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.

Is Starbucks Misgendering Trans Woman a Violation of Labor Law?

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Starbucks recently claimed that misgendering or calling an employee by the wrong pronoun is not harassment, which is in direct contradiction to their employee guidelines. A former Starbucks employee, Maddie Wade, filed a complaint at the Fresno Superior Court in California suing the company for harassment and discrimination.

Wade, a former barista at a Starbucks in Fresno, alleges that when she began her transition, her manager at the time reduced her work hours and refused to call her by preferred pronouns. She also claims that her former Starbucks manager began posting transphobic material online through social media outlets. Wade claims that she was bullied and targeted by her manager at the Fresno Starbucks daily after she came out as transgender.

Allegedly, the mistreatment by her boss, Dustin Guthrie, escalated to unbearable levels and Wage had to transfer to a different Starbucks location. The harassment continued at the next Starbucks location. Wade claims her manager at the new site encouraged her to take the matter to the District Manager, and she did, but the situation was not resolved. After nine years of employment, Wade eventually left her position at Starbucks at the advice of her therapist due to the mental stress and “intolerable conditions” she was forced to endure.

Wade seeks general damages, special damages, punitive damages, and attorneys fees from her former employer. She states that the loss of health insurance prevented her from receiving the treatment and procedures she needs to complete her transition. Wade also claims that Starbuck’s value marketing group for its LGBTQ employees on the Facebook page, Starbucks Partners – Pride Alliance Network, refuses to allow her to post on its wall.

It is ironic that as we enter Pride Month, Starbucks seems to be making moves counter to its public record highlighting LGBTQ acceptance. The company is reasonably well known for its LGBTQ acceptance: scoring 100 out of 100 on Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Corporate Equality Index, releasing annual LGBTQ-focused products, rolling out trans-inclusive health care included in their benefits package, etc. Attorneys representing the massive coffee provider are filing a motion for summary judgment and arguing that there is not enough evidence to show that Guthrie was calling Wade by incorrect pronouns on purpose. Without proof of intent, the Defendant contends that the behavior in itself cannot constitute discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

If you have questions about filing a discrimination lawsuit or if you experienced discrimination in the workplace, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

Google Hiring Discrimination Lawsuit Progresses & California Judge Apologizes

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Google job applicants filed suit alleging discrimination based on gender, race, and political views. The plaintiffs in the suit claim Google had a clear pattern of hiring white or Asian men with particular political views (or perceived political views). In response to the lawsuit, Google filed three motions in an attempt to squash the legal action: a motion to dismiss, a motion to strike, and a motion for judgment on the pleadings.

The Superior Court Judge in Santa Clara took apart each of the arguments in a written order (nine pages long) and concluding by apologizing to Google and advising them that they would have to face the charges in court.

Plaintiffs counsel will need to negotiate with Google over the discovery plan and start getting documents from them related to the plaintiffs’ request to certify class.

The Defendant, Google, claims they lack the ability to discriminate against job applicants based on political views or activities. They argued that hundreds of thousands or even millions of people have applied to work at Google during the five years proposed as a class period, and they could not reasonably be expected to go through them all. They argued that even if they could go through them all, they couldn’t possibly define who is a conservative and who is not. Counsel for the plaintiff argued that Google’s argument was similar to arguments made decades ago when issues of discrimination against women were brought up in court. Concepts of gender and race are the basis for a large portion of discrimination cases, yet in the modern workplace, these concepts are more fluid than ever, yet the legislature actively protects them against discrimination, leaving it to the court to resolve the issue.

Plaintiffs’ counsel also made sure to note that according to Google insiders, the massive tech company reviews the personal data of job applicants using its own collection of user data. They even refer to an individual’s fitness to be a Google employee as the x-factor of “Googliness.”

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or during the hiring process, please don’t hesitate. The experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. With convenient locations in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange, and Chicago, we are ready to be your advocate and seek justice for unfair working conditions.

