Category: Sexual Harassment

Opening 2015 With an Investigation

2014 was the year of judge mishaps. The year closed with another inquiry into a judge’s behavior toward a subordinate. Thus 2015 opens with the news of yet another California judge’s indiscretions in and out of his chambers.

The Commission on Judicial Performance publicly charged Tulare County Judge Valeriano Saucedo of inappropriate conduct. It all started with a “special friend” request from Saucedo to a female clerk that worked in his courtroom. The judge presented an anonymous letter addressed to the clerk, claiming that a copy had been sent her husband’s workplace. As a favor, Saucedo said he could have the letter destroyed before it reached the clerk’s husband.

Saucedo asked for the female employee’s trust in the matter; he claimed he would take care of the situation and her. Allegedly, the judge had written the letter himself.

Keeping his promise of taking care of the clerk, Saucedo then began showering her with gifts and financial perks. He sent her flowers, commanding her to pretend they were from her husband, paid for a Disneyland trip for her family, and bought her a new car. The clerk allegedly had extreme financial issues—sometimes with only $10 to her name—so Saucedo supplemented her income. On one occasion, the judge gave his clerk $8,000 to pay for expenses related to the Disneyland trip that had not been previously paid for.

Soon, the perks seem to turn into a kind of obsession. The Commission presented numerous text messages where Saucedo told her that he needed to hear from her. He asked her if he was her “ordinary friend” or “special friend.”

At this point, the clerk was troubled at the sheer amount of text messages and correspondence she was receiving from Saucedo. She had denied a request to turn the relationship romantic and now felt the need to tell her husband of the situation.

Saucedo threatened that her job was “toast” and that he was going to commit suicide. The clerk threatened to call 911. Two weeks after the altercation, she requested a transfer to a different court room.

While a Commission investigation is underway, it is not a lawsuit…yet. We will keep you posted if the clerk decides to pursue action in civil court.

 

Source: Daily Journal

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!

The Founder of American Apparel Terminated for Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Dov Charney, a Canadian businessman who founded American Apparel at 20 years old, has been terminated from the company “for cause.” The board of directors for American Apparel, based in Los Angeles, voted to officially remove Charney from his position. American Apparel has been criticized in the past for over sexualized advertising campaigns and a culture of sexual harassment and misconduct. We had previously blogged about this here. Charney was removed for much of the same.

Charney’s replacement is former Warnaco executive, Paula Schneider. She will become the company’s next CEO. She hopes to maintain American Apparel’s image of American made products and improve the company’s overall image to both employees and customers.

As for Charney, he is at the center of several lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and sexual abuse towards female employees. He also has been accused of inappropriate behavior towards male employees. In 2011, a former employee alleged quid pro quo sexual harassment—she felt sex with Charney was a condition of her employment. The employee went as far as calling herself a “teenage sex slave” to him.

In 2012, a male manager alleged the former CEO of physical abuse including choking him and rubbing dirt in his face. After the violent encounter, Charney called him a “wannabe Jew” and a derogatory term for a homosexual.

Whether it was causation or merely correlation, the company’s stock fell significantly throughout 2014, and it suffered losses for three quarters.

Source: Daily Mail

Navy Captain “Relieved of Duty” for Hostile Work Environment

uss boxerA San Diego based naval commander has been relieved of command from his amphibious assault ship. Captain Wayne Brown was let go from his leadership post after an investigation aboard the Boxer, the ship in question, revealed inappropriate behavior that constituted a hostile work environment.

Brown allegedly lost his temper many times while commanding the ship, especially to female subordinates. He asked them pervasive questions, like, whether or not they used birth control with their husbands or boyfriends. Brown also allegedly touched the female crew members without their consent and against their comfort.

According to the investigation, Brown repeatedly used foul language towards crew members, exhibiting particularly abusive behavior toward female crew.

While cursing and foul language itself does not constitute for a hostile work environment that can be pursued on legal grounds, sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment is unlawful. If these kinds of actions seems familiar from a supervisor at your job, please do not hesitate to contact an Aegis attorney.

Source: LA Times

A Lawsuit for Lawsuit—A Sexual Harassment Case Turns Into Insurance Battle

inspectionIn 2012, Roxanna Sevilla, Maria Orozco, and Rosa Isela Gonzalez filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment against their employer, Jon Davler Inc.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that one day, supervisor Christine Yang found a used sanitary napkin and blood in the toilet area of the women’s restroom. Angered by the mess, Yang approached the plaintiffs and others in their department and accused them all of being “dirty.”

She then demanded to know who was on their menstrual period. Yang wanted to determine which one of the plaintiffs was the “unclean” one who had left the napkin in the bathroom. Everyone denied being on their menstrual period. Yang then forced the employees to line up against a wall and then one by one go into the bathroom to be inspected by a female attendant. The female attendant had all the women pull down their pants and underwear so their vaginal areas could be examined for a menstrual period.

Unsurprisingly, this incident led to a class action lawsuit. Now, two years after the suit has been filed, the defendant’s insurance company, Arch Insurance, is refusing to provide coverage for damages arising out of this suit. Jon Davler Inc, in turn, has filed suit against the insurance providers for a breach of contract.

Arch’s defense lies within an exclusion carved out in its policies; omissions include, “termination of a person’s employment, or employment related practices.”

So the moral of the story is: there are demands of your employees that go too far.

Source: Roxanna Sevilla, et. al v. Jon Davler Inc,; Jon Davler Inc. v. Arch Stone Insurance Company