Mattel Faces Age Discrimination Lawsuit

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A former Mattel employee sued Mattel for age discrimination. 71-year old Benny Binshtock filed the age discrimination lawsuit against Mattel in Los Angeles Superior Court listing several allegations: wrongful termination, age-based harassment, age-based discrimination, retaliation in the workplace, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, fraud, and concealment. Binshtock claims he was falsely accused of unnecessarily calling women over to his workspace as a justification to fire him, but that the real reason was his age. The age discrimination lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Binshtock firmly believes that his age was a contributing factor in the decision of management to terminate his employment and that the company intentionally sought to bring younger employees into the plaintiff’s position in the workplace. Binshtock’s time with Mattel began with his hiring in 1968. He was initially hired as an apprentice model maker and later received a promotion to supervisor. According to the complaint, the plaintiff’s department full of model makers like himself had not seen new hires in a significant number of years. Binshtock’s lengthy term of employment lent his complaint authority when he noted that the people in his department ranged in age from 40 to 65 years and that Mattel had employed them for many years.

In March 2018, Mattel employees saw the beginning of a round of layoffs. Binshtock claimed it was evident that defendants had clear intentions to terminate older employees. Within a month of the initial layoffs, Binshtock was called in for a meeting with Human Resources. In this meeting, he was advised that they had received a complaint against him of sexual harassment in the workplace. The “complaint” indicated that Binshtock always called female co-workers over to this office for his amusement rather than for work-related necessities. The plaintiff claims the sexual harassment complaint was completely baseless – fabricated to defame him of the reputation he spent years building on the job at Mattel.

In the same meeting with Human Resources, the HR rep changed her accusation against Binshtock from sexual harassment to “making women uncomfortable.” The plaintiff was called into another meeting in May 2018, where HR told him that an investigation had been conducted into the matter and had resulted in the decision to terminate his employment. Within the month, Binshtock, 70 years old at the time, was fired.

If you have been fired and need to discuss filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, please don’t hesitate. Get in touch with an experienced employment law attorney at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. Our convenient locations in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, and Chicago make it easy for us to be your advocate and seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

“2 Investigates” Features Wrongful Termination Lawsuit: Plaintiff Wins

In South San Francisco, California KTVU 2 Investigates completed a report on the situation of Ivania Centeno, a 13-year employee of Bon Appetit Café inside Genetech. Centeno alleges wrongful termination due to a family-leave discrepancy. The story helped spark an award for the plaintiff totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Centeno claimed she was released from her position in 2017 because she took time off to care for her mother-in-law who was dying; doing so was allegedly against the company's policy. Centeno attempted to fight for justice in her case for a year before 2 Investigates completed a report and aired it in a February segment that highlighted the situation and the more significant issue at hand: a legal loophole in California that prevents employees from accessing protection provided under current family-leave laws when the case applies to in-laws.

According to California paid leave law the care of in-laws is covered, but under the California Family Rights Act, care of in-laws is not covered. As the two laws contradict each other, and it is not clear which law takes precedent, legislative changes are necessary for any long-term resolution.

In the current case of Centeno and Bon Appetit Café, Centeno claims her mother-in-law because seriously ill and Bon Appetit granted Centeno permission to fly to Nicaragua to provide the needed care. Centeno traveled to Nicaragua and provided her mother-in-law with the necessary care until she passed. After her mother-in-law died, Centeno returned to the states to go back to her job. When she arrived, Bon Appetit fired her, insisting that she missed too many days of work and that caring for her mother-in-law was not a protected activity under the family leave policy.  

Management at the company claims that computer software made the decision to terminate Centeno. The trip to care for her mother-in-law, as well as previous absences due to a work-related injury, were input into the software, which then generated the conclusion to terminate Centeno's employment.  

In April 2019, the case was resolved with Centeno receiving an undisclosed amount of back pay, unemployment benefits, and an award of $211,795 in attorney fees and an additional $25,603 in court costs.

If you have questions about wrongful termination or what constitutes wrongful termination, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP location nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

California Catholic School May Face Lawsuit After Firing Teacher

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Kristen Biel, a former teacher at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, needed time off from her job after recently being diagnosed with breast cancer in Spring 2014. She was in need of a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Biel requested a leave of absence during the upcoming fall semester from Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the school’s principal. Just weeks later, Biel was fired.

Last month, Biel was granted the right to sue the school in federal court for discrimination when an appeals court overturned the lower court decision that she was a “minister” in the eyes of the court and barred from suing a church-operated school. This isn’t the first time St. James School and Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper have faced legal allegations. Kreuper, along with another nun, was accused of stealing from student tuition checks, fees and fundraisers for the school for over a decade. The issue was recently announced by school officials.

Kreuper, 77 years old, and her vice principal, Sister Lana Chang, 67 years old, essentially rerouted hundreds of thousands of dollars into a church bank account that was overlooked by many for years. They then used this overlooked account to pay for personal expenses. Parents were advised of the situation at a meeting in Redondo Beach recently. Parents asked about the situation said that the nuns were open in talking about gambling trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe vacations, but that they claimed Chang had wealthy relatives that paid their expenses.

Auditors working alongside the Archdiocese in Los Angeles have accounted for $500,000 of stolen funds, but the number will most likely continue to grow as the investigation continues. Initially, the archdiocese intended to handle the investigation internally and not press charges, but later they changed course stating that they would be cooperating with police and that they plan to be a complaining party in the criminal case. Criminal complaints have not yet been filed. The police investigation is ongoing. Police are requesting copies of old tuition checks from parents and details regarding any cash donations.

Biel, 53 years old, started working at St. James in March 2013. She was hired as a long-term substitute teacher. By the end of the year, she was hired as the school’s full-time fifth-grade teacher. She received a formal, positive evaluation from Kreuper that praised her “good work” in promoting a safe and caring learning environment. Areas of improvement included in the one official review noted two students were coloring in their books and some of the students had cluttered desks.

