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Pregnancy Discrimination Case Settled Against Lucasfilm

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 13th, 2013

Pregnancy Discrimination Case Against Lucasfilm Has Pre-Trial Settlement

A high-profile, bitterly fought pregnancy discrimination lawsuit filed more than four years ago by Julie Veronese against Lucasfilm Ltd. was recently dismissed following a settlement between the parties.

In April 2008 Veronese, then 36, applied to become an assistant manager to Sarita Patel, the estate manager at the San Anselmo estate of  “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas.

Veronese was hired but never started work, claiming she was terminated because she became pregnant. She had signed a contract for a 30-day position to start two months later, but alleges she was told it was a probationary period for a permanent $75,000-a-year job.

Three days before she was to start work, Veronese told Patel that she was pregnant. Allegedly Patel put the job on hold and repeatedly delayed Veronese’s starting date. The day after Veronese sent an e-mail to Patel claiming she was being mistreated because of her pregnancy Lucasfilm withdrew the job.

Lucasfilm Originally Denied the Discrimination Charge

Lucasfilm denied the discrimination charge, saying it revoked its offer for reasons unrelated to her pregnancy. Defense witnesses said Patel, who had supervised other pregnant employees, had decided to revoke the offer after she had received the accusatory e-mail. They alleged that Patel felt the email showed Veronese to be self-centered, disrespectful and dishonest.

Veronese was represented by Angela Alioto, an employment rights lawyer, a former San Francisco supervisor, and her mother-in-law.

After 2 1/2 days of deliberations the Superior Court sided with Veronese. Jurors also agreed Veronese had been assured of an ongoing position after a 30-day tryout.

Jurors were shown an e-mail that Lucas’ executive assistant sent to Patel on the day the company learned Veronese was pregnant that expressed concern about whether she would be able to do the job while pregnant.

Lucasfilm Attorneys Allege Veronese Lied Under Oath

Attorneys also allege Veronese lied under oath about the date she learned of her pregnancy – nearly a month before she had disclosed it to Patel. Alioto’s counterargument was that Veronese had no legal obligation to tell the company of the pregnancy.

Lucas testified June 17 that he had not been involved in the decision to hire or withdraw Veronese’s job offer.

The jury awarded $113,800 in damages – $93,800 for lost wages and $20,000 for emotional distress, and rejected a request for punitive damages.

“Women who are pregnant are so discriminated against, and nobody talks about it,” Alioto said.

Lucasfilm said it would appeal.

“I thought I had found a place where I fit in,” Veronese said, now 37. “The minute I told them I was pregnant, I just watched it crumble.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Male Reporter for CNN Claims Discrimination in Family Leave Case

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law on November 12th, 2013

Josh Levs of CNN Claims Time Warner Discrimination In Paid Family Leave for New Biological Fathers

CNN reporter Josh Levs announced that he and his lawyers, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have filed a charge against parent company Time Warner, claiming that the company’s paid family leave policy discriminates against new biological fathers.

Writing about the claim on his Tumblr, Levs says that the company’s rules allow all parents of new children to take 10 paid weeks off except for biological fathers, who are only granted two weeks. According to the company’s policies women who give birth as well as new parents with new children through adoption or surrogacy get 10 paid weeks off. But new biological fathers aren’t covered.

Levs alleges that for two months he tried to get the company to undo that loophole. He was rejected 11 days after his child was born while he was already on leave to care for her.

“Under Time Warner rules, I have only two choices: stay out for 10 weeks without pay, or return to work and hire someone to come to our home each day,” he writes. “Neither is financially tenable, and the fact that only biological dads face this choice at this point in a newborn’s life is ludicrous.”

Discrimination of Time Warner’s Family Leave Policy Against New Fathers

Now that his two weeks of paid leave have run out, he’s using days from the company’s paid time off policy. He will have to go back to work next week if nothing changes.

“I can’t sit by and allow this inequality,” he says. “It’s unfair to my wife and family, and to other dads and their families.”

Despite the discrimination Levs says he is facing, he is actually lucky compared to other new fathers in the U.S. Only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public sector workers have access to paid maternity leave through their employers.  Paternity leave is more rare. New parents of either gender aren’t guaranteed any paid leave under federal law, and only 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they work at a company with 50 or more employees. 5 percent of covered workers report needing to take leave but not being able to do so because they can’t afford it. Given restrictions within the law, 40 percent of workers aren’t even covered by those protections.

