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.

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.

Do Breastfeeding Discrimination Cases Lead to Nursing Moms Losing Their Jobs?

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It doesn’t surprise many to be told that many employers fail to offer appropriate accommodations for breastfeeding. Even though the failure to do so, poses a health risk (and headaches) for nursing employees. Yet a new study that is the first one of its kind if bringing more clarity to this invasive workplace issue. The damages actually extend to the livelihoods of the mothers. According to researchers, a shocking two-thirds of cases alleging breastfeeding discrimination in the past decade eventually led to the employee losing their job.

Even the researchers themselves were shocked at the results. If you want to learn more about this workplace issue, start by defining breastfeeding discrimination.

Types of Breastfeeding Discrimination:

·      Denying break requests from employees who are in pain and/or leaking milk.

·      Firing employees for asking for breaks in connection to breastfeeding.

·      Refusing to provide privacy for employees who need to pump breast milk.

Sexual harassment of breastfeeding employees is also a common problem in the workplace.

Employers are supposed to provide breastfeeding employees with a clean place to pump (that is not a restroom), 15-20 minute breaks to pump breast milk, and a change in their job duties or a temporary assignment that accommodates their situation if it is necessary. For example, one of the study participants was a police officer who was unable to wear a bulletproof vest while she was breastfeeding. She was denied a temporary assignment to a desk job.

As a result of the predominantly negative perception of breastfeeding in the workplaces of America, working mothers are weaning their babies sooner than recommended by doctors, ending up with a diminished milk supply, or suffering from painful infections (a health risk that is often associated with lactation discrimination). The researchers went into the study aware of the health risks associated with the issue, but what really surprised them was the economic harm caused and the extent to which it pervaded the women’s lives. On top of the two-thirds of employees in breastfeeding discrimination cases who ended up losing their jobs (by being fired or forced to resign), three-quarters of the workers in the group experienced an economic penalty, such as reduced hours or being unpaid during their 15-20 minutes breaks for breastfeeding.

If you are struggling with breastfeeding discrimination or any other form of discrimination in the workplace, get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Gender Pay Discrimination Allegations Made Against Hewlett-Packard Enterprises

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In the fourth quarter of 2018, R. Ross and C. Rogus of Santa Clara, California, filed a class action California unpaid wages lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE). The lawsuit describes a discriminatory pattern demonstrating gender-based pay discrepancies at the company. We’ve seen tech giants in the news before for similar practices and facing similar allegations, but this case does present a few interesting issues.

1.     Wage history perpetrating discrimination.

2.     Employer policies discouraging employees from talking about their salary as prevention of discovery of discrimination under California’s Equal Pay Act

3.     Using Secret Wage Classification and Promotion Systems to easily avoid meaningful reform.

In this California unpaid wages lawsuit, Hewlett Packard is accused of systematically paying female employees less than their similarly situated male co-workers and failing to advance them at the same rate as male employees performing similar work at a similar skill level. The business practices are apparently in place throughout all of California and are built on preexisting practices at Hewlett-Packard.

As of January 1st, 2018, employers in California are prohibited from asking job applicants about their salary history or using a salary history to determine what salary to offer a new employee. This was an effort to decrease the long-term effects of past salary discrimination. This law, however, does not offer protection to workers hired prior to that date or current employees who are seeking an internal promotion. Long-term workers who are seeking to make a career with a single employer will not find assistance for past pay discrimination in the law that went into effect January 1st, 2018. In the complaint against HPE, it is alleged that long-term employees tend to stay at the lower-paid job level 1 or 2. In comparison, new hires start at or quickly rise to a higher paid level 3.

Raises at the company are based on a percentage of the employees’ existing HPE salary, so they not only support the gender pay gap, but widen it. The longer a female is employed by HPE, the less she will be paid in comparison to her male counterparts even when fulfilling similar job duties at an equal or better rate. Gender discrimination paired with age discrimination combine to leave older female employees double affected.

Pay secrecy policies are still a common practice, particularly in the tech industry. Policies requiring silence about pay have been prohibited in most industries since 1935 by the National Labor Relations Act. Pay secrecy policies are also banned by California Labor Code section 232. Since 1985, the law has specifically prohibited the requirement of any employee to refrain from disclosing their wage or requiring an employee to waive the right to discuss their wage, or to discipline an employee for discussing their wage. Yet many employees are unaware of their rights and many employers still discourage (officially or unofficially) pay secrecy.

