Wrongful Termination Suit Results in $3M For Catholic School Teacher

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A California jury recently awarded over $3.5 million to a former Catholic school teacher, Kourtney Liggins, who alleged that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles fired her from her position as the science teacher at LA’s Transfiguration School for being pregnant and unwed. Kourtney Liggins’ lawsuit alleged wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Transfiguration School is a Catholic parochial school that is linked with the Church of Transfiguration. The Transfiguration School was founded in 1832 by Varela. It was opened for registration to children of any religion/faith in 1969. The Transfiguration School has higher than average academic standards and was the winner of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award in 2011. 

Legal Definitions:

Wrongful Termination – A situation in which an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by the employer and the termination breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment, a statute provision, or employment law.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – A situation in which an individual or entity acts abominably or outrageously with the intention of causing another to suffer severe emotional distress. It often occurs in the form of a vocal threat of future harm.

Major news outlets reported that jurors were in deliberation for less than a day before they announced their decision – finding in favor of Kourtney Liggins, ex-science teacher for the Catholic school in Los Angeles.

The panel of jurors found the archdiocese and Reverend Michael Tang, former pastor of the Church of the Transfiguration, liable in the case. Liggins, now 48 years old, says that when the situation occurred in 2012, she was seven months pregnant. Tang took her aside and advised her that her pregnancy would “morally corrupt” her science students there at the school. In 2013, her teaching contract was not renewed.

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

Pastor Denies Wrongful Termination Claims of Pregnant, Unwed Teacher

Reverend Tang, the pastor of a Leimert Park Catholic church testified that the decision not to renew the contract of one of teachers at the Transfiguration School, Kourtney Liggins, was a joint decision between himself and the interim principal of the school associated with the parish. He specified that the decision was not based on the fact that she was pregnant and unmarried. Liggins’ contract was not renewed in 2013. She filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court that specifically alleged wrongful termination in violation of public policy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

Rev. Tang claimed during his testimony that parents of students lodged complaints that the plaintiff was late to work regularly and that she was frequently on her phone sending text messages while she was in her classroom. He denied allegations that he held it against her that she was pregnant and not married, or for having children from a previous marriage that resulted in a divorce.

Liggins’ suit named the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Transfiguration School, Reverend Tang and the principal of the school in September 2013, Evelyn Rickenbacker as Defendants. In the summer of 2012, Liggins was seven months pregnant. She alleges that at that point in time, Reverend Tang specifically advised her that her situation, being pregnant and not married, would “morally corrupt the impressionable teenagers at the Transfiguration School.

Liggins, who is now 48 years old, complained about the situation to school officials, but according to lawsuit documents their response was to tell her to pray about it.

Rickenbacker was removed from the list of defendants in the case, but Tang insists that he and Rickenbacker decided jointly not to renew Liggins’ teaching contract for 2013-14. Tang, pastor of the Church of Transfiguration, did note that the Catholic church frowns on women in Liggins’ situation, but stated that the official teachings of the Catholic Church have been interpreted in a pastoral sense. In fact, close to half of the parents at the school are single parents.

Prior to Rickenbacker filling the role, Liggins’ sister, Michele Yerima was principal of the Transfiguration School. She resigned in March 2013, but remained as acting principal. Tang cited Yerima’s involvement in the administration of the school as part of the problem with the case as he claims that many of the parents who lodged complaints about Liggins’ frequent tardiness did not leave their names in fear of retaliation from her sister. Tang claimed that parents were afraid of her; that was her reputation.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or if you need to discuss instances of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Settlement Between Former Employee and NFL Network Approved

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A settlement was approved for a lawsuit brought against the NFL Network by a former wardrobe stylist, Jami Canton. Canton claimed a slew of labor law violations, including: sexual harassment, age discrimination, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination and defamation. The settlement was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern after Jami Cantor filed a motion to resolve the suit seeking civil penalties. In exchange for the settlement, Cantor agreed to drop all claims.

Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, former NFL Network analysts, were both fired in January by ESPN after a month-long investigation into claims of inappropriate behavior on the job made by Cantor. Cantor, as an aggrieved employee, will receive 25% of the approved settlement amount while the other 75% will be distributed to the state Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). The LWDA is a cabinet-level state agency responsible for coordinating workforce programs and oversight of seven different departments that deal with benefit administration and upholding and enforcing employment laws of the state of California.

Cantor filed the California lawsuit in September. In the complaint she claimed she began work in 2006 and was employed at the NFL’s Culver City studio. As part of her job, Cantor claims she was responsible for creating a wardrobe closet to make sure that talent would have clothes to wear for the NFL shows. During the course of her employment, Cantor alleged that she was subjected to numerous instances of sexual harassment at the hands of a number of different NFL employees. Claims of harassment included: inappropriate touching, inappropriate references, inappropriate comments, texted photos of a sexual nature, etc. All this while Cantor repeatedly made it clear that the advances were unwanted and not reciprocated.

Cantor claims that nothing was done in response to her complaints and that rather than assisting her with the situation, the NFL made her life more difficult by increasing her workload and decreasing her hours. In addition to the harassment claims, Cantor levied a number of other labor law violation complaints against her former employer, including: failure to pay overtime, failure to provide required meal and rest breaks, failure to reimburse for business expenses, and wrongful termination.

Cantor was fired in October of 2016. She claims she was falsely accused of stealing clothing from an employee. She also claims that internal video would prove that she had not taken anything. When she was terminated, Cantor was 51 years old. Her replacement was 30 years old.

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

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.