Muslim Employee Brings Claims of Harassment and Discrimination

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L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP) is facing a harassment and discrimination lawsuit from an employee. Saiara Shams filed the lawsuit in L.A. Superior Court alleging she was the target of derogatory comments about her religion made by co-workers. She also alleged that her co-workers retaliated after she reported wasteful contracts and that she was blocked from promotions at the company.

Shams claims she was the victim of a years-long campaign of harassment, retaliation and discrimination in the workplace. A spokesman from the company, DWP, refused to comment other than to state that litigation was pending, and they take any allegation of discrimination seriously. Other DWP cited in the lawsuit did go on record publicly regarding the lawsuit: Ana Romero, Henry Williams, Zebbra Corbin, and Glenn Barry.

Shams was born in Bangladesh but moved to California in 1997 and became an American citizen in 2000. She was employed by DWP on their team managing the power grid. She was the only Muslim woman in the department. Romero, cited earlier, was her supervisor. Romero allegedly made fun of her accent, made comparisons between her and Islamic terrorists, advised her to take an English writing class because she wasn’t US-born, and openly voiced her regret over not hiring a Latinx person.  

Romero, according to court documents and an interview with The Times, allegedly made fun of Shams’ accent, compared her to Islamic terrorists, told her she “needed to take an English writing class because she was not born in the U.S,” and lamented that she would have rather hired a Latinx employee. Shams claims that the harassment and discrimination escalated with other employees getting involved. The comments began to come more frequently if there was a terrorist attack.

Shams claims that she reported the behavior repeatedly, but that management at DWP did not stop or punish those who were involved in the harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

If you need to file a discrimination lawsuit, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP, our employment law attorneys have the resources and experience companies fear in litigation. Let us help you protect your rights as a California employee. 

California Youth Prison Worker Threatened Black Co-Worker with Noose

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According to a recent lawsuit, a maintenance worker at a California youth prison outside Los Angeles threatened a black co-worker, Gales, aged 57, with a noose. The maintenance worker who threw a noose over a light fixture at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in May 2017 kept his job, but Darren Gales, the black co-worker to which the threat was made, was forced to go on leave after experiencing retaliation in connection with the event.

When Gales' co-worker threw the noose over a nearby light fixture and said, "someone or something needs to be hanged today," Gales, the sole black employee in the prison's procurement department, filed a discrimination complaint and let his manager know about the incident. He later overheard the maintenance worker who made the threat in a conversation with another manager in which the manager pledged to support the maintenance worker.

After overhearing this conversation, Gales went on a doctor-ordered medical leave to reduce both anxiety and stress. His physician extended the leave until January 2, 2018, when Gales returned to his job. Upon returning, Gales was told his job duties were revised in his absence – he was limited to desk duty and required to notify his boss every time he left his desk. Gales' benefits were reduced, and he received a disciplinary notice regarding the incident that started it all (well after the 30-day window to issue this type of notice passed).  

Gales was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to the alleged discriminatory incident and left his job again on February 7, 2018. He has not been able to return to the job. He seeks compensation for lost wages and benefits as well as damages for emotional pain and suffering.  

If you need to discuss an incident of discrimination in the workplace, please call one of Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP's various locations: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago. We are ready to be your advocate as you seek resolution for labor law violations in the workplace.

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.

Harassment and Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against America’s Funniest Home Videos Producers

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America’s Funniest Home Videos’ production company is currently facing a lawsuit including a wide range of allegations including gender violence, racial discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and more. The class action was filed on March 19th in Los Angeles Superior Court by three anonymous women cited only as Jane Roes 1, 2, and 3. The class action was filed on behalf of “all other aggrieved employees” naming Vin Di Bona Entertainment, Fish Bowl Worldwide Media, and individual employees as Defendants.

The lawsuit alleges that the company did not take appropriate action in response to the behavior of Philip Shafran, Roe 1’s supervisor. Roe 1, a black female employee employed at the time as a senior manager in the company’s digital unit, alleges systemic racial bias and ostracism by white supervisors running meetings. Another supervisor at the company allegedly called out Roe 1 from the podium during an industry fundraiser referring to her as a “crack whore” and encouraging her to stop “doing blow” in the bathroom.

