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.

Vivint Smart Homes Faces Racial Harassment Complaints

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Vivint Smart Homes, a Provo-based company, is facing racial harassment complaints filed by four former employees. The four complaints arrive on the scene only months after two former Vivint Solar employees filed similar harassment complaints in June 2018.

The four men who filed racial harassment complaints all identify as black or Latino. The lawsuits were filed in October 2018 in the Superior Court of California in LA. Claims included racial harassment, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination and racial discrimination in the workplace on the part of co-workers.

The previous, but similar, complaints came just four months after two other former employees, one white and one black, leveled allegations of racism and hostile work environment in a Vivint Solar office right here in California. These complaints came after a supervisor and other workers on site built a cardboard “fort” in the warehouse and then used spray paint to write “white only” on the outside of the makeshift, cardboard fortress. 

Vivint Solar and Vivint Smart Home are two separate entities. But both companies are controlled by the same private equity firm in New York. Both also grew out of APX Alarm, a Provo company that was founded almost two decades ago. The two companies, Vivint Solar and Vivint Smart Home, enjoy a strategic partnership.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs suggest that it’s obvious that there is a real cultural problem in the Vivint family. Christopher Brown, one of the plaintiffs, claimed that shortly after he arrived to work in California as a sales representative for Vivint Smart Home, his supervisor on the job started to use the “n-word” and make racist comments. Chris made a complaint but got an extremely minimal response from the company. In fact, Brown is fairly certain the supervisor in question is still employed at the company and that no disciplinary action was taken regarding the racial harassment.

Other complainants include: Andrew Kirchner, Terence Major and Vaaron Watts. All claim that they were subjected to racial slurs, images and videos posted to a GroupMe chat hosted by a co-worker.

If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment or if you are discriminated against at work, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$3.2M Awarded to Fired California Hospital Employee in Wrongful Termination and Discrimination Suit

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On November 5th, 2018, a former warehouse employee at Loma Linda University Medical Center was awarded $3.2 million by a jury. The plaintiff, 44-year old Hugo Lizarraga, claims that he was harassed by his supervisors at the California medical facility for years until he was eventually fired due to his Islamic beliefs.

Lizarraga worked in the California hospital warehouse for 20 years. He claims that he was a victim of both religious and disability discrimination on the part of his supervisors, other employees, and the human resources department for more than six years. Lizarraga filed a California discrimination lawsuit in September 2016.

Legal Definitions:

Wrongful Termination – A situation in which an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by the employer and the termination breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment, a statute provision, or employment law.

Religious Discrimination – A situation in which an individual or entity treats a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of their religious beliefs. The law protects not only those individuals who belong to traditional, organized religious, like Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also those who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Disability Discrimination – A situation in which an employer or other entity that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or Rehabilitation Act, treats a qualified applicant or employee unfavorably because they have a disability.

According to the lawsuit, Lizarraga worked at the hospital for more than 10 years and never experienced harassment. The harassment began in 2012 after he converted to Islam, broke his thumb and had a physician place him on modified duty. At that point, Lizarraga’s supervisors started to harass him.

The Loma Linda, California hospital disagrees with the jury’s verdict and denies the allegations claiming that Lizarraga was not discharged due to his Islamic beliefs, but because reported threatening conduct. The hospital spokesperson claimed that the facility complies with federal and state laws on discrimination and harassment and does not tolerate either.

If you have concerns about what constitutes workplace discrimination or if you have been wrongfully terminated due to a disability or your religious beliefs, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by Terminated IT Workers

The University of California is facing a potential lawsuit due to a group of IT workers who were replaced by an offshore outsourcing firm. The former IT workers allege age and national origin discrimination and hope to challenge their dismissal. The tech workers claim that they were victims of age and national origin discrimination due to the university’s San Francisco campus’ decision to dismiss them in favor of outsourcing the work.

The IT workers lost their jobs in February after the university hired an India based IT services firm called HCL. Due to this decision, approximately 50 full time university employees lost their employment. Another 30 long-term contractor positions were also cut. While replacing IT workers with offshore labor is common enough in the private sector, it is almost unheard of at this type of state-supported, public facility.

The university is facing even more criticism due to the fact that the workforce under discussion is overwhelmingly over the age of 40 and they are being replaced by individuals mainly in their early 20’s. Due to this fact, age discrimination will be included in the list of allegations.

Another claim that will be included is the national origin discrimination claim. This is the result of taking a workforce that is an accurate reflection of the diversity in California’s general population and replacing them with a group of people that are all from one particular part of the world – a very limited geographical area.

While there have only been a few civil cases alleging national origin discrimination in offshore outsourcing, interest is increasing as the situation proceeds and the issue itself seems to be gaining a foothold that could bode well for the plaintiffs and others in similar situations. The lawsuit will be filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

If you need to discuss age discrimination in your workplace or if you have been wrongfully terminated, please contact an experienced California employment law attorney at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik today.