Category: Business & Professions Code Violations

Health Care Executive Cheated Half a Million Dollars

Former Chief Technology Officer for Blue Shield of California is suing the company for wrongful termination and breach of contract, alleging he was due almost half a million dollars for a bonus just prior to his termination.

Aaron Kaufman accused the health insurance giant of retaliation. Kaufman claims he questioned the company’s $4.6 million contract with a vendor called “Veritas data project.” The terms of the contract allowed the unfamiliar vendor to continually bill the company without a fixed rate. With no cap, the vendor was essentially issued a “carte blanche” by Blue Shield.

The company’s dispute with Kaufman elevated when the former CTO offered an alternative vendor whose offer would have cost a fraction of what was spent. Michael Mathias, the Chief Information Officer, disagreed with Kaufman’s choice and continued on with Veritas.

From that point on, Mathias did all he could to get Kaufman terminated until ultimately the CTO was discharged from service on March 10, 2015. The date of termination was purportedly one day before Kaufman’s $450,000 bonus was supposed to be paid.

Blue Shield responded, stating they disagreed with the suit, but did not comment further on any allegations of wrong doing.  The insurance company has been riddled with misfortune in the last year. Its high profile corporate spending and high executive payouts led to a revocation of its tax exempt status last summer, resulting in a large payment for back taxes–$62 million. Compared to that Kaufman’s bonus just seems like change in the pocket.

Source: LA Times

Bizarre Rant Actually A Cry For Help

A Jet Blue captain who was tackled by passengers and restrained by crew mid-flight after raving in the aisles about terrorism, bombs, and religion is suing Jet Blue.  But the suit isn’t from injuries incurred in the fracas, as you might think, but actually for letting him fly that day at all.

The pilot claims to have had a seizure, which caused increasingly bizarre and worrisome behavior over the course of the day, and blames Jet Blue and the flight crew for not getting him to medical help sooner.  Osbon says Jet Blue should have realized there he was experiencing a problem after a number of uncharacteristic acts like missing the pre-flight meeting, being confused and slow in going over pre-flight checks, and failing to answer air traffic control calls.

Osbon even told his copilot that he was mentally unfit to fly shortly into the flight,  but neither the copilot nor Jet Blue took any action.  As Osbon continued to worsen while the plane was still in the air, the seizure lead to severe paranoia and hallucinations, but while he was confined in the cockpit, the airline and crew still did nothing.  It wasn’t until Osbon left the cockpit and ended up ranting up and down the plane aisles that Jet Blue finally decided to do something and made an emergency landing.

As a result, the suit seeks medical expenses incurred because of the significant delay in Osbon receiving medical care, but it also has an employment component, as Osbon’s now well-documented and publicized “meltdown” has likely ended his career not only with Jet Blue but as a commercial pilot in general.

All the Days of our West Hollywood Lives

This is a tale of soap operatic proportions. Let’s meet the characters of this story, in fair West Hollywood where we set our scene.

First, there is Ian Owens, a deputy to a city council man of West Hollywood. He is accused of bugging a co-worker’s office to prove her of wrongdoing.

Enter the co-worker, Fran Soloman, who is the deputy to another councilman that works with Owens’s boss. She is accused of soliciting unethical campaign contributions for her boss from wealthy developers.

Now comes the two bosses at the heart of the matter. Owens’s boss was Councilman John Duran. He is accused of having a sexual encounter with Owens and then hiring him after they met on Grindr, a dating app for homosexual men. Afterwards, Duran purportedly continued his attempts at a sexual relationship with Owens, despite Owens’s consistent rebuffs.

Soloman’s boss was Councilman John Heilman. Heilman isn’t directly accused of everything but is swept up in this dramatic tale.

So here’s how the story unfolds. Owens, suspecting Soloman was up to no good, reported it to his boss, Duran. Duran refused to entertain the idea because he was upset at Owens for not engaging in a relationship with him. So Owens took matters into his own hands and became what he calls the “whistle blower.” He placed surveillance bugs in Soloman’s office, though Owens’s is now claiming he just heard her through the thin walls. Regardless, after listening to these conversations one way or another, Owens created a spreadsheet of quotes from Soloman’s phone conversations in her office. That spreadsheet was then emailed to city residents and the city’s resident bloggers.

Owens had emailed out the spreadsheet under an alias, but metadata from the document revealed Owens was the creator. He has since been suspended, on paid administrative leave while the city investigates the allegations from all sources. His attorney is claiming that he is being wrongly punished because he was blowing the whistle on Soloman’s wrongdoings.

Owens’s attorney is demanding that his client be restored to his position, outlining the whistleblowing status of his client as well as the sexual encounters between Owens and Duran.

We’ll keep you updated on the every growing drama that is the West Hollywood City Council.