When Biel was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2014, she advised Kreuper she would start treatments within the month. A few weeks later, Kreuper advised Biel she wouldn’t be renewing her contract and claimed it was because it would be unfair for student to accommodate her leave by having two teachers in one year. She also accused Biel of not running a strict classroom even though that complaint was not included in Biel’s one official evaluation.

Biel filed a federal lawsuit against St. James in 2015. She included allegations of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you need help because you have been wrongfully terminated from your job or if you are being discriminated against in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.

$107,000 Payment to Settle San Ysidro Wrongful Termination Suit

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Danielle Clark is the former district official who was fired in 2016 without explanation and just 11 days after the San Ysidro school board honored her for hard work and dedication. Two years later, the San Ysidro school board approves a $107,000 payment to settle her wrongful termination suit. Clark was the district’s special education director, but only for a short time period (less than five months). After she was abruptly let go from her position, she sued the district for wrongful termination.

Danielle Clark’s termination occurred under Julio Fonseca, the former Superintendent. After his resignation last year, a state audit was conducted. The audit revealed that Fonseca’s top deputy was overpaid $324,000 (including life insurance and vacation days). The district will be undergoing an additional state audit looking at past contracts and vendor payments in connection to the school’s construction projects.

The $107,000 payment to Clark was approved by the school board as part of their regular monthly meeting. Clark last heard from the board 3-4 weeks previously and was actually expecting a settlement of at least $150,000. She was not aware that any payment had been formally approved until she was contacted by the media. As of yet, she has not received any payment from the media.

Very few details were made public regarding the wrongful termination suit and the negotiations leading to the agreement intended to resolve the lawsuit. The line item on the board’s meeting agenda actually made no mention of Danielle Clark, her wrongful termination suit, or even her former job or department. Clark’s settlement was listed with her name amid 140 other listed expenses on a document that was one of 200 pages of material and backup material for the monthly board meeting. The vote at the meeting was 3-0. Two of the board members were absent (Marcos Diaz and Antonio Martinez). The board gave approval for the district’s attorneys to settle the case in May 2018.

If you need to talk to an experienced California employment law attorney because you have been wrongfully terminated from your job, please get in touch with 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.

$1.35M Verdict Goes to Self-Storage Employee in Wrongful Termination Case

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The California appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision in a wrongful termination suit that awarded a former self-storage employee, Eva O’Brien, $1.325 million. The award covered wrongful termination and punitive damages. Eva O’Brien was awarded:

·       Compensatory Damages: $325,000

·       Punitive Damages: $1,000,000

·       And the cost of legal fees

The case was against Dennis E. Baca, the owner of Airport Self Storage located in Livermore, California.

When the lower court issued their decision, Baca motioned for a new trial. His motion was denied. When the motion was denied, Baca appealed the lower court’s decision arguing that the plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. He also argued that the award for damages was excessive and accused O’Brien’s legal counsel of misconduct in the process of the trial.

Baca and his self-storage facility manager, Laura Read, hired O’Brien at $15/hour as a “relief clerk” in November 2010. In addition to being the facility manager, Read is described as being Baca’s “longtime companion.” O’Brien was to work three days each week at the self-storage facility and the other two days of the work week at the company’s business office. The self-storage business also does business as Baca Properties, owners of various commercial assets.

In early summer 2022, O’Brien discovered she was pregnant and advised her manager, Read, even though she was warned by a co-worker that Baca would be unhappy hearing the news. In a meeting between Read, Baca and O’Brien on October 7th, Baca berated O’Brien, throwing a rental agreement at her and accusing her of only thinking about her family, “making so many mistakes,” not paying attention, complaining that her “belly” was going to get so big it would prevent her from doing her work and also complaining that after that she would be breast feeding and “causing more problems.”

According to court documents, that’s not where the berating ended. Allegedly, Baca then got in O’Brien’s face and asked her if she wanted to give notice. O’Brien said no, and Baca told her to get back to work advising her that he was, “not going to take care of [her].” Baca didn’t fire her allegedly because he didn’t want her to collect unemployment, but he did advise another associate at the company that he was going to make her quit and asked another of her co-workers to confiscate her keys to the facility. A few days after the meeting in which Baca first demanded O’Brien give notice, she was told not to answer the phone, collect checks or use the computer. She was instead told to clean, dust, and mop (including cleaning the windows and toilet). These were all duties that she had not been responsible for previously.

A few days later, she was sent home from work after only three hours on the job. She filed a claim with the Employment Development Department for a reduction of work hours. This was not the last time she was sent home early from work (losing a significant number of hours). According to court documentation, the facility manager began the search for O’Brien’s replacement directly after the October 7th meeting and scheduled them to begin work on October 19th. When O’Brien reported for work on the 21st, she was advised that the owner wanted her to go home. When she called her manager to ask when she should return to work, she was told, “We see that you filed for unemployment. We no longer need your services.” Baca included a forged note with O’Brien’s last paycheck to give the appearance that O’Brien had given notice. He later admitted to the court that he wrote the note for that purpose. The court concluded that this action was an “intent to create beneficial evidence if O’Brien sought unemployment benefits for being fired.”

Baca was described as a micromanager and after her treatment on the job and her wrongful termination, O’Brien was treated for both depression and anxiety. She was awarded $25,000 for economic loss and $300,000 for emotional stress by the jury. After Phase II of the trial, the jury decided that the facility owner’s behavior was malicious, oppressive or fraudulent. As a result, O’Brien was awarded $1 million in punitive damages in addition to the other awards.

If you have been the victim of wrongful termination or if you are experiencing discrimination in your workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.