Is Starbucks Misgendering Trans Woman a Violation of Labor Law?

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Starbucks recently claimed that misgendering or calling an employee by the wrong pronoun is not harassment, which is in direct contradiction to their employee guidelines. A former Starbucks employee, Maddie Wade, filed a complaint at the Fresno Superior Court in California suing the company for harassment and discrimination.

Wade, a former barista at a Starbucks in Fresno, alleges that when she began her transition, her manager at the time reduced her work hours and refused to call her by preferred pronouns. She also claims that her former Starbucks manager began posting transphobic material online through social media outlets. Wade claims that she was bullied and targeted by her manager at the Fresno Starbucks daily after she came out as transgender.

Allegedly, the mistreatment by her boss, Dustin Guthrie, escalated to unbearable levels and Wage had to transfer to a different Starbucks location. The harassment continued at the next Starbucks location. Wade claims her manager at the new site encouraged her to take the matter to the District Manager, and she did, but the situation was not resolved. After nine years of employment, Wade eventually left her position at Starbucks at the advice of her therapist due to the mental stress and “intolerable conditions” she was forced to endure.

Wade seeks general damages, special damages, punitive damages, and attorneys fees from her former employer. She states that the loss of health insurance prevented her from receiving the treatment and procedures she needs to complete her transition. Wade also claims that Starbuck’s value marketing group for its LGBTQ employees on the Facebook page, Starbucks Partners – Pride Alliance Network, refuses to allow her to post on its wall.

It is ironic that as we enter Pride Month, Starbucks seems to be making moves counter to its public record highlighting LGBTQ acceptance. The company is reasonably well known for its LGBTQ acceptance: scoring 100 out of 100 on Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index, releasing annual LGBTQ-focused products, rolling out trans-inclusive health care included in their benefits package, etc. Attorneys representing the massive coffee provider are filing a motion for summary judgment and arguing that there is not enough evidence to show that Guthrie was calling Wade by incorrect pronouns on purpose. Without proof of intent, the Defendant contends that the behavior in itself cannot constitute discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

If you have questions about filing a discrimination lawsuit or if you experienced discrimination in the workplace, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

Google Hiring Discrimination Lawsuit Progresses & California Judge Apologizes

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Google job applicants filed suit alleging discrimination based on gender, race, and political views. The plaintiffs in the suit claim Google had a clear pattern of hiring white or Asian men with particular political views (or perceived political views). In response to the lawsuit, Google filed three motions in an attempt to squash the legal action: a motion to dismiss, a motion to strike, and a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

The Superior Court Judge in Santa Clara took apart each of the arguments in a written order (nine pages long) and concluding by apologizing to Google and advising them that they would have to face the charges in court.

Plaintiffs counsel will need to negotiate with Google over the discovery plan and start getting documents from them related to the plaintiffs’ request to certify class.

The Defendant, Google, claims they lack the ability to discriminate against job applicants based on political views or activities. They argued that hundreds of thousands or even millions of people have applied to work at Google during the five years proposed as a class period, and they could not reasonably be expected to go through them all. They argued that even if they could go through them all, they couldn’t possibly define who is a conservative and who is not. Counsel for the plaintiff argued that Google’s argument was similar to arguments made decades ago when issues of discrimination against women were brought up in court. Concepts of gender and race are the basis for a large portion of discrimination cases, yet in the modern workplace, these concepts are more fluid than ever, yet the legislature actively protects them against discrimination, leaving it to the court to resolve the issue.

Plaintiffs’ counsel also made sure to note that according to Google insiders, the massive tech company reviews the personal data of job applicants using its own collection of user data. They even refer to an individual’s fitness to be a Google employee as the x-factor of “Googliness.”

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or during the hiring process, please don’t hesitate. The experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. With convenient locations in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, and Chicago, we are ready to be your advocate and seek justice for unfair working conditions.

Comcast Contractor Faces Settles Up to Resolve Allegations of Unpaid Overtime and Labor Law Violations

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O.C. Communications Inc., a Comcast Contractor that supplies tech talent, agrees to pay a $7.5 million settlement to resolve an unpaid overtime lawsuit. Court documents include allegations that company employees were not paid overtime, were denied meal breaks in violation of state labor law, and not reimbursed for business expenses (i.e., tools necessary for the job).

The federal overtime class-action lawsuit was filed in San Francisco naming O.C. Communications (a California firm) and Comcast as Defendants. The two Defendants agreed to settle the case after an extensive amount of litigation that included the production of 1.5 million documents related to the case. Both Defendants, while agreeing to pay the settlement amount identified above, continue to deny any wrongdoing.

One of the lead plaintiffs in the class action overtime lawsuit, Desidero Soto of Concord, California, claims that O.C. Communications scheduled him to complete 32 job stops during one workday even though the typical complete workday included a total of eight stops. Supervisors instructed him to work through meal breaks to make it work regardless of what he was required to write on official time sheets. He claims any time taken to eat during the workday was while driving from job to job and even then, he was required to be accessible by cell phone at all times and to respond to work calls at any time.

