Will California Be the First State to Offer Black People Protection from Natural Hair Discrimination in the Workplace?

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Many black Angelenos see Mahogany Hair Revolution, the natural hair salon run by Kari Williams in Beverly Hills, as a refuge. It is a particular refuge for black Angelenos who are pressured to change their hairstyle to keep a job or advance in the workplace. Williams has had customers come in to request she cut their locs (short for dreadlocks) because their boss or supervisor told them the hairstyle was unacceptable. Other customers can't remember what their natural hair looks like because they haven't worn it in so long. Williams supports the proposed state legislation that could make California the first state to offer legal protection to black employees experiencing natural hair discrimination in the workplace.

The proposed legislation, referred to as the CROWN Act, passed the state Senate in April and was recently approved by the state Assembly. The legislation would outlaw policies that punish black employees or students for their hairstyles. Supporters say the bill would create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair (the bill's acronym, CROWN). The CROWN Act would extend the anti-discrimination protections included in the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Education Code to add hair texture and hairstyles. It would also amend California government and education codes to protect from discrimination based on traits that are historically associated with a race (like hair texture or hairstyle). The Act would effectively make targeting a hairstyle that is associated with a particular race would be legally defined as racial discrimination.

If the Governor signs the bill, it will provide legal protection for people in the workplace and K-12 schools by prohibiting enforcement of grooming policies that have a disproportionate effect on people of color. The change would affect policies that ban certain hairstyles like Afros, braids, twists, cornrows, dreadlocks, etc. Black employees have filed numerous lawsuits nationwide claiming to have lost their jobs or faced discrimination in the workplace due to their hairstyle.

Lawmakers in New York and New Jersey proposed legislation modeled after the CROWN Act in June.

If you are experiencing workplace discrimination or if you need to discuss how to file a California discrimination lawsuit, get in touch with the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw L.L.P. With conveniently located employment law offices in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, and Chicago; we are here when you need help.

VW’s Rebranding Effort Allegedly Included Policy to Purge Older Workers

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In response to a 2015 diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen AG instituted a rebranding strategy. According to a 53-year old worker, Jonathan Manlove, the rebranding strategy allegedly included a policy to remove older employees from the company. The worker claiming age discrimination filed a collective action in Tennessee federal court.

Manlove claimed in the complaint that VW’s attempt to create a distraction from the diesel emissions scandal fallout or what has become known as the Dieselgate scandal with two different rebranding labor campaigns included clear discrimination violations. Particularly, the company planned to get rid of management positions that were filled by “older” employees. The plaintiff alleged that the new policy was in clear violation of U.S. age discrimination laws.

The rebranding strategies were implemented in 2016 with the twin policies: TRANSFORM 2025+ and Pact for the Future. They were implemented globally. According to American law, VW’s policy of purging older employees from their management ranks is illegal age discrimination.

The plaintiff stated in the complaint that VW’s own press releases on their new strategies made clear their intentions to eliminate older employees. The company openly stated that they would be using early retirements and “natural fluctuations” in order to reach their rebranding strategy goals to become “slimmer, leaner and younger.” 

Manlove filed suit on behalf of VW employees in the United States of America over the age of 50. Manlove worked as a VW assistant manager in logistics before he was demoted in June 2017. The demotion came only days after the VW announcement that the company would be creating a younger workforce at management levels.

VW advised Manlove he had one hear to find and obtain another assistant manager position at the company before the move would become a permanent demotion. Yet somehow Manlove’s positive performance reviews did nothing to keep him from being assigned to remain in the demoted position by VW Human Resources as well as being advised he was not allowed to apply for openings at the company.

According to the complaint, many others were affected. Since the announcement of the policy change, six employees under the age of 30 were promoted to assistant manager positions at the logistics department of VW at the Chattanooga, Tennessee manufacturing facility where Manlove was employed. At the same time, only two over 50 employees retained their assistant manager positions.

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

NY Times Facing Discrimination & Misclassification Claims

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Robert Stolarik, a photographer with an extensive working relationship with the New York Times, filed a lawsuit against the newspaper. He alleges that the New York Times misclassified him on the job, discriminated against him due to age, denied him assignments due to a past arrest, and retaliated against him when he made these claims public. During the course of his career as a photographer, Stolarik has had his photos featured on the front page of the New York Times over 30 times.

