Category: Wrongful Termination

Sexual Harassment Attorney

To Call or Not to Call – Why You Need a Sexual Harassment Attorney

Are you afraid to talk to a lawyer?
Do you think you might need a sexual harassment attorney?

Our country is in the midst of turbulent change, particularly regarding social matters. Issues such as racial and gender equality lead the forefront, calling upon those in power (and well, all of us really) to take a stand against civil injustice.

One of the prominent ideals of gender equality (namely Feminism) is the notion that women do not have to silently accept unwanted attention – regardless of whether others perceive it as “positive” or “negative” attention. Be it from men cat calling as she walks down the street, or a boss who promises career advancement in exchange for a romantic relationship, the boundaries of what is acceptable/complimentary/”just locker room talk” are evolving.

Despite the positive changes which are slowly but surely taking place, women still face antiquated expectations and outlandish double standards. Men who have many sexual partners are “experienced” while a woman is a “slut”. We are constantly told to smile more (something you rarely heard said to a man), “give the guy a chance” even if we aren’t attracted to them, and that sexual assault can be expected if we don’t choose our outfits carefully enough.

For a woman experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, the stakes are raised tenfold. It isn’t just about your physical safety anymore, it’s also about financial security. You are placed in the difficult position of weighing the options – make a complaint and risk retaliation such as termination, or put up with the heinous behavior that you know you do not deserve. This behavior, of course, may rear its ugly head in a variety of different forms. Maybe the guy at the desk next to you constantly makes sexual jokes, though he knows they make you feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps your boss texts you too late at night, talking about how he “wishes you were there with him” (ew, I’m tired and just want to get to sleep). Then there are the more obvious, more worrisome, and unfortunately more frequent examples – the one who tries to get you alone, the one that stands too close to you or follows you whenever you get up to go to the bathroom, or most awful of all, the one that for some reason thinks it’s okay to touch you without your consent.

The implications can be terrifying when you see stories like these in the news everyday (or even due to the news…I’m looking at you, Fox News). Who knows what this person is capable of? On the other hand, if you complain and lose your job, how will you pay rent? Put gas in the car? Feed your family? Many women determine that the financial aspect takes precedence, usually because they feel alone and don’t know what their options are.

But What To Do?

This is the point where an experienced sexual harassment attorney needs to step in on your behalf. Your livelihood and peace of mind are not something to hesitate protecting, and that is what a sexual harassment attorney can help you do. Whether you are still employed or have been terminated, contacting an attorney is the best course of action. Naturally, the thought of reaching out to a sexual harassment attorney can be a stressful experience as well, especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to do so. But rest assured that it is the best way to protect yourself, your job, or possibly others who might be facing the same behavior from the harasser. At many firms (such as our own), the initial contact is completely confidential and without obligation. After gathering the basic information, an attorney will evaluate your situation and invite you in for a free consultation where your options will be discussed. It’s hassle free, and at the very least will give you an idea of where you stand.

Never be afraid to act in your own best interest. You are worth it!

For more information on how to obtain a sexual harassment attorney, see our page on the topic.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment in Corporate America – Not Just TV Drama

The 1960s probably come to mind when you think of men making aggressive (perhaps appalling) advances towards female co-workers. But the reality is, that “Mad Men” stereotype is not too far from the corporate world today. Even the 2016 election cycle seemed to bring some of this issue to light – i.e. grab them by the what? The Roger Ailes controversy was one of the most widely publicized and closely followed news stories of the year. Over two dozen women came forward to speak out against Ailes’ inappropriate behavior, leading the big wig to resign from Fox News after a 20 year career. The world was shocked when women spoke of sexual harassment and assault from beloved comedian Bill Cosby.

But for many women, they don’t have to watch the news to see harassment culture in action. A report released in June 2016 by the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace revealed some alarming findings. Key findings included:

  • Workplace harassment remains a persistent problem
  • Workplace harassment often goes unreported (3 out of 4 victims never report the harassment)
  • There is a compelling business case for stopping and preventing harassment
  • It starts at the top
  • It’s on us (everyone)

The EEOC also notes that 45% of all complaints filed are based on sex. This is far more than any other type of harassment reported. They have also noted that 83% of all sexual harassment charges were filed by women.

Joann Lublin details the trials and tribulations of female executives in her book, Earning It: Hard Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World. She is also the management-news editor at the Wall Street Journal. Lublin interviewed several successful women for the book and shares their personal stories of sexual harassment and degradation. Many of the anecdotes take place in the 1980s and 1990s, but not all. The broad span of years in which the incidents take place is rather disheartening. Unfortunately, it’s evident from many sources that sexual harassment still prevails today as well.

