Jury Awards $11M in California Sexual Harassment Case

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The $11 million verdict awarded by a California jury is just the second sizeable verdict against an employer to stem from a sexual harassment lawsuit this year. Billionaire Beverly Hills producer of holograms and celebrities, Alki David, faced sexual harassment allegations filed by his former employee, Chastity Jones.

In the complaint, Jones claimed that David touched her inappropriately, hired a stripper to put on a show at work, and insisted that she watch pornographic videos with him. Jones testified in court that because she refused to have sex with David, she was fired.

The first sexual harassment case of 2019 to receive a significant jury award on behalf of the plaintiff was also handed down from a Los Angeles jury. In January, two employees were awarded over $11 million after alleging they were sexually harassed and then retaliated against because they complained about the sexual harassment. The plaintiffs in this case, Megan Meadowcroft and Amber Brown, were former employees of Keyways Vineyard and Winery in Temecula, California. The two alleged that Carlos Pineiro, the company’s general manager, harassed them on the job.

During the Jones trial, the plaintiff’s attorney stated during opening statements that David ran his hands up Jones’ legs and ordered her to watch porn with him. Jones later testified that ea David hired a male stripper to come to the workplace and perform in celebration of an executive’s birthday. Jones stated that the stripper’s performance was offensive and qualified as another instance of sexual harassment.

While the jury agreed with Jones, David responded to the ruling by announcing that he intends to appeal.

If you need more information about what to do when you are sexually harassed in the workplace or if you need to file a workplace harassment or retaliation lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Jones Day Seeks to Have Gender Discrimination Plaintiffs Revealed

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Jones Day, a BigLaw firm, thinks gender discrimination plaintiffs should be forced to come forward and reveal themselves to the public. Following last year’s lawsuit filed by a former partner, Wendy Moore, alleging gender discrimination in pay at the firm, a new lawsuit was filed against the firm by six former associates. The new lawsuit also goes after the firm’s compensation system, but also makes claims in connection to the firm’s alleged “fraternity culture.”

The six former associates include two named plaintiffs (Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo) and four anonymous. The anonymous plaintiffs were permitted to use pseudonyms by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Beryl Howell. Now the Defendant in the case, Jones Day, is objecting to the anonymity of four of the plaintiffs.

The law firm argues that the court’s approval of the use of pseudonyms impugns Jones Day’s reputation by implying that they would retaliate against the anonymous plaintiffs involved in the suit if their identities were made known. They also argued that the pseudonyms prevent the public from thoroughly evaluating the plaintiffs’ allegations and credibility. Jones Day also brought up various problems connected to the case and the anonymity of the plaintiffs. The Defendant cited plaintiffs’ public relations strategy surrounding the lawsuit that made the anonymity particularly inappropriate. They also mentioned that the firm was not served with the official complaint, but the plaintiffs offered the document to the media before filing. The firm also brought up that the two named plaintiffs had already spoken to the press about their reasons for filing. Jones Day argued that for all the reasons mentioned, anonymity was unfair and prevented the firm and the public from determining the credibility of the plaintiffs and their claims.

As support for their arguments against anonymity in the case, Jones Day pointed to another BigLaw gender discrimination case brought against Morrison & Foerster. Jane Doe plaintiffs also filed the pregnancy discrimination case. In that case, the judge has already made comments that the plaintiffs cannot remain anonymous forever and stated that the plaintiffs in BigLaw gender discrimination cases were in the same position as plaintiffs in an employment litigation case.

If you need to talk to an experienced California employment law attorney about gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination or any other form of discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP as soon as possible. We can help you determine your next step in protecting your rights and seeking compensation for damages.

Netflix Employee Claims She Was Fired Due to Pregnancy

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A former Netflix executive, Tania Zarak, claims she was basically shunned and secretly removed from projects (including the upcoming series about Mexican American singer Selena), and fired because her boss, Francisco Ramos, was angry. The alleged temper tantrum was in response to Zarak advising him that she was pregnant and planned to take maternity leave in early November.

While employed at the company, Zarak helped develop international original Netflix content for the popular online streaming service. Claiming wrongful termination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, she is now suing. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the lawsuit, Zarak, 38-year old filmmaker, alleged Francisco Ramos and Netflix violated federal law and California state law by engaging in pregnancy discrimination, a form of gender discrimination. Netflix claims they looked into Zarak’s complaint and determined it was unfounded. 

At the time the problems started, Zarak was involved in the production of multiple Spanish-language series, including a remake of a Mexican telenovela, and a series about Selena, legendary Mexican-American singer. While the exact name of the Selena focused series was not included in the complaint, it is likely the very highly anticipated series that Netflix announced it was producing in December 2018. According to Zarak she was named as one of the Netflix executives managing the Selena series, but that once she announced she was pregnant, Ramos stopped including her in emails regarding the series, and she was not advised about meetings on the project. When she asked him about it, he replied that he didn’t know she was on the project. Zarak also claims that Ramos made repeated demeaning comments about her appearance after she announced she was pregnant repeatedly telling her she didn’t look happy or that she looked frustrated, etc. Zarak believes he was intentionally creating an emotionally abusive/negative atmosphere for her at work.

After putting up with the negative behavior for a month, Zarak reported the situation to human resources; advising them that Ramos was disregarding her, ignoring her, and refusing to give her enough work because she was pregnant. She requested a transfer to another department but was told to speak to Ramos about the request. When she spoke to Ramos as suggested, he mentioned that she had been “saying things about him” and asked when her due date was. When she told him and mentioned she planned to take maternity leave, he became visibly agitated and pressured her to quit, suggesting that they could figure out some form of payment or insurance if she left. She advised him she did not want to quit her job and requested a department transfer. He said it wasn’t possible. The next day, December 14th, Zarak was called into a meeting with HR. Ramos was there just long enough to tell her that he was letting her go before he left her with the HR manager. He did not provide a reason for her firing. When Zarak advised the HR manager that is was because she was pregnant, the HR manager did not respond.

