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.

Ex-Dairy Worker Fights Back After Company Responds to Wage Suit by Trying to Have Him Deported

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Jose Arias, former Northern California dairy worker, recently won a million-dollar settlement against his ex-employer’s attorney. Arias originally filed a lawsuit against the dairy alleging wage theft. According to the plaintiff, Arias, the company’s attorney responded by contacting immigration officials to try to get the ex-dairy worker deported.

The retaliation suit against his former employer, Angelo Dairy of Acampo was already settled when the $1 million settlement was announced in the suit against attorney Anthony Raimondo. The settlement followed a federal court’s decision to reinstate Arias’ case. Representation for the plaintiff see the case as an example showing employers that they can’t game the system by cheating their employees of wages and then responding to complaints with threats to deport them.

The attorney who allegedly made the deportation threat, Raimondo, has 20 years of legal experience representing dairies out of Fresno. He denied retaliating against Arias and claimed that his former insurance company insisted the case be settled. Raimondo insists that he is the only person involved in the case who did not break the law.

Arias, an undocumented immigrant, started work with Angelo Dairy in 1995 as a milker. The dairy was supposed to file documents with federal officials that would verify Arias’ work authorization. Instead the employer used his undocumented status as a weapon to limit Arias’ options and keep him in their employ. In 1997, Arias told a company owner that he had a job offer from another dairy. The owner advised him that he would report the other dairy to immigration authorities if Arias took the offer. Arias stayed in his current position, but sued Angelo Dairy in 2006. He claimed the company’s failure to pay overtime and provide required meal and rest breaks were violations of labor law. In 2011, just prior to going to trial, Arias claims Raimondo, the dairy’s lawyer, contacted immigration agencies to purposefully derail the case.

Arias settled the wage suit and dropped his claims against the dairy farm. He says he did so, in substantial part, to avoid deportation. The court documents state that Raimondo contacted ICE a minimum of five times regarding other employees. He also allegedly confirmed his practice of contacting ICE in a June 2013 email to Legal Services Corp., in which he stated that he had acted in the past to deport workers who were suing his clients. Recent statements from Raimondo describe the events differently, insisting that the idea that he retaliated against Arias is ridiculous.

If you are experiencing retaliation in the workplace or if you need to discuss filing suit against an employer due to employment law violations, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Employee Back Pay Lawsuit Settled by Los Robles Regional Medical Center

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Thousand Oaks, California’s Los Robles Regional Medical Center agreed to pay $2.95 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that they shortchanged their employees’ hourly pay. The settlement agreement addresses litigation due to a 2014 filing by plaintiff, Jeanette Munden, a former nurse at the medical center. Munden alleged her hourly pay was routinely rounded in a way that short-changed her paycheck.

Judge Kevin DeNoce of Ventura County Superior Court approved the settlement against Los Robles, ruling that the center would pay $2.95 million over a lawsuit alleging that it shortchanged hourly pay of employees and prevented them from taking lunch breaks (as well as other labor code violations). The settlement includes 3,000 current and former employees who split close to $1.9 million. The average payout for workers included in the suit will total around $618. The hospital will also be covering attorney fees ($973,500) and state labor code penalties for alleged violations ($10,000).

The company settled on a no-fault basis and does not admit any wrongdoing, although this is not the first time they have faced this type of employment law violation allegation.

Timeline of the Case:

2005: A federal judge approved a $4.75 million settlement for a lawsuit against Low Robles Medical Center claiming over 1,000 employees were owed wages for missed breaks and overtime.

2014: Jeanette Munden, former Los Robles nurse, alleged her hourly pay was regularly rounded to short her paycheck. She claimed Los Robles owed her overtime and that she was also consistently denied lunch breaks and rest periods during her employment at the facility.

2015: Munden resigned from her position at Los Robles to take another job but was not paid compensation she was owed by the company.

2017: Nurses negotiating contracts with the facility in September 2017 claimed that staffing was so limited that they could not take breaks or even, sometimes, go to the bathroom.

As the lead plaintiff in the case, Munden will receive a $15,000 award. Only one of the current and former employees included in the suit objected to the settlement.

If you have questions about how to file an overtime lawsuit or if you need to discuss when employers are required to provide overtime pay, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Gender Pay Discrimination Allegations Made Against Hewlett-Packard Enterprises

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In the fourth quarter of 2018, R. Ross and C. Rogus of Santa Clara, California, filed a class action California unpaid wages lawsuit against Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE). The lawsuit describes a discriminatory pattern demonstrating gender-based pay discrepancies at the company. We’ve seen tech giants in the news before for similar practices and facing similar allegations, but this case does present a few interesting issues.