Source: Los Angeles Times

“This is going on Your Permanent Record”—Can I Take a Look?

While the “permanent record” and its omnipotent threat rings throughout our school years, during our years in the workforce, we are dictated by our employee file, also known as the personnel file or personnel record.

Legally, the employer must maintain personnel files for their employees that include some of the following documents: employment application, payroll authorizations, tax documentation, proof of ability to work in the country, etc. Employers may also include disciplinary actions and attendance notices as well. The files must be kept by the employer for at least three years or even four years after the employee has stopped working for the employer. These time limitations are to ensure the preservation of wage and hour claims that have three to four years statutes.

In California, employees have a right to inspect and/or receive copies of their personnel file upon request. Under Labor Code §1198.5, if the employer does not provide the personnel file within 30 days as mandated , then they may be liable for penalties as well. If you do request copies of the file, the employer does have it within their right to charge you for the cost of making copies.

Employers, additionally do have the right and ability to alter records if it is to redact and/or omit other employees’ information. If you see black or white outs on the produced version of the personnel file, do no panic—redaction may be the reason why.

If you are experiencing difficulty obtaining your requested personnel file and feel you have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against, do not hesitate to call one of our Aegis attorneys.

Source: CA Labor Code

The Most Bizarre Employment News Stories of 2014

On the last day of the year, we thought it would be fun to look back throughout 2014 and reflect on the most interesting, bizarre employment new stories we’ve heard. While we have seen significant changes to the landscape in terms of the employment law, it has not halted a steady stream of odd lawsuits. So what’s in our Top 5?

5. Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model Sued for Cheating Real WinnerCycle 14 of “America’s Next Model” featured former contestants from previous cycles competing for a modeling contract prize. Oddly, before the finale was aired, Tyra Banks informed audiences that the finale had to be re-filmed after production wrapped since one of the final three contestants, Angelea Preston, had been disqualified.

Preston filed a lawsuit stating that she was the real winner of Cycle 14 and therefore should be entitled to the prize. She alleges that the reason she was disqualified held no merit and anything suspect was reported before the cycle’s filming began. Preston was allegedly terminated from the show for her previous experience as an escort. She is demanding $3 million.

4. “My Supervisor Pushed Me Down the Stairs”-Santa Fe County Clerk employee Jayla Ortiz loved her job as a recording clerk. However, when her supervisor learned she was gay, things changed. One day, in a heated argument at the top of a staircase, Ortiz alleges that her supervisor, Esther Artino, pushed her and sent her toppling down the stairs.

Ortiz was found at the bottom of the steps pooled in her own blood. She filed a discrimination lawsuit based on sexual orientation. Ortiz is also accusing negligence since Artino purportedly walked away from Ortiz at the bottom of the stairs and left her.

We often hear about altercations in the workplace, but rarely as violent as this one.

3. How Did the NFL Get Away with Paying Their Cheerleaders Pennies?-An Oakland Raiders cheerleader was the face that launched multiple lawsuits. Lacy, a former Raiderette, sued on the behalf of cheerleaders similarly situated with the team, for minimum wage violations. The cheerleaders were being paid per game, never paid for endless hours of practices, and fined for various appearance infractions, like having the wrong color hair and wearing the wrong uniform.

One would think in such a high profile industry such as professional athletics, this practice would be caught before now. Evidently not.

Lacy’s lawsuit inspired similar suits across the country. Cheerleaders from the Jets, Bengals, and Bills followed suit.

2. Taking No Shave November Too Seriously– A female storeroom employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company for failing to prevent a manager from constantly and pervasively harassing her. It started off as a traditional case of sexual harassment; the manager would attempt to put his arm around the female subordinate or even try to kiss her.

After she rebuffed him several times, the manager ultimately locked them together into his office and forced a pair of tweezers in her hand. He then demanded her to pluck an ingrown hair from his chin. After that, he tried to kiss her.

The employee was eventually terminated for performance. If it wasn’t for the chin hair, this might be a fairly standard case, but that fact makes it pretty bizarre.

1. The Obvious Answer to a Dispute at Work is…Poison?!– The most bizarre story of 2014 had to be the alleged poisoning of a medical worker after a workplace fight.

A medical assistant was hired by a medical staffing company at an office where said assistant and a permanent employee were not getting along. One day their disagreements escalated to a verbal altercation. After the altercation, the medical assistant poisoned her co-worker’s water bottle with carbolic acid. The permanent employee sustained burns on her tongue and mouth.

The permanent employee sued both the medical assistant and the staffing agency, claiming that the agency had neglected its duties of training the latter in better conflict resolution than poison. The court found the agency not liable because the medical assistant’s actions were not within a reasonable scope of the employment. The individual medical assistant, though, can be personally liable.

Those are just five stories that proved news worthy in 2014. We all eagerly await what 2015 has in store!