Prior to her termination, Zarak’s work was regularly praised by the company and the company executives, she never received a negative performance review or any complaints. Her work experience includes time at a number of renowned movie production companies.

Now seven months pregnant, Zarak warns that Netflix used deceptive marketing about its positive workplace culture to cultivate new hires advising them that the company offers parents up to one-year paid maternity leave when, in fact, employees are highly discouraged from taking it.

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

$200M Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Jones Day Firm

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Several former lawyers for Cleveland-founded firm, Jones Day, filed a lawsuit seeking over $200 million due to allegations of pervasive gender and pregnancy discrimination. The suit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. describing the firm as operating on the level of a “fraternity” and controlled by one man, Steve Brogan. The culture at the large law firm was described by plaintiffs as harmful to female attorneys with male counterparts earning significantly higher wages, and enjoying more opportunities for promotion and career advancement, even when male attorneys’ skills on the job do not match those of females who are being passed by for promotion and/or raises.

In addition, the lawsuit stated that women who are pregnant or who have children are assumed to be less committed to their work. Six women filed the lawsuit, but only two are named. The two named plaintiffs are Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo. The other four plaintiffs are listed as Jane Does to preserve their anonymity.

Tolton claims she was treated like the problem child at the firm’s Irvine, California office after she asked about maternity leave policies. When she returned from maternity leave, she came back to a salary freeze, negative reviews, and a significant decrease in the number of work opportunities. After a second maternity leave, she was told to look for another job.

Mazingo claims she was denied mentorship opportunities and subjected to sexual harassment during her time employed by Jones Day in their California office. She also alleges verbal abuse by a male partner at the firm when she needed to take a weekend off in response to her health. She alleges she was forced to leave the firm last year.

According to the lawsuit, the firm is aware of the problems and has long been aware of the problems yet they have failed to take even the most remedial measures to correct the problem or prevent recurrences. Plaintiffs and their counsel seek class action status.

If you need information about how to seek class action status or what to do when you are being discriminated against on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Mistakenly Releases Opinion Listing Deceased Judge

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The U.S. Supreme Court held recently that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was in error when they released an opinion that listed a deceased judge as the author while also counting his vote. The deceased judge, Judge Stephen Reinhardt had died 11 years earlier.

In an unsigned opinion the nation’s high court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s April 9, 2018 decision in the case that interpreted the federal Equal Pay Act. In the opinion, it was found that…the opinion of the court, without Judge Reinhardt’s vote (the deceased judge that was mistakenly listed as author) that was attributed to him in err, would have been approved by only 5 of the 10 members of the en banc panel who were alive when the decision was filed. The other five judges did concur in the judgment, but they concurred for varying reasons. The issue to be made clear is that Judge Reinhardt’s vote that was mistakenly included made a difference in the outcome.

The question posed to the Supreme Court was whether or not it was lawful. Since Judge Reinhardt was no longer a judge when the en banc decision was filed for the case, the Ninth Circuit decided that the Ninth Circuit did, indeed, err when counting him a member of the majority. In doing so, they effectively allowed the deceased Judge Stephen Reinhardt to exercise the judicial power of the United States post mortem. Since federal judges are appointed for life – not eternity – the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals clearly erred.

Prior to his death, Judge Reinhardt did actively participate in the case and author the opinion. The majority opinion and concurrences were final and voting was completed prior to Judge Reinhardt’s death on March 29, 2018. The opinion listing the deceased judge in error was publicly released on April 9th. The Supreme Court found that the justification for counting Reinhardt’s vote was not consistent with well-established judicial practice, federal law, and judicial precedent.

The heavily debated opinion came in a discrimination case that was filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of California by a math consultant for the Fresno County Office of Education named Aileen Rizo. Rizo alleged she was paid less than her male counterparts.

If you need help protecting your legal rights in the workplace or have questions about how to file a California discrimination lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Discrimination Lawsuit Against Hospital Results in $1M Award

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A former employee of St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo, California, Virginia Hoover, filed a California discrimination lawsuit against the hospital. A California jury awarded the woman $1 million.

Virginia Hoover, the former employee of St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital, worked as a radiologic technologist at the facility. She alleges that during her time working at the California hospital she was discriminated against.

According to Hoover, the discrimination occurred after she was injured while moving some medical equipment on the job. Due to the work-related injury, Hoover had lifting restrictions. According to Virginia Hoover, the hospital did not respond appropriately to her lifting restrictions with adjusted duties to accommodate her injury and her necessary treatment. Instead, they responded to her need for accommodations by terminating her employment in 2014.

Providing Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace for Disability or Injury is Required by Law: The California Fair Employment and Housing Act requires California employers with five or more employees to offer reasonable accommodation for individuals with a physical or mental disability to apply for jobs and perform the essential functions of their jobs unless doing so would cause the employer or their business undue hardship.

The facility’s legal representation argued that the hospital gave Virginia Hoover a leave of absence and also made efforts to assist her in returning to the job. But the hospital’s attorneys stated that the company did decide at that point that Ms. Hoover was not able to perform her job duties as necessary.

The jury’s award to Virginia Hoover totals $1 million and includes payments for lost earnings due to the termination from her position with the hospital and the associated emotional distress. The Defendant in the case, St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital of Camarillo, California has been on record stating that they plan to appeal the court’s decision.

If you have questions about discrimination in the workplace or if you need to file a California discrimination lawsuit to protect your rights on the job, please get in touch with 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.