Similarly, when wage and promotion structures are not transparent, workers are prevented from acting on discriminatory behavior. Many employees are reluctant to act or share information with co-workers but find themselves suffering from vague or opaque employer pay scales and promotion structures.

If you are suffering from the effects of gender-based pay discrimination or you need help seeking equal pay in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$1.5 Million Awarded to Valley Med Chief Psychiatrist

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Dr. Jan Weber, former chief psychiatrist, was fired from his job with Valley Medical Center in 2014. This month, he was awarded $1.5 million in damages to resolve his California wrongful termination lawsuit.

What is Wrongful Termination? The legal definition of wrongful termination or wrongful dismissal is to be in a situation where an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by the employer in a way that breaches one or more terms in the contract of employment or is in violation of employment law.

Is There a Statue of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Claims? The statute of limitations is the time limit set by law during which an individual can file a lawsuit based on a claim. If you are an employee who was wrongfully terminated from your job, and you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the case can be thrown out. Statutes of limitations can be set by either state or federal law.

Dr. Jan Weber headed the hospital’s child and adolescent psychiatry division for over five years. In late 2014, he was let go by the county after he complained about unsafe work conditions and young patients at the institution who were being offered substandard care.

Dr. Jan Weber took notice of substandard care provided to youth patients at the facility throughout the five years he worked there as the chief psychiatrist. At the end of his term with the medical treatment center, Weber was 49 years old and was responsible for supervising approximately eight different psychiatrists in the Valley Medical Center’s mental health department.

The case ended with a three-week-long trial. The trial included testimonies from County Executive Jeff Smith and Dr. Michael Meade, Valley Med’s chair of psychiatry. The Clara County jury came back in favor of the plaintiff in the case. They held the county liable for Weber’s past and future financial loss as well as his emotional distress.

If you need help after being wrongfully terminated or if you are experiencing other employment law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLPas soon as possible.

FedEx Retaliation Case Results in Payout of Millions

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Three employees (one former and two current) at a LAX FedEx location were collectively awarded millions of dollars by a jury. The jury found that the employees were wrongfully disciplined by FedEx after they came forward to report allegations that the courier giant was prioritizing profits over safety in not maintaining aircraft in compliance with FAA safety requirements. The verdict was reached on October 19, 2018 after the Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for over a week.

The California retaliation suit was filed by Brian, Gruzalski, FedEx aircraft mechanic, and Stanley Langevin and Mark Collins, FedEx employees.

Awards Received by Plaintiffs in the Case:

·      Gruzalski: $855,000 in compensatory damages and $3.8 million in punitive damages

·      Collins: $260,000 in compensatory damages and $2.75 million in punitive damages

·      Langevin: $144,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages

FedEx claims that Gruzalski was fired for valid reasons, citing inappropriate language in the workplace, with some of it being racially charged. The company also claims that Langevin was demoted due to alleged moonlighting on company time for other airlines using FedEx equipment and that Collins’, as their supervisor, did not use his authority to call a halt to these behaviors.

FedEx claims that while FedEx jets are older than others in the fleet, they are all flightworthy.

Langevin is 69 years old and lives in Long Beach. He has over 40 years of experience as an aircraft technician and is an Air Force veteran. He claims he was retaliated against for complaining about the condition of the FedEx aircrafts. Langevin noticed that FedEx routinely and willfully returned aircraft to service that were non-airworthy due to the need for additional repairs/maintenance that would make them compliant with federal aviation regulations. The company pushed the aircrafts back into service quickly and cheaply in order to increase profits regardless of federal aviation regulation compliance. For example, FedEx regularly failed to repair corrosion that was extensive enough to result in cracking the aircraft’s outer frame prior to putting them back in the air.

Collins is 60 years old, a Navy veteran who fought in the Persian Gulf War during Operation Desert Storm and lives in Claremont. He claims he faced backlash in the workplace for defending Langevin and voicing similar claims in his support. This resulted in a demotion.

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