To ensure all workers have access to paid leave for a new child, the Center for American Progress has proposed Social Security Cares. This is a nationwide program that would allow workers to pay into family leave through Social Security payroll deductions.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Farmers Insurance Sued by EEOC for Race Bias Discrimination

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 8th, 2013

The EEOC Has Sued Farmers Insurance in the Firing of  Asian-American Claims Representatives

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit that Farmers Insurance Exchange violated federal law when it fired two Southeast Asian-American employees because of their race, and then unlawfully fired a third non-Asian employee in retaliation for his participation in the EEOC’s investigation.

Two of the employees are of Hmong descent and were the only Asian-American employees working at the insurance company’s Fresno office during the time of their termination during March 2009.  Allegedly, a supervisor had instructed staff to code insurance payments in a manner as to avoid the automated prompting of customer surveys.

A 2009 audit revealed that several of the claims representatives in the office had instances of improper coding.  However, the EEOC’s lawsuit contends that only the Asian-American claims representatives were targeted for termination. In fact, a Caucasian claims adjuster had a similar number of cases coded, but was not terminated in March 2009. However, he was placed on leave a week after he was interviewed by the EEOC and provided testimony during investigation into the discrimination charges.

Race Discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Race discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory, and punitive damages for the alleged victims.

“Generally, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders seldom come forward to report discrimination,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC.  “The EEOC is here to help victims of illegal discrimination and to ensure that employers treat workers equally. Our hope is that more will find the courage to come forward to break the cycle of discrimination at work.”

Melissa Barrios, local director at the EEOC’s Fresno Office, added that “Federal law protects employees who participate in investigations or proceedings involving employment discrimination from retaliation.  Workers have the right to provide testimony or protest discrimination without negative employment consequences.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

Racial Discrimination Charged by African-American Hooter’s Waitress

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination on October 27th, 2013

Hair Color Deemed Improper for An African-American Woman

Farryn Johnson, an African-American 25-year-old Hooters waitress, alleges she was let go because of her blonde highlights, even thought white waitresses are allowed to color their hair at the chain restaurant.

In the racial discrimination complaint filed with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Johnson is claiming she was let go from her job on grounds of having an “improper image” after she refused to remove the blonde highlights from her dark brown hair.

“They gave me write-ups, and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair. And they said I couldn’t have blond in my hair because I’m black. They specifically said, ‘Black women don’t have blond in their hair, so you need to take it out,'” Johnson said.

In her complaint she wrote, “Because Hooters permits non-African-American women with their hair dyed colors vastly different from their natural hair colors to work as Hooters Girls, I believe Hooters only deemed my hair color ‘improper’ because I am an African-American woman. I was discharged because Hooters imposes different and more restrictive beauty standards on African-American women than it does on women of other races.”

…employers can’t have two separate unequal sets of rules

Her attorney, Jessica Weber, had this to say; “The law is clear that employers can’t have two separate unequal sets of rules-one for African-Americans employees and one for everybody else, and yet that’s exactly what Hooters did here in firing Miss Johnson, an African-American employee solely because she’s African-American. They targeted her because of her hair solely because of her race.”

Hooters’ chief human resources officer, Rebecca Sinclair said in a statement, “When you’re representing an iconic brand, there are standards to follow.

Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known.” She went on to say, “Hooters adamantly denies that it has different policies and standards for hair based on race. As a global brand, Hooters embraces our culturally diverse employee base and our standards are applied impartially.”

Peter K. Levine

A Professional Law Corporation

http://www.employmentforall.org/

Bank Of America Ordered to Pay $2.18m in Racial Discrimination Case

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on October 4th, 2013

The bank’s “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” led to the rejection of qualified black candidates

The U.S. Department of Labor is reporting that Bank of America Corp, the second-largest bank in the U.S., was ordered to pay $2.18 million to 1,147 black job applicants for alleged racial discrimination in their hiring process that barred qualified candidates from being hired.

The decision and order made by an administrative law judge at the Labor Department, Linda Chapman, awards back pay and interest to former candidates seeking teller, clerical, and entry-level administrative positions in the bank’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chapman concluded in a statement that Bank of America’s “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” led to the rejection of qualified black candidates.

