Former Personal Chef to Receive Settlement from Sean “Diddy” Combs in Harassment and Wrongful Termination Case

Sean “Diddy” Combs’ former personal chef filed a sexual harassment claim against him in 2017. She also claimed that the music superstar didn’t pay her overtime for working hours in excess of what is legally recognized as full time.

Rueda, Combs’ former personal chef, was employed in April 2015 and worked for the music mogul through May 2016. During her time employed by Combs, Rueda claims she would regularly work from 9am to 1:30am and that she would also frequently accompany him on the road for weeks at a time without receiving anything in addition to her regular $91,000 annual salary. Rueda claims that when she took the position as personal chef, she advised Combs that she couldn’t travel due to the fact that she had small children who needed her to be nearby. 

Rueda claims that Combs was frequently hostile to her – creating an uncomfortable work environment. She described one instance in which he yelled at her for showing up to work late and disturbing him and Gina Huynh, a woman he was romantically linked to. She claims he swore at her and demanded, “Can’t you see I have company?” Rueda then claims she was instructed to bring them breakfast in his private quarters. She did so and when she arrived, she saw them having sex. She made additional claims that Combs’ manager made sexual comments to her.

It was reported that when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen first considered Rueda’s case, she didn’t accept it because of a work contract Rueda signed stating that all employment disputes be handled by arbitration. Rueda’s lawyers argued that the contract was both misleading and heavily favored Combs in the verbiage.

Despite Judge Allen’s initial reaction to the case, Rueda’s lawyers revealed the case was settled on February 19th. They did not provide details. When news of the suit surfaced in 2017, a Combs representative described Rueda as a disgruntled employee, but claimed she was fired for just cause. The reason she was terminated was never released. Rueda also sued Combs for wrongful termination.

If you have been wrongfully terminated from your job or if you are experiencing a hostile work environment, 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.

#MeToo Movement Brings to Light a Growing Problem with Mandatory Arbitration Agreements

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In the wake of the recent #MeToo movement, many are starting to speak out about the fact that mandatory arbitration agreements may be particularly bad for women. When the #MeToo movement resulted in more and more female workers coming forward to report instances of sexual harassment in the workplace at companies like Fox and the Weinstein Company, many of them quickly realized that they would not be able to seek justice in the courts because of arbitration agreements they were required to sign as employees. 

For instance, Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News anchor, signed a required mandatory arbitration agreement. She sued former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment and received an undisclosed settlement. But she was not able to sue Fox News for their rose in allowing the sexual harassment to continue. Dozens of other women who experienced similar situations at Fox found themselves in the same situation.

As more women come forward to speak out about sexual harassment on the job, many are putting the pressure on Congress to take action and restrict or even eliminate arbitration clauses from US workplaces.

Recent Legislative Actions:

October 2017 – The Mandatory Arbitration Transparency Act was introduced. The Act prohibits businesses from including a confidentiality clause in arbitration agreements in connection with discrimination claims.

December 2017 – The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act was introduced exempting sexual harassment cases from mandatory arbitration.

February 2018 – 56 state attorneys general (5 from US territories) weighed in with a letter urging congressional leaders to vote on the bills.

March 2018 – The Arbitration Fairness Act was proposed, which would let workers and consumers decide where they should pursue their legal claims.

October 2018 - The latest bill, the Restoring Justice for Workers Act, would prohibit employers from banning class-action claims.

If you need to speak with an experienced California employment law attorney because you are experiencing labor law violations and aren’t sure how to seek justice, please get in touch with us at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

On The Border Mexican Grill Face Race Harassment Lawsuit

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On The Border, a popular Tex-Mex restaurant faces race harassment allegations. According to the suit, Michael Carethers, an African-American cook at the restaurant’s Holtsville, NY location, was regularly subjected to verbal assaults including harassment and offensive language from his co-workers. Allegedly, the co-workers used offensive racial slurs and other offensive terms to refer to Carethers. According to the suit, the restaurant failed to stop the harassment.

According to the lawsuit, On the Border’s management was aware of the situation and, in some cases, present during the time of the harassment. Management failed to stop the abuse or address the situation by disciplining those employees who were involved. The complaint states that the harassment was occurring multiple times per week.

Discrimination based on race (and other bases) is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also prohibits retaliation for reporting or openly opposing discrimination. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Pre-litigation settlement discussions through conciliation were not successful. Plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief to prevent this situation from recurring.

According to the company’s website, On the Border is the U.S.’s largest casual Mexican restaurant chain and currently has more than 140 locations with 6,000 employees across the country.

If you need to discuss an issue of discrimination in the workplace or if you have been discriminated against during the employment application process, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Settlement Between Former Employee and NFL Network Approved

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A settlement was approved for a lawsuit brought against the NFL Network by a former wardrobe stylist, Jami Canton. Canton claimed a slew of labor law violations, including: sexual harassment, age discrimination, workplace retaliation, wrongful termination and defamation. The settlement was approved by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern after Jami Cantor filed a motion to resolve the suit seeking civil penalties. In exchange for the settlement, Cantor agreed to drop all claims.

Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis, former NFL Network analysts, were both fired in January by ESPN after a month-long investigation into claims of inappropriate behavior on the job made by Cantor. Cantor, as an aggrieved employee, will receive 25% of the approved settlement amount while the other 75% will be distributed to the state Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA). The LWDA is a cabinet-level state agency responsible for coordinating workforce programs and oversight of seven different departments that deal with benefit administration and upholding and enforcing employment laws of the state of California.

Cantor filed the California lawsuit in September. In the complaint she claimed she began work in 2006 and was employed at the NFL’s Culver City studio. As part of her job, Cantor claims she was responsible for creating a wardrobe closet to make sure that talent would have clothes to wear for the NFL shows. During the course of her employment, Cantor alleged that she was subjected to numerous instances of sexual harassment at the hands of a number of different NFL employees. Claims of harassment included: inappropriate touching, inappropriate references, inappropriate comments, texted photos of a sexual nature, etc. All this while Cantor repeatedly made it clear that the advances were unwanted and not reciprocated.

Cantor claims that nothing was done in response to her complaints and that rather than assisting her with the situation, the NFL made her life more difficult by increasing her workload and decreasing her hours. In addition to the harassment claims, Cantor levied a number of other labor law violation complaints against her former employer, including: failure to pay overtime, failure to provide required meal and rest breaks, failure to reimburse for business expenses, and wrongful termination.

Cantor was fired in October of 2016. She claims she was falsely accused of stealing clothing from an employee. She also claims that internal video would prove that she had not taken anything. When she was terminated, Cantor was 51 years old. Her replacement was 30 years old.

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

Former Eagles Quarterback McNabb Suspended Due to Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

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Former Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, is amongst a short list of players recently accused of sexual harassment by the same woman. As a result, McNabb was suspended from his ESPN job as an on-air NFL pundit. (He also had one of the most decorated careers of any Eagles quarterback).

The woman who filed the sexual harassment lawsuit is Jami Cantor, a former wardrobe stylist for the NFL. She worked in the position from 2006 through 2016 and claims that while she was in the employment of the NFL, she experienced sexual harassment at the hands of McNabb, and other fellow athletes including: Heath Evans, Ike Taylor, Warren Sapp, and Marshall Faulk. 

McNabb was the last Philadelphia quarterback to lead the team to the Super Bowl (and the team has only been to the Super Bowl twice). He has also been a frequent visitor to the current team. This isn’t the first time McNabb has found himself facing legal trouble. In 2015, he was arrested in Arizona and was sentenced to 18 days in jail for DUI. Cantor claims that McNabb (and several other players/employees) made lewd comments and groped her while she was employed at the NFL Network Studio in Culver City, California. She also claims that McNabb sent texted her inappropriately with crude, sexual comments on multiple occasions.

According to the lawsuit, Faulk asked her about her sex life, fondled her inappropriately, groped her from behind, and exposed himself to her after inviting her into his hotel room while making sexual demands.

In the same lawsuit, Cantor claims that Evans, a former Patriot, sent nude photos of himself and made sexual propositions to her.

She also claims that Davis, former 49er groped/rubbed her and made a number of crude/lewd statements. 

Cantor also included allegations against a former Steeler, Taylor, stating that he sent photos and video of himself masturbating in the shower.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Sapp, was included in the lawsuit due to an incident when he entered a bathroom in which Cantor was preparing a wardrobe and urinated in front of her. He also allegedly gifted Cantor with sex toys for Christmas every year for three years and sent her nude pictures of women he had been with sexually.

Prior to filing the sexual harassment lawsuit, Cantor filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in October stating that she was fired without prior warning for allegedly stealing clothing from a player. Cantor denies this charge.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or you aren’t sure if your situation qualifies as wrongful termination, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.

Whistle-Blower Points the Fraud Finger at Banc of California

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Banc of California, Inc. is under investigation by U.S. regulators. The investigation follows a situation in which a short seller linked the institution to an imprisoned con man, alleged inflated profits and a top executive who allegedly supported his stripper habit with company funds. Allegations were detailed in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by Heather Endresen, a former managing director for the Small Business Administration’s Loan Program.

According to the lawsuit, a decision was made at management level that reversed accrued employee bonuses, which caused Banc of California Inc. to carry over revenues generated in 2016 improperly in order to create a “false” representation of profits for the year. After complaining about the shifting of the pool of bonuses, as well as the inappropriate behavior of the then-CFO, Francisco Turner, Endresen claims she was wrongfully terminated.

According to the complaint filed by Endresen, Turner used company money to pay for strippers as well as engaging in sexual conduct with employees at the office, using drugs at work and putting pressure on lower level employees to join him in his behavior.

Turner declined to comment on the allegations other than to say that there are no claims against him personally and he disputes the allegations made about him. He stated that he would be vindicated through the legal process.

Endresen claims that when she reported the problems, she was told by Banc of California’s legal counsel that the company did not have a policy in place that prohibited employees from engaging in either behavior (engaging in sexual activities in the workplace or using company money to pay for strip clubs). Turner resigned from his position as Banc of California CFO in June in order to pursue other interests. According to the official statement on the matter, Turner’s decision to leave did not relate to any issues regarding the company’s financial reporting, system integrity, etc.

The company insists that the action has no merit and that they will be defending against the claims.

If you have questions regarding wrongful termination or you have been wrongfully terminated from your employment, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.