Allegations of Retaliation from Former Korn/Ferry Executive

May 4, 2015 - Korn/Ferry International is the world’s largest executive search firm. This makes it big news that the firm is currently in the midst of an intense legal dispute over the termination of one of their top executives, Robert A. Damon.

Robert A. Damon is a former executive chairman of the Americas. In a recent lawsuit he alleges that he was fired in retaliation for his complaints about Chief Executive Gary Burnison’s treatment of a number of female employees. Mr. Damon made his complaints regarding the inappropriate treatment of his colleagues to board members. As a result of his firing, Damon alleges that he lost over $1.7 million in deferred compensation because he was fired for cause. Korn/Ferry denies the allegations.

Korn/Ferry claims that Mr. Damon’s complaints are simply an attempt to downplay/deflect the actual reason behind his termination. The company states that Mr. Damon was “terminated with cause” due to inappropriate personal behavior, flagrant violations of company policy, and material breaches of his employment contract.

Having the dispute go public holds potential embarrassment for the high-profile search firm as they market themselves as a provider of “talent management solutions.” The suit was filed by one of Korn/Ferry’s very own “talents.” Mr. Damon, age 67, was recruited by Korn/Ferry back in 2004 as president of North America, the company’s most substantial unit. He was later promoted to oversee the company’s Americas region.

Korn/Ferry’s 444 recruiters have helped to place leading executives at major corporations such as: Office Depot, Inc., Target Corp., Major League Baseball, etc. Korn/Ferry has held the top spot in the global and US search industry for over 10 years. Korn/Ferry’s own Mr. Burnison. Who has led the company since 2007, has written three different leadership books during his time as CEO. Mr. Burnison, Korn/Ferry CEO, is named specifically as a defendant in the lawsuit alongside Korn/Ferry with allegations that he engaged in a pattern of abuse and discrimination negatively affecting female employees. Allegations state this the discrimination and abuse towards female employees began in 2010.

Experts indicate that Damon’s suit against Korn/Ferry is exciting because it’s not very often that male employees sue employers for retaliation as a result of speaking out about alleged discrimination and abuse of women in the workplace. 

For answers to your questions about discrimination against women in the workplace, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, your southern California employment law attorneys.

Wrongful Termination and Age Discrimination Suit: Branch vs. Kaiser

March 30, 2015 - Belinda Branch worked as a medical assistant for Kaiser until her termination after 34 years on the job. In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Ms. Branch claims that she was fired in retaliation for reporting HIPAA violations on the job. Kaiser claims the woman is not trustworthy.

Ms. Branch started work at Kaiser’s Parkview Building in 1978. In regular performance reviews over the course of her 34 years on the job with Kaiser, she was given “exemplary” status. In 2014, after reporting another Kaiser employee for HIPAA violations, Branch became the focus of an investigation.

According to allegations made by Branch, the medical information that was unlawfully released contained private and sensitive medical data (some of which came from the patient’s “General Surgery File.”) Branch claims she was called in to three separate meetings. At the first two, she was confronted by what she described as hostile “compliance” officers intent on an interrogation. In the third meeting in June of 2014, Branch was terminated. She claims she was given an ultimatum: either resign and be allowed unemployment benefits or be fired without access to unemployment benefits.

Branch also claims that the HR department advised her that she should write her resignation letter immediately. She was required to use the exact wording they provided her with or she would be fired on the spot with no chance to access unemployment. Branch claims that she did as requested, but only under what she described as “coercion and manipulation.”

To date, no known action has been taken against the employees who Branch reported as violating HIPAA by sharing patient information without consent. Branch noted in her complaint that all three of the employees involved in the act are younger and that they were treated more favorably.

Branch claims she was fired in retaliation for her whistle-blowing as well as age discrimination.

Branch sued for age discrimination and wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She is seeking general and special damages for loss of earnings (past and future), loss of benefits, damage to professional reputation, failure to advance, and loss of privileges on the job.

If you have questions regarding what constitutes wrongful termination or age discrimination according to California state labor law and federal employment law, contact the experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Sex Bias Class Action Sued Filed Against Twitter

March 27, 2015 - After complaining that Twitter’s sexist company policies were arbitrary and unjust, a software engineer named Tina Huang was fired. She claims she was fired in retaliation for her complaints and filed a class action. The previous Twitter software engineer claims she was one of Twitter’s earliest hires, but that she was overlooked for/denied promotion opportunities because Twitter discriminates against women. She claims that Twitter management fails to promote equally qualified or even more qualified women to leadership positions in engineering.

In her complaint, Huang points out that Twitter’s promotion system creates a glass ceiling for women that can’t be explained. She claims it does so by:


  • The company has no meaningful promotion process for engineering leadership positions.
  • No company approved, published criteria for promotion, internal hiring, advancement, or application processes.


Ms. Huang started work with Twitter in 2009. At that time, the company had less than 100 employees. She also claims that its dramatic growth in the time since that point is due in large part to the work of its early hires. Many of the early hires now hold senior positions within the company’s structure. Without exception, male employees hold all of those senior positions within the software engineer department.