About $1.22 million would go to 113 people who were rejected during the hiring process between 2002 and 2005. Another $964,000 would go to 1,034 people who were rejected in 1993.

The Labor Department initially filed its first complaint against Bank of America in 1997. Allegedly, the bank had challenged its authority to pursue the case.

The most recent order followed two settlements of litigation regarding alleged bias that Bank of America disclosed within the last month.

“We are currently reviewing this recommended decision and order,” said Bank of America spokesman, Christopher Feeney. “At Bank of America, diversity and inclusion are part of our culture and core company values. We actively promote an environment where all employees have an opportunity to succeed.”

The Labor Department said Bank of America’s, a federally insured financial institution, qualified as a federal contractor, putting it under the OFFCP’s purview.

This is not the first time Bank of America has been involved in this type of litigation

In August, the bank reached a $160 million settlement with hundreds of black Merrill Lynch & Co brokers who alleged racial bias in the areas of pay, promotions, and allocation of large accounts.

And in September, it reached a $39 million settlement with female brokers claiming they were paid less than their male counterparts and that they had been deprived of their share of major accounts.

“Judge Chapman’s decision upholds the legal principle of making victims of discrimination whole, and these workers deserve to get the full measure of what is owed to them,” said Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFFCP).

If you feel that you have been the victim of discrimination in hiring, promotion, layoffs, or any other aspect of employment related actions, you need the services of an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles. Please contact the Law Offices of Peter K. Levine at (323) 617-4406 or visit the Discrimination page on our website. Call today and we will connect you with Peter K. Levine, an experienced, aggressive, affordable Discrimination Attorney in Los Angeles. After you have spoken with our Los Angeles Discrimination attorney, we can schedule you a free face to face appointment to discuss your circumstances. If you have questions or concerns with any aspect of Discrimination and Employment, we can help! Call us now at (323) 617-4406. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your Discrimination Law case.

Car Dealership Accused of Offensive and Hostile Work Environment

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 27th, 2013

Council on American-Islamic Relations blames finance manager

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Rizza Cadillac Inc. of violating federal law by allegedly encouraging a work environment that was hostile and offensive to Muslim and Arab sales employees Medhat Adawy, his son Adam, and Mohammed El-Hajjami when they worked from January 2007 to November 2009.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman Maryam Arain blamed Rizza Cadillac’s finance manager. Allegedly the dealership fired the Adawys in September 2009 and terminated El-Hajjami two months later. That same year the finance manager was promoted to general manager.

The EEOC claims managers at the dealership created a discriminatory work environment by using offensive slurs as well as mocking references to the Quran and the manner in which Muslims pray.

John C. Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney said, “Employers may not allow managers to repeatedly make offensive slurs and insults about an employee’s religion or national origin.

“Comments implying that all Muslims are terrorists cannot be excused or minimized by calling it mere ‘banter’ about a minority ethnicity or religion.

The EEOC stands ready to protect Muslim and Arab workers when they are subjected to such harassment.”

Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures…

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s district office, said an investigation showed “Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures to stop and prevent this abusive misconduct, as they were required to do by federal law. Employees should be judged by their performance, not their religion or ethnicity.”

Harassment based on national origin or religion violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The commission filed suit in federal court after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The lawsuit filed against the new car dealership seeks compensatory and punitive damages and requires the dealership to implement measures to prevent a recurrence of harassment as well as a permanent injunction against future discrimination.

Chicago restaurant accused of being “a hotbed of racism”

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 26th, 2013

Since the 1970’s Alex Dana’s Rosebud restaurants have been comfortable places for diners seeking hearty Italian entrees. The company operates 10 sites in the Chicago area and employs more than 900 people.

But allegedly, according to a recently filed federal lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Rosebud is also a hotbed of racism and discriminatory practices and has been since late 2009.

The EEOC claims the restaurant violated civil rights laws by refusing to hire blacks. It found during its investigation, most Rosebud restaurant  locations had no black employees. The EEOC charges that these discriminatory practices have occurred at the 10 current locations as well as three other locations that have been closed.

John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC said the lawsuit seeks compensation for black applicants denied employment, a class of potentially hundreds of people.

