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.

Comcast Contractor Faces Settles Up to Resolve Allegations of Unpaid Overtime and Labor Law Violations

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O.C. Communications Inc., a Comcast Contractor that supplies tech talent, agrees to pay a $7.5 million settlement to resolve an unpaid overtime lawsuit. Court documents include allegations that company employees were not paid overtime, were denied meal breaks in violation of state labor law, and not reimbursed for business expenses (i.e., tools necessary for the job).

The federal overtime class-action lawsuit was filed in San Francisco naming O.C. Communications (a California firm) and Comcast as Defendants. The two Defendants agreed to settle the case after an extensive amount of litigation that included the production of 1.5 million documents related to the case. Both Defendants, while agreeing to pay the settlement amount identified above, continue to deny any wrongdoing.

One of the lead plaintiffs in the class action overtime lawsuit, Desidero Soto of Concord, California, claims that O.C. Communications scheduled him to complete 32 job stops during one workday even though the typical complete workday included a total of eight stops. Supervisors instructed him to work through meal breaks to make it work regardless of what he was required to write on official time sheets. He claims any time taken to eat during the workday was while driving from job to job and even then, he was required to be accessible by cell phone at all times and to respond to work calls at any time.

Another plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, Jacky Charles of Margate, Florida, was a tech for the Defendant from September 2016 through May 2017. He claims that he was required to buy his own wireless drill, drill bits, screwdriver, staple gun, and a variety of cables, and work clothes to fulfill his job duties. Hundreds of other techs presented similar claims to the court.

According to court records, the $7.5 million settlement that O.C. Communications and Comcast agreed to pay plaintiffs on March 1st could have the 4,500 techs splitting the amount (minus legal fees).

If you have questions about unpaid overtime or what constitutes a violation of labor law, 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.

Former MedMen CFO Files Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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In the last month, three senior executives have left Culver City-based MedMen Enterprises Inc. Since January, the retail cannabis company has experienced the departure of close to 100 employees. Most recently, as announced in an April 19th, 2019 press release, MedMen General Counsel LD Sergi Trager and Chief Operating Officer Ben Cook resigned. MedMen Senior Vice President in charge of corporate communications, Daniel Yi, also left the company.

The departures of execs and employees followed a wrongful termination suit filed against the company in January by the former MedMen Chief Financial Officer James Parker. Parker claimed that he was stripped of his powers and left unable to fulfill his job duties in the workplace. Parker's wrongful termination lawsuit is currently pending in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

What is Wrongful Termination? Sometimes referred to wrongful dismissal or wrongful discharge, wrongful termination occurs when an employer terminates an employee's contract of employment in a way that breaches one or more terms of the contract of employment or a statute or provision or rule in employment law.

Bierman responded in February through a company blog post insisting that the claims made by Parker were malicious and an attention-getter and concluding that the lawsuit was without merit. He emphasizes the accusations made in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Parker went directly against the company's core values and that the workforce is one of the most diverse in any industry. MedMen has operations in numerous states, including California, Nevada, New York, Arizona, and Illinois. Third-quarter revenues projections were at $36.6 million for the period that ended March 30th. Final results are expected to be published by the company May 29th.

If you have questions about wrongful termination or if you have been a victim of wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP as soon as possible.

Settlement Reached with Former Port Hueneme Employee Who Filed Harassment Claim

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A former Port Hueneme employee claims she experienced harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Carmen Nichols, a former employee of Port Hueneme, filed a claim alleging both.

In response, Port Hueneme is to pay Carmen Nichols $550,000. While according to the terms of the settlement, Port Hueneme officially admits no wrongdoing, the settlement counts as a win. Nichols resigned from her position in August 2017 after being employed for 22 years. One month after she left, she filed a claim alleging misconduct by Hensley as well as other employees who allowed the Hensley’s harassment and discrimination of Nichols to continue.

In the complaint, Nichols alleged that City Council member Jim Hensley harassed and discriminated against her on numerous occasions beginning around January 2015 and continuing until she was finally forced to quit her job in August 2017. Harassment and discrimination aimed at Nichols were based on gender and race and was, in the words of Nichols, “continuous.” While opposing party claims Nichol has zero evidence of her claims, Nichols listed several instances of harassment and discrimination in her complaint.

Nichols claims that Hensley regularly referenced her looks, insinuated she wasn’t doing her job, opposed a pay raise for her when she was named for a promotion (even when she earned less than men in the same position), referenced her ethnicity (referring to her as a “Latina”), and openly expressed his dislike for Hispanics.

In a separate case citing Port Hueneme as Defendant filed by City Council member Jim Hensley, a judge found the federal lawsuit seeking monetary damages for lost wages and benefits related to his removal from some committees as well as emotional distress without merit. U.S. District Court Judge André Birotte Jr. granted the request for summary judgment. By granting the summary judgment, the judge essentially rules that Hensley’s claims were not strong enough to hold up in court and allow the case to move forward. Judge Birotte reviewed the Plaintiff’s pleadings as well as records of City Council meetings pertaining to the situation and determined there were no “genuine issues of material fact.” Hensley and his counsel feel the judge’s conclusion was inaccurate and plan to appeal.

If you have experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

$2 Million Settlement to End Terranea Resort Workers’ Wage Lawsuit

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Court documents filed on April 30th, 2019 outlined a settlement of $2.15 million paid by Terranea Resort to resolve claims made in a significant wage and hour class action lawsuit. This settlement follows another class action lawsuit the Lowe Enterprises-owned hotel settled in 2013. The previous lawsuit resulted in a $1.125 million settlement.

The recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of hundreds of employees, both current and former, all eligible to receive compensation.  

Allegations Included in the Complaint: Various Forms of Wage Theft

•    Off-the-Clock-Work

•    Missed Rest Breaks

•    Missed Meal Periods

•    Failure to Reimburse Employees for Basic Tools Needed on the Job

•    Falsified Record Keeping to Avoid Paying Meal Break Penalties

The lawsuit also claimed that the resort failed to provide employees with payment for the time they were required to spend shuttling back and forth between the resort and off-site parking lots per company bus. According to allegations made in the complaint, it added an hour or more to employees’ travel each day. Plaintiffs also claim that workers were required to arrive early for shifts to change into their uniforms before clocking in for their shift (constituting off-the-clock-work).

Expenses that the resort failed to reimburse included the cost of essential kitchen items cooks used in the luxury resort kitchen. For instance, cooks claim they purchased their own knives, graters, etc. because the resort did not provide even the most necessary tools.

If you have questions about wage and hour law or if you are not paid the compensation you are due, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP today.