Category: Unlawful Employment Discrimination

Metrolink Employee Blows the Whistle

Last month, a former Metrolink employee sued them transportation provider for whistleblowing, retaliation, and wrongful termination claims. The employee, former chief auditor Barbara Manning, named the Southern California Regional Rail Authority in the suit. The other defendants included several local politicians and a state legislator.

Manning alleges that she and her audit team found several irregularities, including unapproved wire transfers of funds, discrepancies between cash collected and that reported, and unauthorized salary increases for security guards. The former audit lead called all these factors, “high fraud indicators” in her lawsuit.

She further alleges that Metrolink engaged in further unlawful behavior that put the train riders at risk. While the train provider had to cut back on jobs and increased others’ salaries, the lower presence of onboard guards resulted in an increase of assaults on riders.

After she reported her facts and findings to the board members, they accused her of “causing safety problems for the railroad.” Additionally, they falsely accused her of trying to issue fake and inaccurate reports. These accusations resulted in her eventual termination.

Manning alleges the Metrolink board fabricated issues and twisted her words to create pretext for her termination. One of the board members and a politician named in the suit called the claims “completely baseless” and intended to “seek my redress for malicious prosecution.”

Source: LA Times

Sexually Harassed Female Farm Workers Resolve Suits

The Fresno office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reached an agreement with agricultural giant Zoria Farms regarding four sexual harassment lawsuits filed through the commission. Collectively, Zoria Farms will pay $333,000 to the four plaintiffs who alleged they were sexually harassed by two supervisors.

According to the suit, these two supervisors approached the women and propositioned them for sex. Throughout 2007 and 2008 the supervisors’ solicitations for dates and unwanted advances continued to go unnoticed by the company. The company was eventually sold to Zoria Farms, at which time the employees filed a formal sexual harassment complaint against these supervisors. During the company transition, Zoria Farms failed to rehire those who had those open and pending sexual harassment complaints.

There has been a disturbingly high number of sexual harassment cases that occur within the agricultural industry. As a result, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last year that mandated all farm contractors, supervisors, and some workers undergo a sexual harassment training. Previous to this law, farms with 50 or more workers were subject to such training.

If you have been subject to sexual harassment, regardless of the industry. Contact an Aegis attorney immediately.

Source: the EEOC & USAttorneys

A Whole New Meaning to Swabbing the Poop Deck–Genetic Non-Discrimination Act Violation

Georgia storage company, Atlas Logistics Group asked employees to swab—then got sued. An employee (or possibly employees) for the company began “habitually defecating” in their Atlanta warehouse. Atlas attempted to figure out who it was, but eventually got slapped with a hefty price tag for their methods.

Atlas had some employees undergo a cheek swap so that they could compare DNA samples to that found in the excrement. The samples were sent to a laboratory where technicians worked to locate the employee in question. What the company neglected to realize, however, was that gathering an employee’s DNA for analysis violated the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or more fondly known as “GINA.”

Two employees, Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds, took offense to their DNA samples being tested. Though they did not match the DNA of the fecal matter around the warehouse, Lowe and Reynolds filed suit against the employers for requesting their genetic information. The company contested the facts of Lowe and Reynolds’ allegations; they argued that “genetic information” is defined as “information related to an individual’s propensity for disease.”

The court sided with the plaintiffs stating that requesting the swabs was, in fact, requesting genetic information that is protected by federal law. At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $2.25 million. $1.75 million of that total was for punitive damages.

Source: Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds v. Atlas Logistics Group; ohioemployerlawblog.com

Specifying California Leaves and Kin Care

The California State Legislature is looking to amend various labor laws associated with employee leave rights. Several bills seek to expand rights afforded to employees and to widen the net of employers it effects.

As the law stands currently, an employer who directly employs 50 or more persons within a 75 mile radius may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee who requests to take a medical or family care leave. Senate Bill 406 seeks to lower the threshold from 50 employees to 25 employees, thus including more employers and narrowing the “small business exemption.”

Family and medical leaves allow employees to care for children, ailing parents or spouses, or newborn bonding. The bill would further expand available reasons to take said leave. The term “child” would be redefined to include biological, adopted, and foster children as well as step children, legal wards, children of a domestic partner or anyone else who stands in “loco parentis.” Further the term “parent” will be expanded to include parent-in-law and grandparent. Other terms to be included in the bill: grandparent, grandchild, sibling, and domestic partner.

Source: Senate Bill 406

Quarter Million for FMLA Rights

In 2010, a male employee of an office supply company went through the trial of his life—his wife was critically ill, and he had to inform his company that he needed to take care of her. The employee specifically worked for a subsidiary of a large chain, meeting the threshold of fifty or more employees for the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Though company was obligated to provide FMLA, and the employee was eligible for it, the former failed to inform the latter of his rights. FMLA allows for an employee to care for a family member, in this case his spouse, for serious health issues.

For the next two years, the employee continued to eat away at his sick and personal time off and vacation days. All the while, FMLA still was not extended to the employee. The employee even telecommunicated for periods of time so that he could continue working, but still take care of his ailing wife.

After the two years of struggling to balance work with his wife’s condition, the company evaluated the employee’s performance. They questioned his obligation to the company and determined he was not performing up to business’s standards. He was terminated shortly thereafter.

On the former employee’s behalf, the federal Department of Labor investigated the terminated and subsequently filed a lawsuit in 2013. After another two years of litigation, the company settled with the Labor Department, recovering a $250,000 settlement.

Source: HR Watch Dog CalChamber