Most recently, a lawsuit was filed against insurance company AIG by their former employee Marlee Valenti. The plaintiff began working for AIG in 2009, and was promoted within a year to Senior Underwriter. She won multiple awards for her performance. The issues began in 2012 when she was transferred to the Public Management Liability Commercial Lines Division. The division was well known within the company as the “Boy’s Club”, as only an estimated 10% of its employees were female. Valenti states that in the division, she and other female employees endured incredulous acts of sexual harassment, including male executives hiding under women’s desks in order to look up their skirts. Valenti also stated that she had been groped and licked by male co-workers, among other things. Though the behavior was grotesque, the plaintiff didn’t feel there was anyone she could make a complaint to. Her direct supervisor Michael Donnelly was, in her words, “a willing participant” in the problematic behavior. Eventually, Valenti states that Donnelly began showing “clear disdain” towards her. This escalated in September of 2013 when she received a formal written performance warning. Along with the write-up, Valenti’s biggest account was taken away from her and she claims that she was denied opportunities, as all of her supervisors began ignoring her. In December 2013, the problems came to a head when Valenti discovered her co-workers had been “speaking negatively” about her to others in the industry. She had enough. This prompted Valenti to submit a 150 page rebuttal to management, complete with “evidence” of the harassment she had endured. The following month, Valenti was fired. The company allegedly completed “a perfunctory investigation” but found no wrongdoing.

It is only a small percentage of stories such as these that gain notoriety. The only way that workplace harassment will be eradicated is if each of us take action. That can be in the form of making complaints on your own behalf, or standing up for co-workers. When necessary, it can also take the form of a lawsuit. If you feel that you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, call our office for a free consultation. Together, we can help end this epidemic, one case at a time.

 

Sources:

http://nypost.com/2017/01/24/ex-aig-worker-sues-over-never-ending-stream-of-harassment/

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/aig-worker-sues-sexual-harassment-article-1.2953841

http://dealbreaker.com/2017/01/aig-sexual-harassment-lawsuit/

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/10/when-women-have-power-they-can-do-something-about-sexual-harassment/505316/

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/report.cfm#_Toc453686298

 

Harassment

Sexual Harassment Bait & Switch – The Cat’s Paw Theory

The Cat’s Paw Theory. A phrase which might seem like a whimsical anecdote. But it’s not so whimsical when you are being sued on the basis of it. Empress Ambulance found out the actual meaning behind this phrase after being sued by a former employee. The plaintiff had been fired after the employers were persuaded to do so by another employee, (wrongful termination). In the case of Vasquez v. Empress Ambulance, the former employee of Empress Ambulance, Andrea Vasquez, filed a lawsuit against Empress Ambulance for retaliation when she was fired after reporting her co-worker for sexual harassment. Instead of taking action against the harasser, the employers let go of Vasquez. Her harasser had turned the situation around to make it look like she was in fact the one committing sexual harassment.

The Cat’s Paw Theory originates from a fable in which a monkey tricks a cat into retrieving some chestnuts from a fire for both of them to eat. When the cat does so, he burns his paws and is unable to eat the chestnuts while the monkey enjoys them without any injury. Here the “cat’s paw approach” applies to Empress Ambulance on the basis that they let themselves be coerced into dismissing the claims of sexual harassment that Vasquez made and instead believing Gray, the person who the allegations were against.

When Vasquez first reported Tyrell Gray to her supervisors, she was assured that the behavior was not tolerated by the company, and something would be done to stop it. While she waited for the issue to be investigated, Mr. Gray found out about the complaint and decided to figure out a way to avoid getting in trouble for his harassing behavior. First, he tried to persuade another fellow EMT to lie for him, but when that did not work he manipulated an inappropriate and sexually explicit conversation on his phone to appear as if Vasquez was the replying party. When he was questioned he had the evidence ready and told his supervisors that Vasquez and he were in consensual relationship. This prompted their supervisors to fire Vasquez due to the “evidence” Gray showed. Vasquez tried to dispute his allegations and show her own phone to prove that it was not true, but she was turned down. The subsequent case is based on the fact that their supervisors never fully investigated the initial complaint, or considered the issues with Gray’s quick evidence, and were so willing to blindly believe what he presented.

Even though the case had originally not been accepted by the District Court of New York, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the case on the basis that “an employee’s retaliatory intent may be imputed to an employer where, as alleged here, the employer’s own negligence gives effect to the employee’s retaliatory animus and causes the victim to suffer an adverse employment decision.” This means that even though the decision was made by a supervisor, the harasser was able to influence the decision with his false accusations and evidence, which the employers did not take the proper precautions to investigate. Nor did they look further into the intent that Gray had – making them negligent in their decision. The court concluded this due to the fact that the supervisors at Empress Ambulance should have given more thought into the evidence that Gray was handing over, as well as how quickly he did it when he was told that a sexual harassment claim had been made against him. Typically, anyone who learns that a negative claim has been made against them would deny it or have a bigger reaction. Empress should have been more diligent and thorough with their investigation. If they had taken the time to properly investigate this and look at the evidence that Vasquez showed, they would have been able to avoid this lawsuit and not made to look as though they are incapable of proper management.

defamation

Are you an employee taking legal action for the first time?

So you are a victim of your employer and wish to take legal action. You have just fallen into the category of an employee taking legal action for the first time! This can be very overwhelming, scary and stressful. This blog has been written to give you some idea on what to expect when you call us.

