California Youth Prison Worker Threatened Black Co-Worker with Noose

California Youth Prison Worker Threatened Black Co-Worker with Noose.jpg

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

Dodger Team Sued for Alleged Sexual Harassment.jpg

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

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

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

Former Assistant Sues Mariah Carey for Wrongful Termination & Harassment.jpg

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.

Torrance Catholic School Wrongful Termination Following Theft Scandal

Torrance Catholic School Wrongful Termination Following Theft Scandal.jpg

St. James Catholic School in Torrance was already facing a nun theft scandal. Now that the appeals court has overturned the lower court’s decision ruling that Biel, a former teacher at the California Catholic school, is a “minister” and barred from suing the church-operated school, they may be facing wrongful termination and discrimination claims as well.

History of Employment for Biel at St. James Catholic School in Torrance:

March 2013 – hired as a long-term substitute teacher

May 2013 – hired as the school’s full-time fifth-grade teacher

April 2014 – Biel was diagnosed with breast cancer

April 2014 – Biel advised Kreuper she would start treatments in May. Just a few weeks later, Kreuper advised Biel her contract would not be renewed. The reason stated was that it would not be fair to ask students to accommodate her needed leave by having two teachers in one year. Kreuper also stated that Biel did not run a strict classroom.

2015 – Biel filed a federal suit alleging discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

January 2017 – Biel was barred from suing the school under the ADA when a lower court’s ruling decided she was legally a “minister” and thus fell under the “ministerial exemption” that bars a minster from filing civil rights claims against their religious organization. This decision was based on the fact that Biel’s teaching duties included sharing Catholic doctrine, including a 30-minute religion class four days a week.

Dec. 17, 2018 – the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision, saying Biel could not be a minister as she had no Catholic pedagogy training upon her hire and the school did not have any religious requirements for her job. Additionally, they noted that her title was teacher, not minister. The archdiocese intends to contest the ruling.

It’s important to note when considering Biel’s history of employment at St. James Catholic School in Torrance that there is only one formal evaluation on record for Biel and it was positive. The evaluation was completed by Kreuper, the principal, in which she praised Biel’s “very good” work and noted that she promoted a safe and caring learning environment. Areas for improvement that were listed in the formal evaluation were: two students were coloring in their books, and some students had cluttered desks.  

Biel claims she was terminated because of her cancer diagnosis and necessary treatment; because the school didn’t want to accommodate her finite leave of absence.  

The fact that the principal, Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, was the one making employment decisions on behalf of the school and is currently implicated in the theft scandal rocking the school for activities that occurred during the same time period may throw additional doubt on her testimony regarding the case.

If you have been wrongfully terminated from a job or if you are being discriminated against due to a disability, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.

Vivint Smart Homes Faces Racial Harassment Complaints

Vivint Smart Homes Faces Racial Harassment Complaints.jpg

Vivint Smart Homes, a Provo-based company, is facing racial harassment complaints filed by four former employees. The four complaints arrive on the scene only months after two former Vivint Solar employees filed similar harassment complaints in June 2018.

The four men who filed racial harassment complaints all identify as black or Latino. The lawsuits were filed in October 2018 in the Superior Court of California in LA. Claims included racial harassment, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination and racial discrimination in the workplace on the part of co-workers.

The previous, but similar, complaints came just four months after two other former employees, one white and one black, leveled allegations of racism and hostile work environment in a Vivint Solar office right here in California. These complaints came after a supervisor and other workers on site built a cardboard “fort” in the warehouse and then used spray paint to write “white only” on the outside of the makeshift, cardboard fortress. 

Vivint Solar and Vivint Smart Home are two separate entities. But both companies are controlled by the same private equity firm in New York. Both also grew out of APX Alarm, a Provo company that was founded almost two decades ago. The two companies, Vivint Solar and Vivint Smart Home, enjoy a strategic partnership.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs suggest that it’s obvious that there is a real cultural problem in the Vivint family. Christopher Brown, one of the plaintiffs, claimed that shortly after he arrived to work in California as a sales representative for Vivint Smart Home, his supervisor on the job started to use the “n-word” and make racist comments. Chris made a complaint but got an extremely minimal response from the company. In fact, Brown is fairly certain the supervisor in question is still employed at the company and that no disciplinary action was taken regarding the racial harassment.

Other complainants include: Andrew Kirchner, Terence Major and Vaaron Watts. All claim that they were subjected to racial slurs, images and videos posted to a GroupMe chat hosted by a co-worker.

If you have been subjected to a hostile work environment or if you are discriminated against at work, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$3.2M Awarded to Fired California Hospital Employee in Wrongful Termination and Discrimination Suit

3.2M Awarded to Fired California Hospital Employee in Wrongful Termination and Discrimination Suit.jpg

On November 5th, 2018, a former warehouse employee at Loma Linda University Medical Center was awarded $3.2 million by a jury. The plaintiff, 44-year old Hugo Lizarraga, claims that he was harassed by his supervisors at the California medical facility for years until he was eventually fired due to his Islamic beliefs.

Lizarraga worked in the California hospital warehouse for 20 years. He claims that he was a victim of both religious and disability discrimination on the part of his supervisors, other employees, and the human resources department for more than six years. Lizarraga filed a California discrimination lawsuit in September 2016.

Legal Definitions:

Wrongful Termination – A situation in which an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by the employer and the termination breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment, a statute provision, or employment law.

Religious Discrimination – A situation in which an individual or entity treats a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of their religious beliefs. The law protects not only those individuals who belong to traditional, organized religious, like Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also those who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs.

Disability Discrimination – A situation in which an employer or other entity that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act or Rehabilitation Act, treats a qualified applicant or employee unfavorably because they have a disability.

According to the lawsuit, Lizarraga worked at the hospital for more than 10 years and never experienced harassment. The harassment began in 2012 after he converted to Islam, broke his thumb and had a physician place him on modified duty. At that point, Lizarraga’s supervisors started to harass him.

The Loma Linda, California hospital disagrees with the jury’s verdict and denies the allegations claiming that Lizarraga was not discharged due to his Islamic beliefs, but because reported threatening conduct. The hospital spokesperson claimed that the facility complies with federal and state laws on discrimination and harassment and does not tolerate either.

If you have concerns about what constitutes workplace discrimination or if you have been wrongfully terminated due to a disability or your religious beliefs, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.