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.

Dodger Team Sued for Alleged Sexual Harassment

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The longtime Dodger usher, Vickie Gutierrez, is suing the team and her boss for alleged sexual harassment and backlash for reporting the behavior. The 72-year old claims that the situation has negatively affected her health.

Gutierrez filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court naming defendants Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, Los Angeles Dodgers Holding Co. LLC and Shahram Ariane and seeking unspecified damages. According to Gutierrez's claims, Ariane was the 'Dodger's executive in charge of security for the stadium and Dodger management.

Violations Cited in the Complaint Include:

•       Retaliation: one of the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination as well as one of the most common discrimination findings.

•       Sexual Battery: Unwanted contact with an intimate part of the body for sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

•       Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

•       Sexual Discrimination: Sex or gender discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of their sex.

•       Hostile Work Environment: When discriminatory behavior in the workplace creates an environment that makes it difficult or uncomfortable for another person to complete their job duties.

•       Failure to Take Appropriate Preventive or Corrective Action: When a company or superior fails to make improvements to an 'organization's processes after a complaint is made to eliminate the cause of inappropriate behavior or undesirable situations.

•       Violation of State Business and Professional Code: The business and professional codes regulate business operation in California.

If you have been the victim of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, please 'don't hesitate. Get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today so we can help you protect your rights on the job.

Settlement Reached with Former Port Hueneme Employee Who Filed Harassment Claim

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A former Port Hueneme employee claims she experienced harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Carmen Nichols, a former employee of Port Hueneme, filed a claim alleging both.

In response, Port Hueneme is to pay Carmen Nichols $550,000. While according to the terms of the settlement, Port Hueneme officially admits no wrongdoing, the settlement counts as a win. Nichols resigned from her position in August 2017 after being employed for 22 years. One month after she left, she filed a claim alleging misconduct by Hensley as well as other employees who allowed the Hensley’s harassment and discrimination of Nichols to continue.

In the complaint, Nichols alleged that City Council member Jim Hensley harassed and discriminated against her on numerous occasions beginning around January 2015 and continuing until she was finally forced to quit her job in August 2017. Harassment and discrimination aimed at Nichols were based on gender and race and was, in the words of Nichols, “continuous.” While opposing party claims Nichol has zero evidence of her claims, Nichols listed several instances of harassment and discrimination in her complaint.

Nichols claims that Hensley regularly referenced her looks, insinuated she wasn’t doing her job, opposed a pay raise for her when she was named for a promotion (even when she earned less than men in the same position), referenced her ethnicity (referring to her as a “Latina”), and openly expressed his dislike for Hispanics.

In a separate case citing Port Hueneme as Defendant filed by City Council member Jim Hensley, a judge found the federal lawsuit seeking monetary damages for lost wages and benefits related to his removal from some committees as well as emotional distress without merit. U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. granted the request for summary judgment. By granting the summary judgment, the judge essentially rules that Hensley’s claims were not strong enough to hold up in court and allow the case to move forward. Judge Birotte reviewed the Plaintiff’s pleadings as well as records of City Council meetings pertaining to the situation and determined there were no “genuine issues of material fact.” Hensley and his counsel feel the judge’s conclusion was inaccurate and plan to appeal.

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

$1.3 Million Settlement to Settle Glasswerks L.A. Unpaid Wages Lawsuit

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California employees claimed another victory in a recent unpaid wages lawsuit, Fajardo v. Glasswerks L.A. The commercial glass manufacturer agreed to pay $1.3 million to resolve the class action filed on behalf of workers who claim the company failed to pay overtime and provide meal and rest breaks.

The claims apply to employees working for Glasswerks L.A. between 2012 and 2018 and affects more than 1,000 current and former employees. Each will end up receiving approximately $800, but some will see as much as $2,400 as a result of the settlement. Plaintiffs in the case claim the company shorted them on overtime and failed to provide meal and rest breaks and required by California Labor Law. 

Parties settled the case through private mediation with few details offered to the public. In spite of the lack of information, the settlement supports the continued efforts of the California courts to protect the rights of employees and their legally protected pay.

According to California Labor Law, nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime when they work over eight hours in one day or 40 hours in one week. Nonexempt workers are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted, duty-free meal break when they complete more than 5 hours in a shift (on one workday) as well as a 10-minute uninterrupted, duty-free rest break for every 4 hours worked. While the rules seem straightforward, there are often complications. Most confusion regarding these specific labor laws come from the determining who is covered by the protections of the law and which hours count. For instance, independent contractors (rather than employees of the company) do not receive wage and hour law protections. Managerial employees are also exempt.

Another common issue for California wage and hour law involves determining which hours should be counted when determining how many hours an employee has worked in one workday or how many hours they have worked in one workweek. (According to the law, more than 8 hours in one day or more than 40 hours in one workweek require employees to provide overtime compensation). According to recent California court decisions, employers should include small amounts of off-the-clock work time when counting employee hours towards overtime totals. On-call time should also be included even when the employee is not required to be present on the job site. For instance, employees who are required to be on-call at night must be paid for their time even if the employee is asleep during their time on call. Employees asked to take care of simple tasks while on lunch break must have their time count toward wage and overtime calculations and payment.

