California Youth Prison Worker Threatened Black Co-Worker with Noose

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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.

Mattel Faces Age Discrimination Lawsuit

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A former Mattel employee sued Mattel for age discrimination. 71-year old Benny Binshtock filed the age discrimination lawsuit against Mattel in Los Angeles Superior Court listing several allegations: wrongful termination, age-based harassment, age-based discrimination, retaliation in the workplace, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, fraud, and concealment. Binshtock claims he was falsely accused of unnecessarily calling women over to his workspace as a justification to fire him, but that the real reason was his age. The age discrimination lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Binshtock firmly believes that his age was a contributing factor in the decision of management to terminate his employment and that the company intentionally sought to bring younger employees into the plaintiff’s position in the workplace. Binshtock’s time with Mattel began with his hiring in 1968. He was initially hired as an apprentice model maker and later received a promotion to supervisor. According to the complaint, the plaintiff’s department full of model makers like himself had not seen new hires in a significant number of years. Binshtock’s lengthy term of employment lent his complaint authority when he noted that the people in his department ranged in age from 40 to 65 years and that Mattel had employed them for many years.

In March 2018, Mattel employees saw the beginning of a round of layoffs. Binshtock claimed it was evident that defendants had clear intentions to terminate older employees. Within a month of the initial layoffs, Binshtock was called in for a meeting with Human Resources. In this meeting, he was advised that they had received a complaint against him of sexual harassment in the workplace. The “complaint” indicated that Binshtock always called female co-workers over to this office for his amusement rather than for work-related necessities. The plaintiff claims the sexual harassment complaint was completely baseless – fabricated to defame him of the reputation he spent years building on the job at Mattel.

In the same meeting with Human Resources, the HR rep changed her accusation against Binshtock from sexual harassment to “making women uncomfortable.” The plaintiff was called into another meeting in May 2018, where HR told him that an investigation had been conducted into the matter and had resulted in the decision to terminate his employment. Within the month, Binshtock, 70 years old at the time, was fired.

If you have been fired and need to discuss filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, please don’t hesitate. Get in touch with an experienced employment law attorney at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP. Our convenient locations in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, and Chicago make it easy for us to be your advocate and seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

“2 Investigates” Features Wrongful Termination Lawsuit: Plaintiff Wins

In South San Francisco, California KTVU 2 Investigates completed a report on the situation of Ivania Centeno, a 13-year employee of Bon Appetit Café inside Genetech. Centeno alleges wrongful termination due to a family-leave discrepancy. The story helped spark an award for the plaintiff totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Centeno claimed she was released from her position in 2017 because she took time off to care for her mother-in-law who was dying; doing so was allegedly against the company's policy. Centeno attempted to fight for justice in her case for a year before 2 Investigates completed a report and aired it in a February segment that highlighted the situation and the more significant issue at hand: a legal loophole in California that prevents employees from accessing protection provided under current family-leave laws when the case applies to in-laws.

According to California paid leave law the care of in-laws is covered, but under the California Family Rights Act, care of in-laws is not covered. As the two laws contradict each other, and it is not clear which law takes precedent, legislative changes are necessary for any long-term resolution.

In the current case of Centeno and Bon Appetit Café, Centeno claims her mother-in-law because seriously ill and Bon Appetit granted Centeno permission to fly to Nicaragua to provide the needed care. Centeno traveled to Nicaragua and provided her mother-in-law with the necessary care until she passed. After her mother-in-law died, Centeno returned to the states to go back to her job. When she arrived, Bon Appetit fired her, insisting that she missed too many days of work and that caring for her mother-in-law was not a protected activity under the family leave policy.  

Management at the company claims that computer software made the decision to terminate Centeno. The trip to care for her mother-in-law, as well as previous absences due to a work-related injury, were input into the software, which then generated the conclusion to terminate Centeno's employment.  

In April 2019, the case was resolved with Centeno receiving an undisclosed amount of back pay, unemployment benefits, and an award of $211,795 in attorney fees and an additional $25,603 in court costs.

If you have questions about wrongful termination or what constitutes wrongful termination, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP location nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

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.