Another plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, Jacky Charles of Margate, Florida, was a tech for the Defendant from September 2016 through May 2017. He claims that he was required to buy his own wireless drill, drill bits, screwdriver, staple gun, and a variety of cables, and work clothes to fulfill his job duties. Hundreds of other techs presented similar claims to the court.

According to court records, the $7.5 million settlement that O.C. Communications and Comcast agreed to pay plaintiffs on March 1st could have the 4,500 techs splitting the amount (minus legal fees).

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

Overtime Claims Filed By Offshore Oil Rig Workers: Governed by FLSA or California State Law?

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The Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that state wage and hour laws do not apply to offshore drilling workers when federal law addresses the issue in question. In the recent case, Parker Drilling Management Services v. Newton, No. 18-389, the question the Supreme Court was asked to answer was whether California law governs minimum wage and payment for “standby time” for workers on oil rigs working in federal waters off the California shoreline.

When they held that California’s wage and hour laws do not apply, the Supreme Court rejected the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. The Supreme Court concluded that under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), California state law is not applicable as surrogate federal law unless federal law presents a significant void or gap concerning the specific issue. The Supreme Court decision is a decided victory for companies currently operating or servicing oil rigs off the California coast in federal waters.

The Allegations Made in the Wage and Hour Case:

Brian Newton, the plaintiff in the case, worked on oil drilling platforms off the coast of California as an employee of Parker Drilling Management Services, Ltd. Newton alleges that he regularly worked 14-day shifts involving 12 hours of “on duty” hours per day and 12 hours of “standby” per day. During the standby hours, Newton claims he could not leave the platform, yet he was not paid for the standby hours.

Newton filed a class action lawsuit in California state court alleging that the company’s standby policies violated California’s wage and hour laws as well as other claims of labor law violations in connection to Parker Drilling’s failure to provide workers with pay for standby hours. After the case was removed to federal district court, parties involved agreed that the oil drilling platforms where Newton performed his job duties were covered under OCSLA.  

If you are dealing with issues of wage theft and you aren’t sure how to seek justice for the wages you have lost, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

Thomas Keller Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Goes to Trial

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A former server for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Vanessa Scott-Allen, was denied a position at the French Laundry when management discovered her pregnancy. The company insists that they did not issue a formal job offer to Scott-Allen and that she misconstrued “pleasantries” with an official offer. They further claim that the reason she did not receive a job offer was her performance on the job.

Scott-Allen seeks $5 million in damages for wrongful termination and sex discrimination from the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. The Group runs the French Laundry and Per Se, as well as other dining establishments. The plaintiff named Thomas Keller himself in the lawsuit alongside the General Manager of French Laundry, Michael Minnillo. The case went to trial in Napa County Superior Court close to three years after the plaintiff filed the original suit.

It is not uncommon for suits of this type to be settled outside of court, but Scott-Allen preferred to go to trial to raise awareness for issues that riddle the entire restaurant industry. Scott-Allen insists that she considered the company family and that they betrayed her by rescinding her job offer once her pregnancy was known.

Scott-Allen claims that she spent five years at New York’s Per Se, where she received regular promotions in the workplace from kitchen server to captain, the highest ranking server position at the company. She began planning a move to the West Coast to have more space, to raise a family, and to work at the French Laundry, Keller’s fine-dining destination in Yountville. She advised her manager of the move/transfer, signed the transfer request form, and packed her things. When she arrived in Napa Valley, she found that there was not a job for her after all. Only weeks had passed since managers at the French Laundry discovered that Scott-Allen was pregnant.

According to the lawsuit, managers asked Scott-Allen how her pregnancy may affect her job performance during an interview in April 2016. But the hiring manager, Minnillo, already knew that Scott-Allen was pregnant. Scott-Allen submitted proof of the prior knowledge during the case. Minnillo wrote in an email sent on March 1, 2016, to the company’s head of Human Resources that the pregnancy was never mentioned and that there was confusion regarding how to proceed. According to the suit, Minnillo and the HR manager came up with a plan to give Scott-Allen a “sham” interview to protect themselves and the company in case she decided to file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. During a video deposition, Minnillo stated that the interview was “to go through the motions” even though he had no intention of hiring Scott-Allen.

The company claims that Minnillo’s confusion was not due to what to do in the situation because of Scott-Allen’s pregnancy. They insist that Minnillo decided not to hire her based on her job performance as they had previously worked together at Per Se. The company insists that he was simply wondering if Scott-Allen’s pregnancy would prevent him from passing her over for the job. A little over a week after passing Scott-Allen over for the job insisting that there was no position for her at the French Laundry, the restaurant hired a different individual to fill the role of captain – one who had no prior experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant, but that was not pregnant.

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination on the job or during the hiring process, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

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.