Hendrickson alleges that based on interviews with numerous witnesses the restaurant uses slurs when talking about blacks, and also that Dana and other managers have expressed a preference not to hire African Americans. The EEOC claims it has tried “informal methods of conciliation, conference and persuasion” involving Rosebud, but to no avail.

Rosebud spokesman claims “zero tolerance” for discrimination

A spokesman for Rosebud sites the company’s “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, saying it has cooperated with the EEOC. “We have provided them 32,000 job applications and copies of other documents,” the spokesman said. In a separate statement, a spokesperson said, “We consider it our mission to treat our employees as a family – with honesty and respect – and we are proud of our employment record and the diversity of our work force.”

The company states they have no reliable data on the racial composition of its work force. A spokesman said the reports are based on information employees provide voluntarily. Many do not fill out the form, he said.

Hendrickson said the company’s hiring record was so outrageous as to immediately suggest bias. “There are lame excuses and there are lamer excuses,” he said.

The EEOC has also accused Rosebud of violating federal law by failing to hold onto employment applications for at least a year and by not filing required annual reports with the agency before 2009. These annual reports are required of companies with more than 100 employees. They include information data on workers’ job categories, race, ethnicity and gender.

Women’s Track Coach Alleges Discrimination

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law on September 17th, 2013

Suspended for a Prior Relationship

Former Texas women’s track and field coach Bev Kearney, who alleged discrimination based on gender, race and retaliation in an official charge last spring, has not yet filed a lawsuit against the university but likely will within the next month. Coach Kearney won six national titles in track at UT.

Kearney was suspended when school officials discovered she had had a relationship with a student some ten years prior. Kearney alleges she was disciplined for an offense for which other coaches have not suffered similar discipline. Kearney resigned after she claims she was told by school officials they were prepared to fire her.

Case Depends on Similar Offenses

Her case will depend on the extent to which she can show other coaches or other staff members committed the same or similar offense and were then treated more leniently.

The employee must show 1) the comparator is truly comparable, and 2) the offense is the same or similar. And, her case has another twist. The fact she resigned adds another twist. The law recognizes that some situations are so intolerable that a person feels they must quit, but, the situation must be so bad that a person’s health is at stake, or the treatment is so degrading. Under Title VII, a person is not entitled to any remedies if s/he voluntarily quits.

There will surely be an issue regarding the extent to which her termination was truly imminent or likely.

After six months, an employee can ask the EEOC for permission to file suit. The 180-day anniversary of Kearney’s initial complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission has now passed. In that document, she said she was “subjected to a severely hostile work environment” and former coach intends to sue soon.

UT officials have said they disagree with the allegations in her claim of discrimination, but said they would review them “thoroughly.”

Discrimination lawsuit filed against California nursing facility

By Peter K. Levine posted in Discrimination on August 16th, 2013

A former kitchen worker at a California nursing facility has filed a lawsuit against her former employer claiming that Manor Care and its owners and operators failed to look into her complaints of race discrimination and sexual harassment, and even went as far as to encourage the degrading work environment. The woman also claims that other female workers were also forced to work in the hostile and offensive work environment.

According to the lawsuit, the former kitchen worker was employed by Manor Care in California from 1999 to 2010. During that time she was frequently harassed because she is Asian, and the kitchen manager supposedly allowed other male staff to sexually demean the female employees.

In addition she claims that at some points she was physically assaulted by other co-workers kicking food carts into her, and that some co-workers even went as far as to throw food at her. Other co-workers also supposedly degraded the woman with racial and ethnic slurs.

The lawsuit claims that the former employee did not speak up sooner about the discrimination and harassment because she was afraid of retaliation, but when her daughter did send an email to Manor Care complaining about the way her mother was being treated at work, the nursing facility retaliated by having the former employee work an extra two hours per week.

The lawsuit goes on to say that in August of 2010, the former employee ended up suffering from a panic attack while at work, but that Manor Care failed to provide any medical attention to her. A week later the women ended up resigning from the job she had for 11 years because of the working conditions she had been subjected to and the fact that the facility supposedly did nothing to deter the discrimination and harassment from happening.

The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in punitive and economic damages, and claims that due to the harassment the woman suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, muscle spasms, digestive problems and depression.

Source: Reuters, “Former nursing home worker claims race, gender harassment,” Linda Coady, 9 may 2011

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