Stolarik filed the lawsuit on July 6th in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He included a number of different accusations:

Classification as a freelancer instead of a full-time employee, which left him responsible for paying additional taxes and ineligible for the company’s benefits and retirement plan. Stolarik claims the editors referred to him as a “full time freelancer” for 14 years.

No overtime pay despite working close to 3,400 hours in overtime from 2005 through 2009.

When seeking to become a staff photographer/employee, Stolarik was told a number of times by different editors at the paper that his age (37 in 2006) prevented his hiring as a staff shooter. During that same time period, younger photographers (20-somethings) were hired on as staff photographers.

In August 2012, Stolarik was assaulted and arrested while covering a story in the Bronx. The Times made sure Stolarik had legal representation and submitted an angry letter to the NYPD about the incident. The officer was later charged and found guilty of a felony for lying about the arrest. Yet Stolarik was taken off the police beat (that he had covered for more than 10 years) in response to the arrest.

Stolarik claims that the unlawful and discriminatory practices of the New York Times resulted in a loss of income and benefits because he was denied both a staff position and freelance assignments. In addition, Stolarik claims the paper retaliated against him when he submitted a letter including these legal complaints to the paper in spring of 2016. Since that time, he has not received a single assignment from the paper’s editors.

If you have experienced workplace retaliation or you don’t know what to do about discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Uber’s Travis Kalanick Leaves a Sexist Workplace Culture in his Wake

Many credit Travis Kalanick with “building” Uber, the ride-sharing and delivery service company, after his own image and in his own style. He is often described as bold, brash and unapologetic – a frat-boy whose personality seems stamped all over the massive company that experienced such rapid growth that it expanded into cities over the heated objections of politicians with the help of excessive smear campaigns designed to bully obstacles out of the way. The strategy was an effective one for years. In fact, Uber grew into a $70 billion business before suddenly running into some bumpy roads.

The bumps came in the form of a cascade of sexual harassment allegations and public relations disasters that finally led to Kalanick’s resignation as Uber’s CEO. Kalanick’s resignation comes just a week after Uber announced that he would take an indefinite leave of absence at the recommendation of a report by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was commissioned to conduct an investigation into Uber’s “toxic” workplace culture.

The temporary dismissal of Uber’s frat-boy founder apparently wasn’t enough to waylay the fears of nervous investors. The New York Times reported that five of Uber’s top investors demanded Kalanick resign. The ultimatum was delivered in a letter titled, “Moving Uber Forward.” In the letter, the five investors demanded a change of leadership and Kalanick agreed. While Kalanick resigned as CEO, he will keep a seat on Uber’s board of directors.

Almost from its very founding, Uber has been putting out fires on a number of issues. They have dealt with accusations of driver mistreatment: hired as independent contractors in order to avoid the costs of health insurance and overtime. They have dealt with political opposition in a number of locations over concerns regarding the largely unregulated model of livery service as well as the potentially negative impact that hundreds or thousands of new cars on city streets could have. They have faced significant fines due to failing to ensure their drivers adhered to anti-discrimination laws. The first massive blow came in 2015 when the state’s Labor Commission ruled in favor of drivers in the argument of misclassification.

Uber’s response to all of the above was to launch counter-offensives. For instance, when facing opposition in New York City, Uber launched a multi-million ad campaign targeting Mayor Bill de Blasio and other opposing politicians. In Seattle, Uber hired a firm liked to the CIA to investigate the city’s union laws when Uber drivers were offered the right to bargain collectively. And in cities everywhere, Uber utilized “greyball” software to evade government regulators and disguise the accurate depth of operations.

Dozens of Uber passengers have filed lawsuits alleging rape, kidnapping, assault, harassment, etc. with the additional claims that the company next to nothing to prevent them from happening. Reports have also circulated of aggressive tactics being considered as retribution against journalists who attempted to expose the more shady side of the company. And the boardroom reeked of problems as well. In a publicly shared blog post, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler outlined several instances of sexual harassment, which were all followed by a complete disregard on the part of executives with which she shared her concerns.

Granted, this is the same company:

  • That signed off on an ad campaign built around the phrase “hot chick” drivers.
  • That hired a senior VP who had been fired from a previous job for sexual harassment.
  • Whose founder and CEO referred to the company as “Boober.”

Earlier this month, Uber fired more than 20 employees as a result of an investigation into hundreds of sexual harassment, discrimination, and workplace retaliation claims. Yet the sexist culture prevails. On the same day the repot about corporate sexism was released to the public, a board member cracked a sexist joke to Arianna Huffington, a fellow board member. The offender quickly resigned, yet it serves as proof of the strength of the “legacy” left behind by the departing Kalanick.