1.     Wage history perpetrating discrimination.

2.     Employer policies discouraging employees from talking about their salary as prevention of discovery of discrimination under California’s Equal Pay Act

3.     Using Secret Wage Classification and Promotion Systems to easily avoid meaningful reform.

In this California unpaid wages lawsuit, Hewlett Packard is accused of systematically paying female employees less than their similarly situated male co-workers and failing to advance them at the same rate as male employees performing similar work at a similar skill level. The business practices are apparently in place throughout all of California and are built on preexisting practices at Hewlett-Packard.

As of January 1st, 2018, employers in California are prohibited from asking job applicants about their salary history or using a salary history to determine what salary to offer a new employee. This was an effort to decrease the long-term effects of past salary discrimination. This law, however, does not offer protection to workers hired prior to that date or current employees who are seeking an internal promotion. Long-term workers who are seeking to make a career with a single employer will not find assistance for past pay discrimination in the law that went into effect January 1st, 2018. In the complaint against HPE, it is alleged that long-term employees tend to stay at the lower-paid job level 1 or 2. In comparison, new hires start at or quickly rise to a higher paid level 3.

Raises at the company are based on a percentage of the employees’ existing HPE salary, so they not only support the gender pay gap, but widen it. The longer a female is employed by HPE, the less she will be paid in comparison to her male counterparts even when fulfilling similar job duties at an equal or better rate. Gender discrimination paired with age discrimination combine to leave older female employees double affected.

Pay secrecy policies are still a common practice, particularly in the tech industry. Policies requiring silence about pay have been prohibited in most industries since 1935 by the National Labor Relations Act. Pay secrecy policies are also banned by California Labor Code section 232. Since 1985, the law has specifically prohibited the requirement of any employee to refrain from disclosing their wage or requiring an employee to waive the right to discuss their wage, or to discipline an employee for discussing their wage. Yet many employees are unaware of their rights and many employers still discourage (officially or unofficially) pay secrecy.

Similarly, when wage and promotion structures are not transparent, workers are prevented from acting on discriminatory behavior. Many employees are reluctant to act or share information with co-workers but find themselves suffering from vague or opaque employer pay scales and promotion structures.

If you are suffering from the effects of gender-based pay discrimination or you need help seeking equal pay in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Former Executive Claims Van Nuys Clothing Co. President Forced Into Sexual Relationship

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Identified as Jane Doe in an attempt at privacy, a former executive of Van Nuys clothing company has filed suit alleging that she was fired after she complained that the company founder’s married son coerced her into a sexual relationship. The lawsuit was filed in Low Angeles Superior Court and cites Jerry Leigh of California Inc. (JLC) and Andrew Leigh as Defendants. Andrew Leigh is described as the current president of the firm in the lawsuit. The firm was founded in 1962 by his father, Jerry Leigh.

The plaintiff in the case described her experience at the company in frank terms. She claims that she felt like Mr. Leigh’s personal sex slave and that she had to comply with his demands, at any time, whenever he wanted to have sex. She claims he even arranged for her to say in a “sex pad.” Allegations included in the suit are: wrongful termination, gender violence, sexual harassment, sexual battery, retaliation and failure to provide a harassment-free workplace. The plaintiff seeks unspecified damages.

The Defendant, JLC, has a number of licensing agreements with high profile companies, including: Sanrio Co. Ltd., Disney, Warner Bros., etc. They also own 100% of the David Lerner New York brand.

The plaintiff was hired by JLC with primary job duties to work with Lerner and report to Andrew Leigh. In June 2012, she was promoted to Vice President of Design of the Lerner fashion line. During her first two years with the company, Andrew Leigh flirted with Doe, who was also married. Initially, the plaintiff brushed off Leigh’s flirtatious advances because she had worked extremely hard to obtain the highly competitive spot as brand director and didn’t want to cause any trouble at the company.

In August 2013, Andrew Leigh and Doe were on a business trip to Las Vegas. During this trip, the situation escalated when Leigh’s flirtatious advances evolved to inappropriate touching. The inappropriate touching occurred after the Doe agreed to dance with Leigh. Doe, the plaintiff, states that she was shocked and alarmed when this occurred and that she told him to stop.

For the few months following the Vegas incident, Andrew Leigh pursued Doe continuously. During this same time period, Andrew Leigh developed a dispute with Lerner and Lerner was fired.

In October 2013, Andrew Leigh invited himself into Doe’s hotel room during a business trip to Portland. He then opened a bottle of wine and forced himself on the plaintiff. Later, Andrew Leigh leased a company-subsidized apartment in Century City where he kept alcohol and expected Doe, who was experiencing trouble in her own marriage, to have sexual relations with him so he didn’t need to worry about his wife finding out about his activities.

In October, Doe sent a text to Andrew Leigh requesting a leave of absence so she could deal with her stress, nothing that the sexual relationship with him was causing her “severe distress, both at work and in her personal life.” Andrew Leigh found the message irritating and did not apologize, try to accommodate Doe’s request or make amends in any way. October 23rd, Doe submitted a note from a doctor that justified her request for medical leave, but she received a termination letter and a final check from JLC the next day. The plaintiff alleges that she was terminated from her position in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment and in retaliation for requesting medical leave.