Allegations of sexual harassment were also made in the lawsuit. Shafran allegedly sexually harassed Roe 2 while she played a virtual reality game in his office by taking unauthorized photos of her, including photos up her skirt. Investigations into the matter were inadequate and other supervisors at the company were heard to say that Roe 2 just needed to get over it. Months later, Roe 2 filed a police report regarding the situation and Roe 3 told another supervisor she struggled to work alongside Shafran due to what he had done to Roe 2. According the suit, Roe 3 was called into a meeting shortly thereafter in which she was advised it was not nice to spread rumors and they didn’t see a solution to the problem as she was going to be in meetings and Shafran was going to be in meetings.

Roes 2 and 3 advised VDB that they felt unsafe in the workplace. They also told the company that they had no choice but to resign under the circumstances. Both were advised that one supervisor did not want them coming back to the office. They went home early on October 2, 2018 and were told to return before work hours the next day to collect their things. They were also advised not to speak to anyone. The two were terminated on October 3, 2018.

Once the Roes obtained legal counsel and filed a lawsuit, Shafran was placed on administrative leave while the company conducts an “investigation” into the situation. The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages as well as new policies at the company regarding investigation of sexual misconduct and/or assault of employees, immediate cessation of retaliation against employees reporting inappropriate and/or unlawful actions in the workplace, and appropriate action taken against the main perpetrator, Shafran.

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

Former Assistant Sues Mariah Carey for Wrongful Termination & Harassment

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Mariah Carey’s former assistant, Lianna Shakhnazaryan, responded to the pop star’s lawsuit by filing a suit of her own alleging wrongful termination, sexual harassment and battery. News of Carey’s $3 million lawsuit against her former executive assistant citing the violation of a non-disclosure agreement.

Shakhnazaryan’s lawsuit in response to Carey’s also included Carey’s former manager, Stella Bulochnikov, and listed a number of allegations.

Allegations Included in the Lawsuit Carey’s Former Executive Assistant Filed:  

·      Wrongful Termination

·      Retaliation

·      Failure to Prevent Discrimination & Harassment

·      Breach of Covenant of Good Faith & Fair Dealing

·      Racial Discrimination

·      Sexual Harassment

·      Failure to Pay Earned Wages Upon Termination

·      Breach of Oral Contract

·      Rescission of Contract

·      Violation of the Bane Act

·      Violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act

·      Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

·      Battery

Shakhnazaryan claims in the lawsuit that she started work as an executive assistant for Mariah Carey in September 2015. The oral agreement for her employment was for $328,500 in annual wages. Shakhnazaryan claims that she was required to meet constant demands and that demands based on excessive expectations and frequently came with an extreme shortage of time with very tight due dates. She claims she also served as the personal assistant to Bulochnikov and was an overall coordinator managing relations between the pop singer star and her manager.

In the course of her employment Shakhnazaryan claims she was subjected to outrageous and abusive conduct by Carey’s manager including racially charged insults. Shakhnazaryan claims she was also subjected to physical abuse including: slapping of her butt and breasts, and being tackled to the ground and urinated on by Bulochnikov in the presence of others (on multiple occasions). Shakhnazaryan claims Mariah Carey had knowledge of the inappropriate conduct and that much of the inappropriate behavior was in Carey’s presence or with her knowledge/permission. Carey, and others in her employ, were aware of the behavior and even witnessed the behavior and did nothing to stop it. When Shakhnazaryan reported the alleged behavior to Carey she claims she was immediately terminated in response to the complaint. In her suit, Shakhnazaryan claims she suffered severe emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation and embarrassment and that she continues to suffer all of the above due to the alleged actions that took place during her employment. Battery charges are based on claims that Shakhnazaryan was allegedly subjected to aggressive, abusive and harmful physical conduct by Carey during the time she spent living at Carey’s home from November 2015 through the middle of 2017 as a part of her employment agreement.

Shakhnazaryan is demanding a trial by jury and seeks compensatory damages including lost wages, past and future earnings and unpaid overtime as well as money for physical injury, mental pain and anguish and extreme emotional distress, general damages, attorney’s fees, the costs associated with the lawsuit, and punitive damages.  