Huang also claims that the sexual bias problem is one that has been recognized by Twitter. According to the complaint filed by Huang, Twitter has conducted internal diversity studies focusing on barriers blocking female employee advancement. There is a company-wide, pervasive problem with discrimination and acknowledged gender disparities. In an attempt to address the company-wide problem, Twitter recently put in place bias mitigation training throughout the entire company.

During discussions of the acknowledged gender disparity issue, senior management has been known to say that Twitter will “continue improving its ‘diversity standing’…and ‘move the needle.”

In 2013, Huang was put in for a promotion in the software engineering division by her immediate supervisor. Huang claims this is the only method by which to obtain a promotion at the company. The move would have been a critical promotion in Huang’s career. The job would have meant a shift of her focus from coding and individual projects to a leadership role requiring company collaboration. It would also mean access to meetings with high-level management. Huang had provided years of impressive service and work to Twitter. Despite these years on the job, excellent peer and supervisor work evaluations, an absence of any criticism or disciplinary issues, Huang was denied the critical promotion without any explanation. While no official reasons were provided (even when requested by Huang), she was able to pinpoint rumors about her “aggressiveness” and “lack of high quality code” on a particular work project.

In response to her objections to the gender inequality in Twitter hiring and promotion history, she was advised by corporate to take personal leave while further investigation was handled. She then met with the CEO, Costolo, and HR, but they did not provide her with any information about an investigation into her complaint. Her assignments were given to co-workers. Her co-workers were told that she was on personal leave even though they already knew about her complaints regarding Twitter’s promotional process. Huang claims in addition to the original sexual bias, her ability to lead was also undermined by Twitter’s corporate response to her complaint. After three months, she felt she was left with no other reasonable choice, but to resign for the sake of her career.  

Huang feels that Twitter intentionally caused objectively intolerable working conditions and then in full awareness allowed them to continue. She is seeking class certification, her lost wages and benefits, full vesting of her stock options, as well as damages and punitive damages for sex discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

For additional information and answers to specific questions about sexual bias on the job, contact the southern California employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Retaliation and Wrongful Termination: California Family Physician Sues Major Health Organization

A retaliation and wrongful termination suit was filed by a prominent California family medicine physician against one of the largest health maintenance organizations in the nation, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center. Jay Espejo, M.D., M.P.H., claims he was fired in retaliation after he reported a colleague’s, John Miguel, M.D., pattern of misconduct, i.e. unnecessary prescriptions, and the clinic’s alleged long term pattern of providing medical treatment and prescriptions according to patient demand rather than what is actually medically necessary. Dr. Espejo was employed at the medical center since 2011 and was promoted to partner in June.

According to the suit, Dr. Espejo was fired only two weeks after his promotion to partner. He filed suit for wrongful termination and retaliation claiming that his firing was a result of his reporting that his fellow doctor exhibited a disturbing pattern that enabled “doctor shopping” and involved the prescribing of narcotic drugs without medical need apparent in the patient requesting the prescription. Dr. Espejo claims he saw his fellow physician, Dr. Miguel, provide prescriptions for patients who had histories of suspected drug abuse and who were also exhibiting easily identifiable drug-seeking behavior.

Dr. Espejo claims that Dr. Miguel’s behavior was in direct violation of the Controlled Substances Act on multiple occasions. Espejo’s legal counsel cites emailed responses from Kaiser Permanente regarding the violations as evidence that they created a culture in the workplace that both enabled and supported physicians catering to their patients’ demands, which enabled drug-seeking behavior and abuse, doctor shopping, etc. rather than providing the quality (and necessary) medical care that they should have been offering.

For questions or more information regarding wrongful termination as a result of speaking out against improper conduct in the workplace, please contact the southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Whistleblower’s $25 Million Lawsuit Against Nike Heads to the Jury

In the course of the more than $25 million lawsuit proceedings against Nike, the jury heard two very different versions of events. Douglas Ossanna is a former Nike electrician, fired in early 2013. He claims that Nike fired him in retaliation after he reported unsafe working conditions for electricians at the approximately 600-acre campus in Washington County. Nike denies the allegations. Nike’s version of events has Ossanna being fired for playing a pickup basketball game on a court in the Bo Jackson Building when the facility was designated as off limits.

The more than $25 million lawsuit consists of $572,000 in economic damages, $1.5 million in non-economic damages and as much as $25 million in punitive damages. During the closing arguments, attorneys for the plaintiff argued simplicity. They claim a simple and clear-cut case of retaliation in the workplace. It was argued that Ossanna had made concerns clear regarding unsafe working conditions to at least six different Nike managers over a period of a few years. Ossanna claims none of his unsafe working conditions reports were ever investigated or resolved by Nike.

On top of being fired, Ossanna’s representation make it clear that he suffered harsh working conditions including excessive amounts of overtime in response to his reporting of problems with workplace safety.

Nike indicated that they did not retaliate against the electrician and that as a supervisor, he had access to every building on the Washington County campus. Nike’s attorney, argued during her closing argument that the decision to terminate Ossanna’s employment was consistent with other recent terminations in the company including a Nike employee was terminated for lying in order to receive a $20 gift card.

If you or someone you know is a victim of retaliation in the workplace, contact the employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik to find out how you get legal reparations for the damage to your career, your finances and your life.