Some Companies Are Responding to Worker Demands to Limit Arbitration

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In response to the social and political climate, some companies are already starting to limit arbitration on their own. Mounting pressure from employees as well as the general public after the #MeToo movement had several Silicon Valley tech giants altering their policy and no longer requiring workers to take their sexual harassment cases to arbitration. The first to make the change were Uber and Microsoft. Google and Facebook announced plans to follow suit not long after.

While the change is heading in the right direction, some employees are still unhappy with the state of affairs. They say the exclusion for sexual harassment claims is nowhere near enough. For example, Google experience major backlash after a recent article in the New York Times offered details about how the tech giant paid out millions in exit packages for male executives who were accused of sexual harassment, while staying silent about the actual harassment.

Anger over this situation only added to the already mounting frustration at Google over ethical and transparency issues. The tension built up to a walkout on November 1st. Over 20,000 Google employees and contractors walked off the job in protest of Google’s method of dealing with sexual harassment claims. Employees demanded that Google executives end forced arbitration for discrimination claims (including sexual harassment, racial discrimination and gender discrimination), amid other demands. The company agreed to some of the employee’s demands a week later, but only agreed to drop mandatory arbitration for claims of sexual harassment and assault.

Organizers of the walkout were glad that Google responded with some positive change, but were disappointed that they ignored completely the opportunity to address widespread racial and gender discrimination claims.

If you need to discuss discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace, and you aren’t sure where to start, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Market Research Company Faces Allegations of Failure to Pay Overtime

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Information Resources Inc., a market research business, faces allegations of unpaid wages and violation of workers compensation acts from a California resident. Iram Bakhtiar filed the class action lawsuit on August 9th, 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California case number 3:17-cv-04559-JCS). Bakhtiar alleges the company failed to provide fair wages and violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Terms to Know:

A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit in which a group of people (plaintiffs) with the same or similar injuries that are the result of the same product or action sue the Defendant/s as a group. Other names for lawsuits brought to bear on behalf of a “group” suffering similar injuries or losses are: mass tort litigation and multi-district litigation (MDL).

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law. It was designed to establish minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping and child labor standards. Requirements set in place through the FLSA apply to full-time and part-time workers in the private sector as well as both full and part-time workers in federal, state, and local government positions.

Overtime pay refers to federal overtime provisions that are designated in the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA. Unless a worker qualifies (in accordance with FLSA) as exempt, employees must receive overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in one workweek or 8 in one day at a rate o pay no less than time and one-half the worker’s regular rate of pay.

Bakhtiar, who worked for Information Resources Inc. client services from June 2011 through September 2016, worked over 40 hours a week with no overtime pay. This is in violation of FLSA. Bakhtiar also claims the Defendant failed to provide required meal and rest breaks during her employment.

Bakhtiar filed suit seeking unpaid overtime, unpaid wages, liquidated damages, enjoin the defendant, legal fees, restitution, penalties, and other compensation/relief as deemed appropriate by the court.

If you have questions about overtime pay and overtime pay regulations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik as soon as possible.

Shell Oil Faces Sexual Harassment Claims

Ciara Newton worked at Shell as a refinery process operator. She was hired in January 2016. As an employee at Shell Oil’s refinery in Martinez, she alleges that she experienced sex-based harassment, sex discrimination and a failure on the company’s part to take appropriate action to prevent both discrimination and harassment.

In the complaint, the former Shell employee alleges that she experienced all of the above at the hands of both supervisors and co-workers on the job – all because of her gender.

In the lawsuit, Newton describes a male-dominated work setting where co-workers made negative and disparaging comments about women in the workplace and in which supervisors undermined Newton instead of supporting her. In fact, Newton alleges that supervisors on the job at Shell Oil actively complained about women in the workplace.

Some instances of sex-based discrimination and harassment that Newton allegedly suffered include:

  • Finding a sticker on her desk that read, “If your (vagina) hurts, just stay home.”
  • A supervisor stating that women do not last long in “his department.”
  • A failure to receive a response after reporting the situation/s to Human Resources.

Newton is also suing Shell for wrongful termination. She alleges that the company retaliated against her because she complained about the sexual harassment and discrimination on the job. She feels the retaliation may have also been partly in response to her desire to properly document and contain a sulfuric acid spill at the refinery. When she attempted to do so, a supervisor told her to stop so he and others would not get “in trouble” for not reporting it.

In September 2015, Shell terminated Newton stating that she had unsatisfactory performance during her probationary period. This was only six days after a supervisor gave her a positive progress report and encouraged her to continue forward in her job at the company.

If you have experienced sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.