Wage and Hour Law: Chef Sues Raiders Star Antonio Brown for Unpaid Bill

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Stefano Tedeschi, “The Sports Chef,” is suing Raiders star Antonio Brown for $40,000 of unpaid bills. Brown allegedly hired The Sports Chef to cater an event at a mansion the Raiders star rented leading up to the Pro Bowl in 2018. Brown’s attorney responded to allegations that they would be filing a motion to dismiss.

According to Tedeschi’s lawsuit, Brown allegedly wrongfully terminated the agreement and wouldn’t allow the chef to get the food or equipment. Tedeschi claims Brown did not provide him with a reason for the termination. The chef declined Brown’s later offer to provide payment in the form of social media advertising. Tedeschi was also advised by one of Brown’s associates not to “make eye contact” with the Raiders star as he left.

Just four months prior to the lawsuit filed by Chef Tedeschi, Brown settled another lawsuit including allegations that he threw items off a South Florida apartment balcony that came close to hitting a two-year-old boy. The boy’s guardian sued Brown for intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault. A second suit was filed in connection to the same incident by the owner of the apartment building. That lawsuit is ongoing.

Brown returned to practice with the team in September after not practicing since the end of July. His agent went on record denying that Brown left the Raiders and thought about retiring after his grievance to wear his preferred helmet did not meet with success. The helmet Brown prefers, the Schutt Air Advantage, is the same helmet Brown has used throughout his career, but it is no longer approved for use in the league.

If you have not been paid for hours you have worked or if you have experienced other employment law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.

California Methodist Pastor Facing Sexual Harassment Claims from Former Preschool Director

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A Belmont Heights pastor was accused of sexual harassment that occurred during a prior post in Orange County. In July, church officials claimed they conducted a thorough investigation and found no wrongdoing on the part of Rev. Darren Cowdrey. While not admitting to any misconduct on the part of the pastor, the church did place him on leave through February 2020. The Reverend Cowdrey took over the Belmont Heights congregation on July 1st, 2019.

The leave was announced by email sent out on Aug. 22, 2019 to the Belmont Heights United Methodist Church congregation while introducing an interim pastor that would handle Rev. Cowdrey’s duties to BHUMC and the associated Preschool. No other information was provided to the congregation in the email. It is unclear if the leave is voluntary or not and church members were instructed not to talk to the press by their church leaders.

The announcement was emailed out three weeks after the report about the Belmont Heights and Palisades United Methodist Church congregations dealing with the mess that followed the sexual harassment allegations against the reverend. The allegations were made after a wrongful termination lawsuit was filed by the Palisade church’s former preschool director, Sandra Bonaparte. In Bonaparte’s suit, she made sexual harassment claims against Cowdrey on behalf of multiple women associated with the church. The church claims Bonaparte was fired for offering unauthorized raises and bonuses to employees.

It is unclear how the church will handle the issue in the long-term or how the allegations could affect Rev. Cowdrey’s position as a pastor for the church other than the temporary leave currently in place. The congregation, while not speaking openly to the media on the direction of the church have mentioned disappointment in the lack of transparency through the process.

According to federal court records, the two parties involved in the case were ordered by the court to enter private mediation in August 2019.

If you have questions about how to file a wrongful termination lawsuit or what to do when you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.

Court Awards Plaintiff $1.58M in Racial Harassment Lawsuit Naming UC Regents

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Nicole Birden, a 48-year-old African American and former UCLA Health phlebotomist, was awarded $1.58 million in her wrongful termination and racial harassment lawsuit against the UC Regents. Birden filed the discrimination lawsuit in 2017 citing the University of California Board of Regents for wrongful termination and discrimination.

Birden started working at UCLA in 2015 and claims she experienced a hostile work environment filled with co-workers calling her derogatory names, bullying on the job and even tampering with her work. Allegedly, Birden’s co-workers took the harassment so far that they tampered with blood samples in order to sabotage her work. In response to the escalating harassment and discrimination, Birden complained to her supervisor. She was fired in 2016. Birden was allegedly referred to as the “black girl with the attitude” by a number of co-workers while she was employed at UCLA.