If you are the victim of wrongful termination or you are being subjected to harassment in the workplace, please get in touch with the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Settlement Between Former Employee and NFL Network Approved

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A settlement was approved for a lawsuit brought against the NFL Network by a former wardrobe stylist, Jami Canton. Canton claimed a slew of labor law violations, including: sexual harassment, age discrimination, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination and defamation. The settlement was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern after Jami Cantor filed a motion to resolve the suit seeking civil penalties. In exchange for the settlement, Cantor agreed to drop all claims.

Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, former NFL Network analysts, were both fired in January by ESPN after a month-long investigation into claims of inappropriate behavior on the job made by Cantor. Cantor, as an aggrieved employee, will receive 25% of the approved settlement amount while the other 75% will be distributed to the state Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). The LWDA is a cabinet-level state agency responsible for coordinating workforce programs and oversight of seven different departments that deal with benefit administration and upholding and enforcing employment laws of the state of California.

Cantor filed the California lawsuit in September. In the complaint she claimed she began work in 2006 and was employed at the NFL’s Culver City studio. As part of her job, Cantor claims she was responsible for creating a wardrobe closet to make sure that talent would have clothes to wear for the NFL shows. During the course of her employment, Cantor alleged that she was subjected to numerous instances of sexual harassment at the hands of a number of different NFL employees. Claims of harassment included: inappropriate touching, inappropriate references, inappropriate comments, texted photos of a sexual nature, etc. All this while Cantor repeatedly made it clear that the advances were unwanted and not reciprocated.

Cantor claims that nothing was done in response to her complaints and that rather than assisting her with the situation, the NFL made her life more difficult by increasing her workload and decreasing her hours. In addition to the harassment claims, Cantor levied a number of other labor law violation complaints against her former employer, including: failure to pay overtime, failure to provide required meal and rest breaks, failure to reimburse for business expenses, and wrongful termination.

Cantor was fired in October of 2016. She claims she was falsely accused of stealing clothing from an employee. She also claims that internal video would prove that she had not taken anything. When she was terminated, Cantor was 51 years old. Her replacement was 30 years old.

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

1st Ever Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit Filed by EEOC

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Scott Medical Health Center was recently ordered to pay $55,000 by a federal judge in the first sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The judge’s three-page order found Scott Medical Health Center, the Scott Township-based pain management and weight loss services provider, responsible for “creating, facilitating, or tolerating” sexual harassment – which can refer to any harassment related to sexual orientation or sex or gender stereotypes/gender role stereotypes. 

Also ordered by the judge, the health center will provide the commission a written report including any and all complaints and/or allegations (both formal and informal) regardless of whether they are reported verbally or in writing related to sexual harassment/sex harassment made by any employee for the upcoming five years. 

EEOC attorneys released a statement hailing the ruling as historic. They set it apart as a precedent that sexual orientation is a protected status in any workplace. The EEOC also stated that protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have been “stepped up” under sex discrimination provisions. They’re making it a priority at the national level. 

Sexual orientation is not actually protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 governing workplace discrimination, but the EEOC interprets sex discrimination as including harassment of both gay and transgender workers. The EEOC sees this case as one of many that point towards the persistent and commonplace problem of anti-LGBT bias in the workplace throughout America. 

This lawsuit based on anti-LGBT bias, was filed in March 2016. The lawsuit describes a situation in which Dale Baxley, a telemarketer for Scott Medical Health Center, was taunted by a manager for being gay. This harassment occurred in Summer 2013. Robert McClendon, the manager accused of harassing Baxley for being gay was already under investigation at the time of the filing. Several female employees made claims against the same manager. According to the EEOC complaint, Baxley quit in August 2013 after complaining to the company president and seeing nothing change. 

In response to the claims, the health center’s lawyer stated that the Defendant was “blindsided” by the allegations, that they were unaware of Baxley’s sexual orientation, and that the commission had no authority to file the claim. 

Earlier this month, the federal district judge, Cathy Bissoon, ordered Scott Medical Health Center to pay damages in the amount of $50,000, which is the maximum penalty for this type of violation against an employer the size of the health center. In addition, the court ordered the company to pay Baxley $5,500 in back wages. 

For more information about sexual orientation lawsuits or to discuss what constitutes a hostile work environment, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.