Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Francisco Fine Foods LLC to Pay $220,000 to Settle With EEOC

In September 2018, the Phoenix restaurant service Francisco Fine Foods LLC agreed to pay a $220,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), write an apology letter, and create a more robust equal opportunity system within their restaurants. The EEOC stated that female employees were subjected to sexual harassment, including unwanted touching, requests for sex and more. Those who refused to comply with sexual demands suffered retaliation, according to EEOC. The suit also claimed that an employee was harassed based on her age, being called a “worthless old lady” and co-workers taking bets on her age. The suit claimed that these actions had been taking place since February of 2011.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination and retaliation, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees over the age of 40. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Francisco’s Fine Foods, LLC d/b/a Mariscos Altata, Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-00945- JJT in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The lawsuit sought back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discrimination in the future.

sexual harassment lawyer Irvine

What Is Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment and behaviors that fall under this category include: inappropriate touching; invasion of privacy; sexual jokes; lewd or obscene comments or gestures; exposing body parts; showing graphic images; unwelcome sexual emails, text messages, or phone calls; sexual bribery, coercion, and overt requests for sex; sexual favoritism; being offered a benefit for a sexual favor; being denied a promotion or pay raise because you didn’t cooperate. Of course, some women experience what more aptly could be described as sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment can affect both women and men in the workplace. While women are often the victims of workplace sexual harassment, men should not be feel afraid to speak up if they too are made the victim. If a man comes to you with concerns of sexual harassment, don’t belittle their situation as denial or minimalization of female to male or male to male sexual harassment can silence victims and enable the harasser to commit the same acts on others.

Don’t Allow Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace

Cases like the Francisco Fine Foods LLC are all too common in the American workforce. Many people ask the question, “Why don’t victims of sexual harassment come forward sooner?” The simple answer is because victims of sexual harassment are often under heavy pressure from co-workers, the media, and their close relations like friends and family. They feel that when they step forward, they are putting themselves into center view. But, in today’s world, we should encourage sexual harassment victims to step into the view of those around them and let their situation be known. For every person who brings their story to the public, those that would commit sexual harassment have less and less power over their victims.

If you, a friend, family member, or coworker suffer from sexual harassment, contact Aegis Law Firm today and we’ll give you the power to share your story and reprimand sexual harassers in the workforce.

For more information on sexual harassment cases and how Aegis Law can help, visit our sexual harassment law practice page: http://www.aegislawfirm.com/ca-employment-law-practice-areas/orange-county-los-angeles-sexual-harassment-attorney/

Or contact our local Orange County and Los Angeles Offices: http://www.aegislawfirm.com/contact/ (949) 379-6250

Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer

Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Can Advance to Trial for FedEx Employee – Demonstrated ‘Adverse Impact’ under Pregnancy Discrimination Act

A former FedEx employee’s “disparate impact” claim can advance to trial under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The plaintiff, Cassandra Adduci, began working at the Memphis hub for FedEx on January 6th, 2014. She was promoted to the position of Material Handler on August 17th, 2014. Per company policy, her duties included loading and unloading aircraft, containers, and FedEx vehicles, as well as being able to lift 75 pounds unassisted.

In December of that year, Adduci became pregnant, and notified her supervisor on December 17th. She also informed him that she had a 15 pound restriction on lifting. Her supervisor requested for her to present medical documentation of the restriction, and on December 24th she presented a doctor’s note indicating a 25 pound restriction, which was to be reduced to 20 pounds later in the pregnancy. Later that same day, her supervisor and a Senior Manager met with her to inform her that she could not continue working because her restriction prevented her from being able to fulfill the job requirement of lifting 75 pounds unassisted. At that time, the Air Freight Ground Services division where Adduci was working part-time maintained a policy that its part-time employees who were placed on non-work related medical leave were ineligible to return to work through their temporary assignments program (TWR).

Adduci was placed on unpaid medical leave by her employers on December 26th, 2014. The company cited safety concerns for herself and other employees if she continued working against doctor’s restrictions. She was also considered by the company to be on FMLA leave effective the same date. That day, the HR manager sent Adduci a memorandum detailing the expectation for her to communicate with them while she was on leave. Other obligations included providing FedEx with a “current treating physician’s statement substantiating continued absence beyond your expected release date, or every 30 days, whichever [was] earlier”.