If you are dealing with sexual harassment at work or if you have been wrongfully terminated due to sexual harassment claims or other employee protected legal actions, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

California Catholic School May Face Lawsuit After Firing Teacher

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Kristen Biel, a former teacher at St. James Catholic School in Torrance, needed time off from her job after recently being diagnosed with breast cancer in Spring 2014. She was in need of a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Biel requested a leave of absence during the upcoming fall semester from Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper, the school’s principal. Just weeks later, Biel was fired.

Last month, Biel was granted the right to sue the school in federal court for discrimination when an appeals court overturned the lower court decision that she was a “minister” in the eyes of the court and barred from suing a church-operated school. This isn’t the first time St. James School and Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper have faced legal allegations. Kreuper, along with another nun, was accused of stealing from student tuition checks, fees and fundraisers for the school for over a decade. The issue was recently announced by school officials.

Kreuper, 77 years old, and her vice principal, Sister Lana Chang, 67 years old, essentially rerouted hundreds of thousands of dollars into a church bank account that was overlooked by many for years. They then used this overlooked account to pay for personal expenses. Parents were advised of the situation at a meeting in Redondo Beach recently. Parents asked about the situation said that the nuns were open in talking about gambling trips to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe vacations, but that they claimed Chang had wealthy relatives that paid their expenses.

Auditors working alongside the Archdiocese in Los Angeles have accounted for $500,000 of stolen funds, but the number will most likely continue to grow as the investigation continues. Initially, the archdiocese intended to handle the investigation internally and not press charges, but later they changed course stating that they would be cooperating with police and that they plan to be a complaining party in the criminal case. Criminal complaints have not yet been filed. The police investigation is ongoing. Police are requesting copies of old tuition checks from parents and details regarding any cash donations.

Biel, 53 years old, started working at St. James in March 2013. She was hired as a long-term substitute teacher. By the end of the year, she was hired as the school’s full-time fifth-grade teacher. She received a formal, positive evaluation from Kreuper that praised her “good work” in promoting a safe and caring learning environment. Areas of improvement included in the one official review noted two students were coloring in their books and some of the students had cluttered desks.

When Biel was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2014, she advised Kreuper she would start treatments within the month. A few weeks later, Kreuper advised Biel she wouldn’t be renewing her contract and claimed it was because it would be unfair for student to accommodate her leave by having two teachers in one year. She also accused Biel of not running a strict classroom even though that complaint was not included in Biel’s one official evaluation.

Biel filed a federal lawsuit against St. James in 2015. She included allegations of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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

North Beach Strip Clubs Facing Unexpected Consequences from New Rules

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Dancers employed at Penthouse Club received their first employee paychecks in November 2018. When they were handed their checks, many of the 30 dancers at the popular North Beach strip club felt a surge of panic and shock. Some decided immediately that they were finished with their job.

Dancers in establishments like the Penthouse Club in North Beach were traditionally engaged as independent contractors. They were accustomed to leaving the club each night with cash (often hundreds of dollars) after they completed a shift. When clubs started enforcing the California Supreme Court ruling from April 2018 that set new standards for employee classification, everything changed. The gig economy was shaken to its core, but the new standards also affected some unexpected areas where workers were traditionally not classified as employees: hair salons, adult entertainment industry businesses, etc.

When the changes swept through local clubs in San Francisco, it resulted in a mass exodus of employees who were not happy with the effects of their new employee status. One single mother who has worked as a dancer at the Penthouse Club described her problem with the change by citing that the entire point of that type of work was being able to go in for a shift, earn quick cash without documentation and keeping all of it. She was one of the dancers who cut ties with the club after they adopted the new standards.

Club owners respond to employee complaints by stating that the new changes are actually costing them as well. As a result of lawsuits and ongoing demands by dancers who sued for employment violations, clubs have been compelled by Court order to eliminate the independent contractor option – dancers will be required to be club employees paid hourly wages and commissions on dance sales. It’s estimated that 200 dancers quit in response to the change. Club management indicated that it dramatically affected overall business and business profitability costing the clubs several million annually with matching payroll taxes, unemployment compensation, workman’s compensation, Health San Francisco costs, Affordable Care Insurance costs, sick leave pay, etc.

The changes were brought about after a California Supreme Court decision on a case brought by two Dynamex drivers. The ruling on the case stated that workers may now be considered employees if they complete job duties during the usual course of the company’s business. This would apply to dancers working at a strip club so club owners who want to play it safe should be paying minimum wage and comply with wage and hour law.

The changes left many dancers scrambling to make ends meet and seeking other employment as the new pay structure offered minimum wage plus commission on dance sales, but the commission pay structure was also altered leaving many of them with significantly less take home pay.

If you need to find out how to seek justice for wage and hour violations or if you are misclassified in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.