Thomas Keller Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Goes to Trial

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A former server for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Vanessa Scott-Allen, was denied a position at the French Laundry when management discovered her pregnancy. The company insists that they did not issue a formal job offer to Scott-Allen and that she misconstrued “pleasantries” with an official offer. They further claim that the reason she did not receive a job offer was her performance on the job.

Scott-Allen seeks $5 million in damages for wrongful termination and sex discrimination from the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. The Group runs the French Laundry and Per Se, as well as other dining establishments. The plaintiff named Thomas Keller himself in the lawsuit alongside the General Manager of French Laundry, Michael Minnillo. The case went to trial in Napa County Superior Court close to three years after the plaintiff filed the original suit.

It is not uncommon for suits of this type to be settled outside of court, but Scott-Allen preferred to go to trial to raise awareness for issues that riddle the entire restaurant industry. Scott-Allen insists that she considered the company family and that they betrayed her by rescinding her job offer once her pregnancy was known.

Scott-Allen claims that she spent five years at New York’s Per Se, where she received regular promotions in the workplace from kitchen server to captain, the highest ranking server position at the company. She began planning a move to the West Coast to have more space, to raise a family, and to work at the French Laundry, Keller’s fine-dining destination in Yountville. She advised her manager of the move/transfer, signed the transfer request form, and packed her things. When she arrived in Napa Valley, she found that there was not a job for her after all. Only weeks had passed since managers at the French Laundry discovered that Scott-Allen was pregnant.

According to the lawsuit, managers asked Scott-Allen how her pregnancy may affect her job performance during an interview in April 2016. But the hiring manager, Minnillo, already knew that Scott-Allen was pregnant. Scott-Allen submitted proof of the prior knowledge during the case. Minnillo wrote in an email sent on March 1, 2016, to the company’s head of Human Resources that the pregnancy was never mentioned and that there was confusion regarding how to proceed. According to the suit, Minnillo and the HR manager came up with a plan to give Scott-Allen a “sham” interview to protect themselves and the company in case she decided to file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. During a video deposition, Minnillo stated that the interview was “to go through the motions” even though he had no intention of hiring Scott-Allen.

The company claims that Minnillo’s confusion was not due to what to do in the situation because of Scott-Allen’s pregnancy. They insist that Minnillo decided not to hire her based on her job performance as they had previously worked together at Per Se. The company insists that he was simply wondering if Scott-Allen’s pregnancy would prevent him from passing her over for the job. A little over a week after passing Scott-Allen over for the job insisting that there was no position for her at the French Laundry, the restaurant hired a different individual to fill the role of captain – one who had no prior experience at a Michelin-starred restaurant, but that was not pregnant.

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination on the job or during the hiring process, the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP can help. Get in touch with the employment law office nearest you: San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange or Chicago.

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.

Jones Day Seeks to Have Gender Discrimination Plaintiffs Revealed

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Jones Day, a BigLaw firm, thinks gender discrimination plaintiffs should be forced to come forward and reveal themselves to the public. Following last year’s lawsuit filed by a former partner, Wendy Moore, alleging gender discrimination in pay at the firm, a new lawsuit was filed against the firm by six former associates. The new lawsuit also goes after the firm’s compensation system, but also makes claims in connection to the firm’s alleged “fraternity culture.”

The six former associates include two named plaintiffs (Nilab Rahyar Tolton and Andrea Mazingo) and four anonymous. The anonymous plaintiffs were permitted to use pseudonyms by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Beryl Howell. Now the Defendant in the case, Jones Day, is objecting to the anonymity of four of the plaintiffs.

