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.

A String of Harassment Lawsuits Aimed Right at Tesla

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Many only know Tesla as a company who has goals of changing the world, but more and more are rethinking their opinion of the company as news headlines point out another major component in the Tesla workplace: harassment. The company proudly claims to be forward thinking on environmental matters, dedicated to diversity and center-left politics, and the many ways in which advanced technology can support progress in all these areas of concern. But many are now labeling the company as being caught up in the “bro” culture – a culture that can still be found in many offices throughout California. Other companies experiencing similar accusations include: Uber, Google, Social Finance, Greylock Partners, etc. Major news outlets like Bloomberg and CNBC have actually implied that the problem is worse than we think.

The latest case at Tesla involves Jorge Ferro, an assembly line worker who claims he was harassed because he is gay. He claims he was taunted, told to “watch your back,” and eventually fired. Ferro states that an old scar (from a 16-year old injury) drew the notice of Tesla Human Resources, who promptly dismissed him. But Ferro alleges he was actually fired due to retaliation for reporting the harassment.

When contacted about the issue, Tesla first attempted to side step the issue by claiming that both Ferro and his supervisor were not employees, but independent contractors. They also insisted that Tesla, as a company, takes all forms of discrimination and harassment very seriously. In fact, the Guardian reported that the company responded in even further detail by referencing their own track record, “…no company on Earth [has] a better track record than Tesla…they would have to have fewer than zero cases where an independent judge or jury…found a genuine case of discrimination.”

While Tesla insists that the recent influx of harassment and discrimination claims are due to their own notoriety and the opportunity this presents for media outlets and attorneys seeking acclaim and higher profiles, there have been other accusations of similar behavior in the last few years.

Just a week before Ferro’s claim surfaced, three former African-American workers filed a California lawsuit that they were subjected to verbal and written racist slurs.

Another instance involved a former Tesla engineer who claimed she was fired because she presented examples of gender discrimination at the company to the human resources department.

If you need to discuss instances of discrimination in the workplace or have questions regarding harassment on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.

Harassment Claims Settled When California Assembly Paid $100,000

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The California Assembly recently paid $100,000 to settle harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims that were filed in 2014 against Steve Fox who, at the time, was an Assemblyman. Nancy Kathleen Finnigan, former legislative director for Fox, claimed he exposed himself to her and then terminated her employment when she reported his behavior.

The settlement was reached in April and effectively closed out the lawsuit. While settlement documentation does state it resolves the case, it does not contain specifics regarding Finnigan’s harassment claims against the then-Assemblyman. But Finnigan did allege in the lawsuit that at one point during her employment, she arrived at Fox’s apartment in order to pick him up for a legislative session when he overslept where she found him with his pants unzipped and unbuttoned and not wearing any undergarments. Finnigan also claimed that Fox made a number of unwanted sexual advances against another employee as well as requesting that she do work that was not related to her legislative duties in the office. The suit also included allegations that Finnigan was fired for reporting that harassing behavior.

Fox was elected in 2012 on the Democratic ticket in a northern Los Angeles County district. He had previously run as a Republican. After serving one term, he was defeated in 2014 and again in 2016 by Tom Lackey, Republican Assemblyman. Neither party wished to comment on the settlement agreement.

This news was released in the same week a letter was signed by close to 150 women (including lobbyists, lawmakers, and legislative staff) detailing just how pervasive the culture of harassment against women is in California’s Capitol. Various women told their stories of harassment including being groped and touched without consent, enduring inappropriate comments about their bodies or abilities, insults, sexual innuendo disguised as jokes…all of which undermined their professional positions and downplayed their capabilities on the job. The letter did not make accusations against any men by name.

The Finnigan settlement named Fox and his former Chief of Staff Ann Turtle, the Assembly and Lynda Roper, the Assembly’s deputy administrative officer, as Defendants. It wasn’t the first time similar accusations were made against Fox either. In 2015, the Legislature paid $110,000 to Kristina Zahn, former employee, who alleged she was asked to do “other” work on legislative time, not paid overtime, etc.

If you have questions about how to handle harassment in the workplace or if you need help handling a harassment lawsuit, contact one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.