While on leave, Adduci received several letters from the HR advisor requesting updates to her status. The first letter was dated February 4th, 2015. Adduci responded to this request on March 2nd 2015 by providing a doctor’s note. The second letter from HR, dated April 2nd 2015, advised her that “operational necessity” may have required for her position to be replaced or eliminated. A third letter, also dated April 2nd, states that her medical leave would end on June 23rd of that year per company policy, and she could apply for other positions at the company if she could not meet the requirements for a Materials Handler. The final letter, dated April 29th, 2015, stated that she had failed to provide medical documentation to verify her continued need to be absent and if she didn’t provide such documentation by May 6th, 2015, it would be considered her voluntary resignation. Adduci did not respond to the letter or provide the requested documentation because she considered the letters to be “harassment”. Her employment was terminated effective May 7th, 2015. The notice stated that there was no work available in the offoad/reload area that didn’t require lifting in excess of 25 pounds.

Though her disparate treatment claim failed, Adduci’s disparate impact claim can advance to trial. Evidence was presented to the court which showed FedEx’s policy had an adverse impact on pregnant women – this is because 100% of their TWR requests had been denied. However, there were similarly situated employees (working in the same area, also part-time) whose TWR requests had not been denied. This indicated that the policy had an adverse impact on a protected group.

Contact our lawyers for a pregnancy discrimination case evaluation.

Sources:

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/pregnant-fedex-worker-denied-temporary-reassignment-advances-disparate-impact-claim/

http://hr.cch.com/eld/AdduciFedExp032118.pdf

disability discrimination

EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit Settles for Employee with Bi-Polar Disorder

EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit Settles for Employee with Bi-Polar Disorder

disability discrimination

A disability discrimination case has been settled by the EEOC on behalf of Cynthia Dunson, who worked for KFC franchise Hester Foods, Inc. The franchise has been ordered to pay Dunson $30,000, as well as implement training and practices which will prevent future discrimination from occurring in their workplaces.

Dunson was originally hired in March 2015 as a crew member at the Dublin, Georgia location. She was promoted to a Shift Manager shortly after beginning her employment. Problems didn’t arise until July 23rd, 2015 when the franchise owner asked to speak with Dunson after a team meeting. She let him know that she would have to hurry, because she had to leave to go to an appointment with her therapist. Upon hearing this information, the owner began to pry as to why she was seeing a therapist. Dunson explained that she was under the doctor’s care as well as taking prescribed medications for bi-polar disorder – he then inquired which medications she was taking. Dunson complied with his questioning and told him her medications. The owner reacted by telling her, “You can’t take that s*** and work here.” He then demanded that she flush her medications down the toilet, even instructing another manager to follow her into the restroom and ensure that she actually disposed of them.

Later that day, Dunson told her therapist what had happened. At that time she also disclosed to the therapist that the owner told her she “needs Jesus, not medication”. Dunson reported to work that evening, and was met by the owner who pointed his finger in her face and angrily said, “You are on that s***.” Dunson refuted his accusation, telling him that she got rid of the medication as he instructed her and therefore wasn’t on it. He replied that she “better not be”.

The following day, Dunson visited her doctor’s office. There she was told that she needed to take her medication again, as it was dangerous to abruptly stop taking them. The doctor paid for replacement medication, and took Dunson off of work for the remainder of the weekend. The doctor also had Dunson call the franchise owner while she was there to inform him of her upcoming absence from work and explain the necessity of her medication – he reacted by becoming angry and chastised her for “letting” her medical providers “tell her she needed to take that s***” and for “letting” them take her out of work. Dunson concluded the call by stating she intended to follow doctor’s orders. Within a few minutes, the owner called Dunson back and said she “could not come back to work if [she] was going to let them put things in her head”.

A few days later, Dunson’s husband went to the restaurant in her place to return her keys and uniform, and to pick-up her final paycheck.

The EEOC asserted that Dunson was “unlawfully terminated by Defendant because of her disability and/or because she was regarded as a person with a disability due to her impairment and use of legally prescribed medications.” They also asserted that the unlawful employment practices were “intentional” and “were done with malice and/or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of Dunson”.