The law firm argues that the court’s approval of the use of pseudonyms impugns Jones Day’s reputation by implying that they would retaliate against the anonymous plaintiffs involved in the suit if their identities were made known. They also argued that the pseudonyms prevent the public from thoroughly evaluating the plaintiffs’ allegations and credibility. Jones Day also brought up various problems connected to the case and the anonymity of the plaintiffs. The Defendant cited plaintiffs’ public relations strategy surrounding the lawsuit that made the anonymity particularly inappropriate. They also mentioned that the firm was not served with the official complaint, but the plaintiffs offered the document to the media before filing. The firm also brought up that the two named plaintiffs had already spoken to the press about their reasons for filing. Jones Day argued that for all the reasons mentioned, anonymity was unfair and prevented the firm and the public from determining the credibility of the plaintiffs and their claims.

As support for their arguments against anonymity in the case, Jones Day pointed to another BigLaw gender discrimination case brought against Morrison & Foerster. Jane Doe plaintiffs also filed the pregnancy discrimination case. In that case, the judge has already made comments that the plaintiffs cannot remain anonymous forever and stated that the plaintiffs in BigLaw gender discrimination cases were in the same position as plaintiffs in an employment litigation case.

If you need to talk to an experienced California employment law attorney about gender discrimination, pregnancy discrimination or any other form of discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP as soon as possible. We can help you determine your next step in protecting your rights and seeking compensation for damages.

Netflix Employee Claims She Was Fired Due to Pregnancy

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A former Netflix executive, Tania Zarak, claims she was basically shunned and secretly removed from projects (including the upcoming series about Mexican American singer Selena), and fired because her boss, Francisco Ramos, was angry. The alleged temper tantrum was in response to Zarak advising him that she was pregnant and planned to take maternity leave in early November.

While employed at the company, Zarak helped develop international original Netflix content for the popular online streaming service. Claiming wrongful termination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, she is now suing. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to the lawsuit, Zarak, 38-year old filmmaker, alleged Francisco Ramos and Netflix violated federal law and California state law by engaging in pregnancy discrimination, a form of gender discrimination. Netflix claims they looked into Zarak’s complaint and determined it was unfounded. 

At the time the problems started, Zarak was involved in the production of multiple Spanish-language series, including a remake of a Mexican telenovela, and a series about Selena, legendary Mexican-American singer. While the exact name of the Selena focused series was not included in the complaint, it is likely the very highly anticipated series that Netflix announced it was producing in December 2018. According to Zarak she was named as one of the Netflix executives managing the Selena series, but that once she announced she was pregnant, Ramos stopped including her in emails regarding the series, and she was not advised about meetings on the project. When she asked him about it, he replied that he didn’t know she was on the project. Zarak also claims that Ramos made repeated demeaning comments about her appearance after she announced she was pregnant repeatedly telling her she didn’t look happy or that she looked frustrated, etc. Zarak believes he was intentionally creating an emotionally abusive/negative atmosphere for her at work.

After putting up with the negative behavior for a month, Zarak reported the situation to human resources; advising them that Ramos was disregarding her, ignoring her, and refusing to give her enough work because she was pregnant. She requested a transfer to another department but was told to speak to Ramos about the request. When she spoke to Ramos as suggested, he mentioned that she had been “saying things about him” and asked when her due date was. When she told him and mentioned she planned to take maternity leave, he became visibly agitated and pressured her to quit, suggesting that they could figure out some form of payment or insurance if she left. She advised him she did not want to quit her job and requested a department transfer. He said it wasn’t possible. The next day, December 14th, Zarak was called into a meeting with HR. Ramos was there just long enough to tell her that he was letting her go before he left her with the HR manager. He did not provide a reason for her firing. When Zarak advised the HR manager that is was because she was pregnant, the HR manager did not respond.

Prior to her termination, Zarak’s work was regularly praised by the company and the company executives, she never received a negative performance review or any complaints. Her work experience includes time at a number of renowned movie production companies.

Now seven months pregnant, Zarak warns that Netflix used deceptive marketing about its positive workplace culture to cultivate new hires advising them that the company offers parents up to one-year paid maternity leave when, in fact, employees are highly discouraged from taking it.

If you have questions about discrimination in the workplace or if you need to file a California discrimination lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.