You must understand that being a lawyer is tough because in an ideal world, the job wouldn’t exist. On the flip side, it’s just as difficult being a prospective client or in need of legal services. No one WANTS to be in that position. But, the need does arise and so the legal services industry continues.

Something we hear all the time from prospective clients who are employees taking legal action for the first time, is that they were very nervous about calling us in the first place. This completely understandable! From the stereotype of the ruthless attorney to how legal action is portrayed in popular culture, there are tons of misconceptions about the process. We’re here to set the record straight, and help to put your mind at ease about what to expect.

  • Call (don’t drop in) the law firm to speak with someone about getting started.
    • Law firms are busy places. People are working hard on upwards of hundreds of cases at a time, depending on the size of the firm. All firms operate differently, but many places do not accept walk in clients for attorney consultation. Instead, you would want to call the firm ahead of time, and let them know you are a potential client. From there someone can assist you, usually with a short, confidential intake process over the phone. This is necessary to get all of the important details which the attorney will be using to evaluate your potential case. This information will then be passed on to an attorney for evaluation, and if they think your case is something the firm can assist you with, you will be scheduled for an in-person consultation with the attorney.*Tip: Be sure to ask ahead of time if there will be a consultation fee involved. Here at Aegis Law Firm, your initial consultation with the attorney is free!
  • A good attorney cares about customer service.
    • It’s one thing to be great at public speaking, convincing juries, or quoting the law off the top of your head. But another crucial part of what makes a great attorney is their ability to connect with the client. When it comes down to it, we are working for you! A lot of people think it’s the other way around. We are proud to serve you, and grateful that you chose our firm for assistance. For this reason, most attorneys are very approachable and want to make the process as easy for you as possible. So don’t sweat that initial meeting – we don’t bite!*Tip: Check out a firm’s web presence to get a sense of their customer service rating. Their website probably includes bios to let you know who you may be working with.
  • How the firm gets paid – hourly or contingency?
    • Typically, firms receive payment from one of two structures: hourly billing, or contingency. Hourly billing is pretty self-explanatory – the firm sets an amount to charge per hour and depending on how much time is spent on a matter that is how much the client pays. Contingency is when the firm does not take any money up front, and payment comes from a settlement obtained at the end. Either way, the amount is mutually agreed upon at the beginning of services, and included in a retainer document that both parties sign.
  • Will I have to go to court?
    • Each case is different, so unfortunately there’s no blanket answer to this question. Many people want to stand up for themselves, but are scared of having to participate in a trial or other court proceedings, especially employees taking legal action for the first time. What can be said, is that going to trial is usually the very last option. Most cases are settled before the lawsuit is even filed with the courts, which is beneficial to both sides. There are several avenues that attorneys may take in order to settle your case with the best result. However, in the event that you do need to go to court, your attorney will work closely with you to prepare you for any appearances you would need to make or address any concerns you have.

So there you have it! Nothing to be scared of, right? If you are an employee taking legal action for the first time, or perhaps you may have an employment issue that you wish to take action on, give our office a call today and we would be more than happy to help you get started!

Walmart whistleblower to receive $31.2mil settlement for wrongful termination

A New Hampshire woman by the name of Maureen McPadden was terminated from Walmart in 2012 – after 18 years of service to the retail mogul. You may be wondering, what could someone do to warrant termination after so many years with a company? Well, McPadden was terminated for (and here’s where it gets interesting) losing her pharmacy key…according to her former employers.

McPadden subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging her termination was actually the result of retaliation for whistleblowing, gender discrimination, and disability discrimination. The complaint alleges that McPadden made several complaints to management and outside entities that there were not enough properly trained employees to fill orders in a safe and efficient manner. However, all of her efforts were ignored. McPadden and her counsel assert that her protestations were part of the reason she was terminated, and management was looking for a reason, any reason, to get rid of her. Additionally, there was evidence that a male pharmacist also lost his key (after McPadden’s termination) but he received a “level one coaching”, while McPadden received a more severe punishment. Finally, McPadden’s termination occurred less than two months after she had returned from stress leave (during which, her manager announced the plaintiff’s prescription to co-workers, resulting in an additional charge of privacy violation).

After a five day trial, the verdict was announced in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her over $31mil. The breakdown is as follows:

“$15 million in punitive damages on her Title VII gender discrimination claim, and another $15 million in enhanced compensatory damages under the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination (NHLAD). In addition, the jury awarded the pharmacist $164,093 in back pay, $558,392.87 in front pay, and $500,000 in compensatory damages. “

Walmart is no stranger to employment lawsuits – from wage and hour disputes, to discrimination and harassment allegations. The company is currently dealing with two other suits which claim the plaintiffs faced sex discrimination.

 

Sources: http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/walmart-pharmacist-fired-after-reporting-legal-and-safety-concerns-wins-31-2m-verdict/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/01/29/maureen-mcpadden-walmart-lawsuit_n_9113684.html