 

Sources:

https://www.theemployerhandbook.com/files/2017/06/EEOC-v.-Hester-Foods-Complaint.pdf

http://hr.cch.com/ELD/EEOCHesterFoods013018.pdf

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/operator-of-dublin-kfc-settles-lawsuit-over-alleged-firing-of-bipolar-employee/513560990

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/kfc-franchise-resolves-suit-over-discharge-of-manager-who-refused-to-forgo-bipolar-meds/

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-12-17.cfm

sexual harassment law firm

Time’s Up – The Initiative to End All Workplace Sexual Harassment

On January 1st, a new initiative was made public which is committed to ending workplace sexual harassment for all women. Celebrities showed their support for the movement by posting about it on social media, encouraging others to join the cause and donate.

What It Is

Per their mission statement, Time’s Up is “a unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, we envision nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live”. What sets this movement apart from October’s #MeToo campaign, is the commitment of women in the entertainment industry to fight for the rights of marginalized women, not only those in the entertainment industry. This helps to address what was criticized about the #MeToo movement. Time’s Up focuses on supporting women in low paying jobs, and providing them with the resources to protect themselves from workplace sexual harassment.

What It Consists Of

The movement itself is multifaceted.

“The initiative includes:

  • A legal defense fund, backed by [$14 million] in donations, to help less privileged women — like janitors, nurses and workers at farms, factories, restaurants and hotels — protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
  • Legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment, and to discourage the use of nondisclosure agreements to silence victims.
  • A drive to reach gender parity at studios and talent agencies that has already begun making headway.
  • A request that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes speak out and raise awareness by wearing black.”

Glancing at the website for the initiative, it is well organized, with an abundance of information. There are sections devoted to helping women identify workplace sexual harassment including distinguishing between quid pro quo and hostile work environment, specific steps to take if they feel they are being sexually harassed at work, and resources to assist with finding representation to name a few. The latter aspect of the campaign is backed by an over $14 million dollar legal fund (which has a goal of $15 million on their GoFundMe and is gaining more donors by the second). According to the GoFundMe page, the legal fund will, “provide subsidized legal support to women and men who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace and while in pursuit of their careers. The Fund will ultimately be housed at and administrated by the National Women’s Law Center, an established national women’s rights legal organization. A network of lawyers and public relations professionals across the country will work with the Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equity to provide assistance to those ready to stand up. Access to prompt and comprehensive legal and communications help will mean empowerment for these individuals and long term growth for our culture and communities as a whole.

 

What You Can Do

Aside from donating to the legal defense fund, there are several other ways the website encourages people to get involved or show solidarity with the movement. For those who feel they are being sexually harassed at work, the following steps are outlined:

  • Speak to the Harasser
    • Demand that the harasser stop
    • Keep a record of the conversation (date, time, placed, what was discussed
  • Start a Paper Trail
    • Keep copies of everything you send and receive from the harasser and the employer
    • Create written notes of all incidents
    • Do not keep the record at work or on a work computer
  • Review Your Personnel File
    • Request to see your personnel files before reporting the harassment
  • Report the Harassment to Your Employer
    • Consult employee handbook or policies – follow the complaint procedure
    • If your company does not have a policy, speak to your supervisor and/or human resources
    • If you think you may want to file a lawsuit against your employer in the future, you have to report the harassment to your employer first
  • Involve your Union
    • If you belong to a union, you may want to report the harassment to your union
    • If you want to file a lawsuit in federal or state court, you must first file a formal sexual harassment complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or your state’s fair employment agency (if one exists)
  • Be Aware of Deadlines
    • Be aware of legal deadlines for filing a formal complaint with government agencies. You cannot bring a lawsuit against your employer unless you have first filed a complaint with the EEOC or the state’s fair employment agency
    • In some states, you may have as few as 180 days from the date of the sexual harassment activity to file a complaint
  • File a Lawsuit
    • After you file a formal complaint with the EEOC and/or your state’s fair employment agency, you may also consider filing a lawsuit

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/movies/times-up-hollywood-women-sexual-harassment.html

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a446e1d692ebea0061c7cd9/t/5a49814d9140b7ea140b8e68/1514766670917/TimesUpNow-WhatToDo.pdf

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a446e1d692ebea0061c7cd9/t/5a4a48b353450a63fe781956/1514817716782/TimesUpNow-KnowYourRights.pdf

https://www.gofundme.com/timesup

https://www.timesupnow.com/#into-anchor

sexual harassment lawyers

PIP then RIF – A Workplace Sexual Harassment Case

Ginger Pung began working for Regus Management Group in 1991, continuing to receive consistent positive reviews for her position as General Manager. Everything changed sometime in 2010-2011 when Area Director Scott Ravenscroft became her direct supervisor. Pung states that he pursued her, and eventually she succumbed to his advances. In 2012, the pair began a consensual sexual relationship. This fact alone did not constitute a case of workplace sexual harassment.

