties have retained legal representation.

York also alleged that numerous executives at the credit union pushed toward resigning or were terminated due to their support of York and his claims of misconduct on the part of the credit union. Since this information came to light, Lisa Harlow, a former Coast Hills senior vice president and chief human resources officer also filed a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination. Dave Upham, former executive vice president, Rob Covarrubias, former senior vice president, and Linda Van Dyke, former administrative assistant, have all made similar complaints against the credit union.

If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated or if you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced 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.

Employee Who Went Viral Flipping Off Trump Loses Unfair Firing Claim

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Juli Briskman, a marketing analyst, claims she was illegally forced to quit her job because a picture of her flipping off President Trump’s motorcade when viral. A Virginia state judge tossed her claim of unfair firing but preserved her second claim that her former employer cut her severance pay short.

Judge Penney Azcarate granted Briskman’s former employer, Akima LLC’s, motion for a demurrer on Briskman’s unfair termination claim from the bench. The Judge also rejected the company’s claims that it did not actually agree to pay Briskman four weeks severance as she claims.

Briskman’s legal representation stated that the judge outlined where there were deficiencies in the plaintiff’s argument that she qualifies for a public-policy exemption from at-will employment doctrine of the state of Virginia. Briskman and her legal representation see it as a chance to shore up the claim. Briskman’s attorneys plan to take the opportunity to review the complaint, and make amendments so the complaint may satisfy the court.

According to the original complaint, filed by Briskman in April, she was forced to quit her job because the company feared the notoriety caused by the viral photo could cost Akima LLC government contracts. The infamous photo was taken by a photographer in October. Briskman was on a weekend bike ride when President Trump’s motorcade went by and she flipped it off. At first, Briskman was not identified, but later she updated her social media profiles with the image. The picture was featured a few days later on both The Tonight Show and Jimmy Fallon. At this point, Akima forced Briskman to resign for fear of negative reprisals against the company due to the notoriety of the photo.

Akima is a private company in Virginia where state law allows businesses to fire most employees for any reason. But Briskman argues that the company was in violation of the state’s at-will employment doctrine because Akima fired her as a result of fear that they could face retaliation and lose government contracts. As it would be illegal for the government to punish the company for an employee’s political views, Briskman claims that the company was barred from firing her for the situation. Briskman also claims Akima breached her employment contract when they promised four weeks of severance upon her resignation and then only paid her for two.

If you have questions about wrongful termination or other need to discuss other unfair firing claims, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Napa Valley Resort Faces California Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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Daniel Philbin (aka Dan) recently filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against a Carneros Resort and Spa, a Napa Valley Resort. Philbin is a former Director of Facilities. At this point, the facts are muddied by what very quickly became a case of he said, she said.

Philbin alleges he was fired from his job. The resort’s public relations firm claims Philbin resigned voluntarily after a renegotiation of the terms of his employment was unsuccessful.

Philbin claims that during the course of his time as Director of Facilities, he made numerous attempts to get his employer to comply with standards required by the American with Disabilities Act, provide an accurate reporting of water usage, and procure the necessary permits required by law. Philbin alleges he was fired out of retaliation for his efforts. Carneros claims that the water issues Philbin mentions pre-date the current ownership of the resort and that the current owners actually brought the problem to the attention of the County in 2014. They claim that the resort addressed all concerns regarding ADA issues when they were brought to the company’s attention. They also claim that Philbin’s California wrongful termination suit is without merit.

In support of his allegations, Philbin claims:

In 2014, the resort refused to install ramps between the deck and patio spaces and lifts at the hot tubs and pools that would have allowed guests with disabilities to access their facilities and services.

Carneros obtained a permit for the drilling of a new well in 2015, but did not obtain the associated permits required for subsequent electrical and water connections.

Philbin claims he noted an error in documents regarding water consumption that were submitted to the municipality and his efforts were ignored.

According to Philbin, the company started to exclude him from meetings, and quickly became confusing and difficult. Philbin states that he suggested he direct all his energy on the job towards the water situation since it was an important issue and allow a co-worker to handle the rest of his work duties. The suggestion was rejected by Carneros and Philbin was informed weeks later that an outside vendor would be handling the resort’s water issues and he would stay on for a flat monthly rate. Philbin states that he thought about the offer for about a week before accepting the flat rate offer. Instead, he suddenly received notice that his resignation had been accepted by Carneros – even though Philbin claims he never issued his resignation.

Philbin seeks a trial by jury, damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

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