UCLA’s legal representation argued that Birden was terminated due to a pattern or poor performance. He also made it clear to the jurors that the plaintiff never claimed she was treated differently because she was African American in her original complaints. UCLA is disappointed with the verdict and claim to be reviewing their options.

UCLA also claims that they consider ensuring a respectful and inclusive work environment to be essential to the university’s overall mission. They feel they encourage their employees to report any concerns in order to allow the issues to be reviewed and then appropriately addressed by management and administration at the university. They also restated their belief that UCLA Health is dedicated to maintaining a positive workplace without discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or if you need to file a harassment lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.

Immigrant Laborers File Wage Theft Lawsuit to Reclaim Years of Backpay

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In an attempt to reclaim years of backpay they claim they are owed by their employer, immigrant workers in New Jersey filed a wage theft lawsuit just a week after the state imposed stricter penalties. The group of eight immigrants filed a class action lawsuit suing the car wash where they worked alleging they were not receiving minimum wage or overtime payment they were due.

The wage and hour and overtime class action lawsuit alleged that the car wash, Caribbean Car Wash Inc., and the carwash owners were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA and the state wage and hour law. Plaintiffs allege that it was standard policy at the carwash to allow managers to take the tips of their workers and that the company failed to comply with record-keeping requirements with proper and complete time sheets or records.

The exploitation of immigrant workers in the car wash industry is a widespread issue that happens all too frequently. Many immigrant workers are unaware of their employment rights and are afraid that they will lose their job if they speak up. It is important for immigrant workers to know that the law protects them regardless of their immigration status. Plaintiffs in the suit are Rigoberto Andux Mirabal, Gabriel Cano Arango, Yoan Aquino Martinez, Lucas Alberto Pedronzo Toledo, Julio Cesar Ochoa, Nelson Batista Corbo, William Ricardo Antunez Valdez, and the estate of Carlos Alberto. The plaintiffs listed the Caribbean Car Wash, Oscar Ulpiano, and Roberto Ulpiano (both manage employees and operate the business) as Defendants.

According to plaintiffs in the case, the owner (who owns around 100 car washes and gas stations) employs mostly Latino immigrants and regularly orders them to arrive at work early for their shifts but does not allow them to clock in until customers arrive. Workers also allege that when business is slow, they are required to clock out but remain on duty until more customers arrive. This causes workers to put in many hours without pay.

If you are required to work off the clock or your employer is in violation of employment law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.

Discrimination Lawsuit Filed: Alleged Racial Discrimination on Sewer Project

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According to claims made by African-American workers (and the union that supports them), three white supervisors on the largest public works project in Akron history used racist language, discriminated against their black employees by assigning them “stupid” work that paid less than other assignments, and retaliated when employees complained about the harassment by firing them.

The racial discrimination complaint was filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court on behalf of three African American workers from Akron and another African American worker from Copley. All four workers were hired by Kenny Construction and the Obayashi Corporation. They were hired for the $184 million Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel (OCIT) project. The project to install a huge concrete-lined sewer pipe requires workers to bore a mile under downtown Akron.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that managers, supervisors, and representatives of the company and project as a whole referred to African-American workers using the n-word, called them “worthless,” referred to them as “yard dogs,” “them boys,” “the blacks in the back,” and “stupid.”

The company’s parent company, Granite Construction Inc. responded to the allegations stating that the Kenny/Obayashi team is proud of the work they have completed on the project and the support they have received from the community and that they deny all allegations made in the complaint. They also stated that they intend to vigorously defend the company against what they referred to as “false and inflammatory” accusations.

Obayashi is one of the largest builders in Japan. On the Obayashi website they describe their company as fulfilling their corporate responsibilities as the best way to “bring smiles to people” and they make this the goal of their overall business activities as they strive to meet the expectations of the public and respond to their stakeholders’ needs.