If you have questions about why you are not receiving overtime pay you are due, or if you have experienced other California Labor Law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. We have the experience you need on your side to protect your wage and hour rights and help you gain the compensation you deserve.

California Protection and Investigation Services, Inc. Faces Overtime Pay Allegations

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A class action overtime lawsuit recently filed in California (Case No. 19STCV14719) alleges that California Protection and Investigation Services, Inc. failed to pay overtime. Security guards employed at the company filed the proposed class action complaint against the security services company.

Plaintiffs in the suit claim that California Protection and Investigation Services, Inc. failed to provide meal and rest periods for employees.

The Proposed Class Action Against California Protection and Investigation Services, Inc.: Overtime Violations

•    The company failed to provide mandatory meal and rest breaks to security staff.

•    Failed and Continued to Fail to Accurately Calculate and Pay Employees for Overtime Hours

•    Intentionally and Knowingly Failed to Compensate Employees at the Correct Rate of Pay for Overtime as a Matter of Company Policy

According to the proposed class action’s allegations, California Protection and Investigation Services, Inc.’s security guards claim they were unable to take off duty meal breaks because their work schedules were too rigorous and did not allow for the required meal breaks.

To comply with California labor laws, employers must provide employees who work for more than five hours during a shift with a thirty-minute uninterrupted meal break before the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work. They must also provide the employee with a second uninterrupted meal break when an employee is working a shift of 10 hours. According to the complaint, the security company did not provide additional compensation to the security guards who forfeited their mandatory meal breaks even though additional compensation is required by law in this situation.

If you have questions about what to do when your employer is violating California Labor Code or if you are not being provided with proper overtime compensation, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.

Spectraforce Technologies, Inc. Faces California Overtime Lawsuit

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Spectraforce Technologies, Inc. is facing a class action lawsuit alleging that the company failed to provide required meal and rest periods, as well as overtime wages to employees. The class action overtime lawsuit is pending in the Santa Clara County Superior Court (Case No. 19CV346604).  

Employees Claim that Spectraforce Technologies, Inc. Violated Labor Law by:

•    Failing to Accurately Calculate and Pay California Non-Exempt Employees for Overtime

•    Continuing to Inaccurately Calculate and Pay Overtime Wages

•    Failing to Accurately Calculate Wages for Overtime Hours Worked

•    Failing to Provide Plaintiff and Other Class Members with Required Rest Periods

•    Failing to Provide Employees with Off-Duty Meal Breaks when Completing Shifts of over 5 hours

Non-Exempt Employee: An employee who is entitled to overtime pay according to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employers are required to pay time and a half the employee’s regular rate of pay when they complete more than 40 hours of work in any given week.

Overtime Rate of Pay: According to California State Law, employers are required to provide employees with overtime compensation at one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay.

Overtime Pay Calculations: To accurately calculate overtime pay, employers must start by determining the employee’s regular rate of pay. The regular rate of pay should include the hourly rate plus any value associated with nondiscretionary bonuses, shift differentials, and other specific forms of compensation.

Meal Break Law Requirements: If a California employee works more than 5 hours in a day, they are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes. The meal break must begin before the end of the fifth hour of the shift. Employees can agree with their employer to waive the meal break is they do not work more than 6 hours in a workday.

If you need additional information about the class action lawsuit against Spectraforce Technologies, Inc. or if you need answers to questions about wage and hour law or receiving just overtime compensation, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.

$2 Million Settlement to End Terranea Resort Workers’ Wage Lawsuit

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Court documents filed on April 30th, 2019 outlined a settlement of $2.15 million paid by Terranea Resort to resolve claims made in a significant wage and hour class action lawsuit. This settlement follows another class action lawsuit the Lowe Enterprises-owned hotel settled in 2013. The previous lawsuit resulted in a $1.125 million settlement.

The recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of hundreds of employees, both current and former, all eligible to receive compensation.  

Allegations Included in the Complaint: Various Forms of Wage Theft

•    Off-the-Clock-Work

•    Missed Rest Breaks

•    Missed Meal Periods

•    Failure to Reimburse Employees for Basic Tools Needed on the Job

•    Falsified Record Keeping to Avoid Paying Meal Break Penalties

The lawsuit also claimed that the resort failed to provide employees with payment for the time they were required to spend shuttling back and forth between the resort and off-site parking lots per company bus. According to allegations made in the complaint, it added an hour or more to employees’ travel each day. Plaintiffs also claim that workers were required to arrive early for shifts to change into their uniforms before clocking in for their shift (constituting off-the-clock-work).

Expenses that the resort failed to reimburse included the cost of essential kitchen items cooks used in the luxury resort kitchen. For instance, cooks claim they purchased their own knives, graters, etc. because the resort did not provide even the most necessary tools.

If you have questions about wage and hour law or if you are not paid the compensation you are due, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.