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. 

Netflix and Amazon Beat Blacklisting Lawsuit

Claims filed by Jerry Kowal against Netflix and Amazon included defamation and wrongful termination. The two companies, Netflix and Amazon, are competitors. They both provide online video content. But these two competitors got to share a victory together in court when the Los Angeles Superior Court judge Michael Stern dismissed claims against the two online video content giants. The claims were brought by Jerry Kowal, a former employee of both of the companies listed in the suit. He alleged that he had been wrongfully terminated by Amazon after Netflix blacklisted him.

Kowal worked at Netflix as a director of content acquisition. He had what he described as an exceptional reputation, but quickly noticed that the atmosphere at the company was cold, hostile and cutthroat. As a result, he decided to take a job at Amazon. He claims that shortly after he started at Amazon, Netflix attorneys sent a letter to Amazon accusing Kowal of unfair competition and insisting that they have access to search Kowal’s email accounts and computer/s for any business information belonging to Netflix. Kowal allowed that Netflix information could still be on his devices, but he adamantly denied using any of it for work at Amazon.

The burden of proof fell on Kowal. He needed to prove that there was a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of his claims. The judge decided that he did not meet the expected standard due to the fact that several of his allegations were based on speech protected by California Civil Code 47(b), which covers speech “made…in the initiation or course of any other proceeding authorized by law.” In this particular case, the letter Netflix sent to Amazon alleged unfair competition by Kowal.

For questions about wrongful termination, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, the southern California employment law experts

Commission Wage Allocation Limited by California Supreme Court Ruling

The California Supreme Court ruling on June 14, 2014, limited commission wage allocation by holding that employers could not satisfy the California compensation requirements for commission sales exemptions by assigning commission wages paid in one pay period to alternate pay periods. The decision could have a notable impact on employers who regularly pay their employees on a commission basis. It could have a particularly significant impact on those who pay commission sales employees a base salary that falls near the minimum wage requirement.

California’s commissioned employee exemption requires (among other things) employee’s earnings to exceed one and a half times minimum wage. It also requires that more than half of the employee’s compensation be commissions.

In Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc. Case No. S204804, the employer (Time Warner) argued that their former account executive wasn’t entitled to overtime pay due to the fact that she was a “commissioned employee” and was therefore exempt. As noted above, there are limitations as to which employees can fall under the commissioned employee exemption. In the case of Time Warner, Peabody was paid an hourly wage of $9.61. This did not fulfill the one and half times minimum wage minimum pay requirement. The wages were paid every other week. Total compensation of the plaintiff did exceed the minimum one and a half times minimum wage requirement when the hourly was combined with the commissions paid to the employee. Commissions were paid only once/month. The commissions paid were earned throughout the previous month.

Due to the pay structure set up by Time Warner, the employee’s compensation fell short of the one and a half times minimum wage requirement during some pay periods. It is also notable that there was no dispute regarding the fact that the employee worked 45 hours per week and was not paid any overtime. In an attempt to meet requirements set down in the commission employee exemption, Time Warner suggested that employee commissions should be reallocated to be paid during earlier pay periods (in which they were earned) rather than the bi-weekly pay periods that were in place. They felt that satisfying the exemption’s minimum wage earnings requirement in this manner should free them from the obligation to pay commission employees overtime. The California Supreme Court rejected their argument. It was concluded that the Time Warner’s attribution of commission wages to meet minimum requirements was impermissible.

If you need to discuss implications of the recent ruling and how it could affect you as a commission employee, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, the Southern California employment law experts