According to the discrimination lawsuit, the black employees on the sewer project were subject to “racial belittling” and were typically assigned to “yard crews” excluded from work opportunities available to others on the job site like working on the tunnel boring machine. Workers assigned to work on the tunnel boring machine were allowed overtime hours to work around the clock when the project fell behind schedule due to late arrival of equipment, etc. According to allegations made in the overtime lawsuit, management reserved most of the positions on the boring machine for Caucasian employees.

Black employees who spoke up about the situation and the discrimination occurring on the job site were allegedly fired.

If you are not being paid overtime wages you are due or if you need to file an overtime lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.

Following Years of Complaints, Uber Proposes a New Minimum Wage for Drivers with a Catch

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A California bill that could be a massive financial blow to Uber and Lyft’s profits is getting closer and closer to becoming a law. In response, the ride-hailing companies are increasing their lobbying efforts in an attempt to block it or destroy it once and for all. Uber emailed drivers and riders this month laying out their own proposals to offer their drivers benefits and protections as requested, but is there a catch?

In the email, Uber stated that they were advocating for a new policy to strengthen protections for rideshare drivers by creating a minimum hourly rate (approx.. $21 per hour while on a trip), including the costs of drivers’ average expenses, offering their drivers access to paid time off, sick leave and compensation if they are injured on the job. They also stated the new policy change suggestions would empower their drivers to have a collective voice and make decisions about their work.

The email is on par with prior comments the company made since the bill was drafted earlier this year, but it added a new specific minimum wage mention. According to information in a 2018 study from Schaller Consulting, rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft spend 63% of their miles driven (on average) with passengers in the car. This number only applies specifically to when a driver has a passenger in the car or is in route to pick a passenger up (63% of the time). And this isn’t the only part of Uber’s proposal that activists in support of drivers’ rights find misleading. The real take home pay being offered is significantly lower than the apparent $21/hour.

The bill in question, Assembly Bill 5, was passed by the legislative body in May 2019. It depends on the Senate’s appropriates committee to bring it before a full vote of the second chamber. The bill would institute a test to determine worker status as employee or independent contractor. The test contains three parts: determining if a worker is free from the company’s control or direction while they perform job duties, determining if the worker is performing work that falls outside of the hiring group’s typical business, and determining if the worker has their own independent business outside the job for which the entity hired them.

The passage of the bill could be disastrous for the huge gig companies offering ride-hailing services.

If you have questions about your employment rights as a driver in California or if you need to find out how to file a wage and hour lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.

Defining the Employment Status of a College Football Player

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In recent news, the question was asked, “Is a college football player an employee of the NCAA?” The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recent affirmed dismissal of a college football player’s lawsuit for failure to state a legal claim clearly indicates they feel the answer is no. The ruling means that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Pac-12 Conference are not legally required to pay a college football player minimum wage and overtime in accordance with federal or California wage laws.

The NCAA, a not-for-profit educational organization, and the Pac-12 Conference were listed as defendants in a proposed class action lawsuit filed by a college football player. The plaintiff claimed they acted as joint employers because they prescribed terms and conditions under which student athletes perform. The appeals court ruled that the football players were not employees under the FLSA due to economic realities in the relationship between the entities listed as defendants and the players. The found that the defendants in the case were regulatory bodies rather than employees and in so doing, upheld a district court’s ruling on the case.

The appeals court stated that the district court was accurate in their dismissal of the college football player’s California overtime claims based on the state’s decision to exclude student athletes from receiving workers compensation benefits combined with the state appellate court’s interpretations of the related legislation.

When considering the district court’s dismissal of the football player’s suit, the 9th Circuit used the “economic realities” test under FLSA. The test considers certain variables:

The plaintiff’s expectation of compensation

The alleged employer’s power to hire and/or fire

Any evidence that action was taken to evade the law

The court found that limitations on scholarships did not establish an expectation of compensation, the players were not able to show that either regulatory entity held the power to fire or hire a player, and that the NCAA rules did not show a clear intent to evade wage and hour law. They also found that the revenue generated by the relationship between the NCAA and their student athletes did not create an employment relationship.

If you have questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act, unpaid overtime or wage and hour law, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.