Former Freelancer Loses Lawsuit Against LA Times

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In recent news, the LA Times took home a win after the California Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a former freelancer’s defamation and employment lawsuit. The former freelancer, Frederick Theodore Rall III, was a political cartoonist and blogger for the well-known media conglomerate. In his lawsuit, he brought claims of defamation, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, retaliation, and other employment law violations, against the paper – all stemming from the LA Times’ decision to disassociate itself with Rall and publish a note to readers that questioned the accuracy of a blog post Rall posted describing an interaction he had with police. Rall claims that he was handcuffed, thrown against a wall, and in the process his ID was thrown into the gutter.

After an investigation, the LA Times concluded that there were serious questions regarding the accuracy of the recounting of events and allegations made against the police in the recounting. They noted factual inconsistencies and stated that the paper would no longer be publishing the writer’s content. After reader responses, the paper published an additional item that offered a more detailed analysis of the event with their investigation findings including the LAPD records of the event, etc.

The LA Times filed an anti SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion to strike the complaint in response to Rall’s lawsuit. The motion was granted by the trial court. The dismissal was confirmed by the California Court of Appeal – holding that the LA Times sufficiently established that the report offered to readers and the decision by the paper to stop publishing work by Rall were protected activities under the First Amendment and the “fair report privilege.”

If you have been wrongfully terminated or if you need to discuss your rights in the workplace and how to seek justice when you have been discriminated against on the job, please get in touch with one of the experienced California 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.

Torrance Catholic School Wrongful Termination Following Theft Scandal

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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.

Fired Home Depot Employee Wins Over the Jury in Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

A former Home Depot employee was awarded $175,500 by a California state court jury this month. The jury found that Home Depot, the retail giant, did not provide necessary and reasonable accommodations for the employee’s disability due to breast cancer surgery and varicose veins. The jury also found that the employee was not protected from retaliation after she reported improper sales practices that were in use at the store location where she was employed.

The jury sided with the plaintiff, Patricia Tillotson, when they found in her favor but awarded her far less than the originally sought after $3.3 million. Tillotson was awarded $75,500 in past economic damages and $100,000 in future economic damages. The jury declined to award Tillotson damages for past or future emotional distress.

The plaintiff filed suit against Home Depot in 2015 after she was fired for supposedly providing a customer with inaccurate markdowns. She maintains that she was actually terminated because of her age, her disability, and for acting as a whistleblower. When she was fired, Tillotson was 58 years old. She was the oldest employee in her Home Depot department.

The retail giant argued that Tillotson’s whole department was fired due to an investigation that found the employees in that department were providing unauthorized markdowns to Home Depot customers. They specifically claim that her termination was not due to her medical conditions and that her whistleblower complaints had nothing to do with the decision to end her employment.

The jury found that Tillotson’s age and disability were not the foundation for Home Depot’s decision to terminate her employment. But they did find that Home Depot’s failure to participate in good faith efforts to accommodate Tillotson’s disability that left her having difficulty lifting objects and working in a position where standing for extended periods would not be necessary. The jurors found that the company’s failure to make these efforts resulted in harm.

If you have been denied reasonable accommodations for your disability in the workplace or if you have been wrongfully terminated, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$1.5 Million Awarded to Valley Med Chief Psychiatrist

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Dr. Jan Weber, former chief psychiatrist, was fired from his job with Valley Medical Center in 2014. This month, he was awarded $1.5 million in damages to resolve his California wrongful termination lawsuit.

What is Wrongful Termination? The legal definition of wrongful termination or wrongful dismissal is to be in a situation where an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by the employer in a way that breaches one or more terms in the contract of employment or is in violation of employment law.

Is There a Statue of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Claims? The statute of limitations is the time limit set by law during which an individual can file a lawsuit based on a claim. If you are an employee who was wrongfully terminated from your job, and you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the case can be thrown out. Statutes of limitations can be set by either state or federal law.

Dr. Jan Weber headed the hospital’s child and adolescent psychiatry division for over five years. In late 2014, he was let go by the county after he complained about unsafe work conditions and young patients at the institution who were being offered substandard care.

Dr. Jan Weber took notice of substandard care provided to youth patients at the facility throughout the five years he worked there as the chief psychiatrist. At the end of his term with the medical treatment center, Weber was 49 years old and was responsible for supervising approximately eight different psychiatrists in the Valley Medical Center’s mental health department.

The case ended with a three-week-long trial. The trial included testimonies from County Executive Jeff Smith and Dr. Michael Meade, Valley Med’s chair of psychiatry. The Clara County jury came back in favor of the plaintiff in the case. They held the county liable for Weber’s past and future financial loss as well as his emotional distress.

If you need help after being wrongfully terminated or if you are experiencing other employment law violations in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLPas soon as possible.

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

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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.

Wrongful Termination Suit Results in $3M For Catholic School Teacher

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A California jury recently awarded over $3.5 million to a former Catholic school teacher, Kourtney Liggins, who alleged that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles fired her from her position as the science teacher at LA’s Transfiguration School for being pregnant and unwed. Kourtney Liggins’ lawsuit alleged wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Transfiguration School is a Catholic parochial school that is linked with the Church of Transfiguration. The Transfiguration School was founded in 1832 by Varela. It was opened for registration to children of any religion/faith in 1969. The Transfiguration School has higher than average academic standards and was the winner of the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award in 2011. 

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.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – A situation in which an individual or entity acts abominably or outrageously with the intention of causing another to suffer severe emotional distress. It often occurs in the form of a vocal threat of future harm.

Major news outlets reported that jurors were in deliberation for less than a day before they announced their decision – finding in favor of Kourtney Liggins, ex-science teacher for the Catholic school in Los Angeles.

The panel of jurors found the archdiocese and Reverend Michael Tang, former pastor of the Church of the Transfiguration, liable in the case. Liggins, now 48 years old, says that when the situation occurred in 2012, she was seven months pregnant. Tang took her aside and advised her that her pregnancy would “morally corrupt” her science students there at the school. In 2013, her teaching contract was not renewed.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.