If you have concerns regarding workplace retaliation or if you experience discrimination or harassment on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at California’s Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Settled with $4 Million Settlement from the Catholic Church

March 25, 2015 - A former high school football coach, Christopher Cerbone, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Catholic Church in Sacramento in response to his termination after reporting that some of the older players were sexually harassing some of the younger members on the team. The church agreed to pay $4 million to settle the suit. This settlement is in addition to the $900,000 a jury already ordered the church to pay the coach. The sexual harassment the coach reported was a form of “hazing.”

The church offered the $4 million settlement while the Sacramento County supreme court’s jury was deliberating whether to award punitive damages in response to the suit. The jury later advised reporters that they were considering awarding a lower amount closer to $1 to $2 million.

The hazing incident that led Cerbone to report the sexual harassment occurred at a Catholic high school in Vallejo in December of 2012.

Southern California employment law is designed to protect California workers who are doing their jobs. If you feel unsafe in the workplace or you feel that someone you work with is in an unsafe environment or situation, contact us for information on how to make it right. Many workplaces have policies regarding discrimination that go ignored until workers seek outside legal counsel. If you are a victim of harassment or if you have been victimized by a wrongful termination, you have the right to speak up for yourself. Doing so, with legal counsel on your side will mean getting results. If you have questions regarding sexual harassment or what constitutes wrongful termination, contact the southern California employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik. 

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Settled with $4 Million Settlement from the Catholic Church

A former high school football coach, Christopher Cerbone, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Catholic Church in Sacramento in response to his termination after reporting that some of the older players were sexually harassing some of the younger members on the team. The church agreed to pay $4 million to settle the suit. This settlement is in addition to the $900,000 a jury already ordered the church to pay the coach. The sexual harassment the coach reported was a form of “hazing.” 

The church offered the $4 million settlement while the Sacramento County supreme court’s jury was deliberating whether to award punitive damages in response to the suit. The jury later advised reporters that they were considering awarding a lower amount closer to $1 to $2 million.

The hazing incident that led Cerbone to report the sexual harassment occurred at a Catholic high school in Vallejo in December of 2012.

Southern California employment law is designed to protect California workers who are doing their jobs. If you feel unsafe in the workplace or you feel that someone you work with is in an unsafe environment or situation, contact us for information on how to make it right. Many workplaces have policies regarding discrimination that go ignored until workers seek outside legal counsel. If you are a victim of harassment or if you have been victimized by a wrongful termination, you have the right to speak up for yourself. Doing so, with legal counsel on your side will mean getting results. If you have questions regarding sexual harassment or what constitutes wrongful termination, contact the southern California employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik. 

Wrongful Termination and Discrimination Suit Filed against City by Former Trenton Park Ranger and Mack Supporter

Russell Wilson was a campaign supporter for former Trenton Mayor Tony Mack. He was given the position of park ranger in 2010 after Mack won the mayoral election. Two years later, in October of 2012, Wilson was charged with trespassing and theft. Claims were made that he stole over 10 gallons of city gas for use in his private vehicle. As a result of the charges made, he was placed on leave. The charges were soon dismissed, but Wilson was not reinstated as Trenton park ranger.

In April of 2013, Wilson’s attorney sent a letter to Mack stating that the he was eligible to return to work as a park ranger for the city.

In October Mr. Wilson filed suit claiming he was wrongfully terminated from his position as a park ranger. He seeks back pay and compensation because he wasn’t reinstated after criminal charges filed against him were dismissed. The letter was sent as a means of resolving the matter without additional legal action. 

Wilson believes that he was targeted because he was a supporter of Mack during the election. At the time of the allegations made against Wilson, Mack was under investigation. Mack, the Trenton mayor, was busted as part of a government sting and was eventually found guilty of bribery, fraud and extortion. (His brother was also found guilty of participating in a scheme to take bribes in exchange for helping obtain approvals for the development of a parking garage structure). Wilson also stated that he sees the charges as age discrimination due to the fact that the police officers identified the man they saw stealing city gas only as “old.” Wilson is 71 and believes that this descriptor leading to his being officially charged with the crime constitutes discrimination according to AARP.

If you have questions regarding age discrimination or wrongful termination or discrimination in general get in touch with an expert southern California employment law expert at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik to get the answers you need.