All was well until Spring of 2014 when Pung told Ravenscroft that she wanted to end the relationship. She states that Ravenscroft showed up at her house a few times, in attempts to re-initiate the relationship, but she refused.

After it became clear that their relationship was over, Pung states that Ravenscroft became “very controlling” at work, and his overall demeanor towards her changed. On June 4th 2014, the pair had a meeting where Ravenscroft threatened to put her on a “coaching plan”, allegedly because her “numbers were lacking”. A few days later on June 9th, Pung reported her prior relationship to an HR representative and made a formal complaint about the behavior of Ravenscroft. She explained that she had previously seen Regus use “coaching plans” as a tactic leading to the termination of employees, and she felt she was specifically being targeted by Ravenscroft due to her ending the relationship. On June 11th, she was interviewed over the phone by the HR representative, and made the complaint that his behavior was “borderline harassment”. Later that same day, Pung sent an email to the HR representative stating, “To be clear, Regus is now on record that there was a sexual relationship between my boss and I that I terminated. As a result, it is my opinion that I am being retaliated against by my coaching leading to termination.”

On June 23rd, HR concluded their investigation and stated they were “unable to substantiate whether there had been a sexual relationship between the two” but did find that his behavior had “created an appearance of improper conduct”. As a result, Ravenscroft was given a warning and told that if his behavior continued, he would be terminated. While Ravenscroft was to continue overseeing Pung for day to day matters, the responsibility of evaluating her performance was transferred to the Regional Vice President, Jeff Bowron.

After this change, Pung made another complaint to HR for “failing to prevent further harassment”, due to her still reporting to Ravenscroft on a daily basis. She testified that after this additional complaint, his behavior towards her deteriorated even further and she wasn’t the only one who noticed it. Allegedly, other co-workers stated that he was “making harsh and demeaning comments to [her] in emails and calling her questions ‘stupid’ during conference calls”.

Pung later provided evidence that on August 25th, Ravenscroft attempted to deliver a Corrective Action Record to her. The CAR was based on an “asserted drop in sales in June and July 2014. Despite a copy bring produced and shown to Ravenscroft, he testified that he “couldn’t recall the document or discussing her performance [that] August”.

Business seemed to continue as usual, until December. Pung was planning a party for clients, when she reached out to Ravenscroft via email and asked if there was a specific company guideline or formula to determine the budget for one of these parties. He replied and said that while there was no company issued guideline for budget, she should keep her party under $250 total. Ultimately, Pung spent about $560 on the party. Ravenscroft “thought this was expensive”, and reported the information to Bowron. When Bowron approached Pung about the spending, she told him that she didn’t feel the $250 was appropriate for the size of the party (about 100 people were expected to attend), nor did she think she had to follow this budget as it wasn’t supported by any company policy. She argued that “guidelines for this type of client spending were neither enforced nor generally known, and that $150 of the $560 spent was for poinsettias for the lobby”.

The following month, Bowron decided to place Pung on a Performance Improvement Plan due to the holiday overspending. Shortly after, the company implemented a Reduction in Force on February 2nd. Pung was terminated as part of the RIF. After the separation, Pung filed a lawsuit under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act for sexual harassment and retaliation.

She argued that her termination was the direct result of the unfair holiday budget imposed upon her by Ravenscroft, who did not hold anyone else to this standard. She was not aware of anyone else in the company being written up or otherwise punished for spending over any given amount, and additionally, she had thrown similar parties in the past without any repercussions.

Despite her hostile work environment claim being recently dismissed on December 21st, 2017, the rest of Pung’s claims have survived Summary Judgement and may continue to trial.

 

Sources:

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/employee-pip-then-rif-after-ending-consensual-affair-advances-quid-pro-quo-harassment-claim/

http://hr.cch.com/ELD/PungRegus122117.pdf