Category: Wrongful Termination

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

 

Fox Sports Sued for Religious Discrimination by Former Football Analyst

Craig James is suing the Fox Sports network for religious discrimination after only days of employment. This is not the first time James has caused waves or found himself in litigation, but this time, he is the plaintiff.

On August 29, 2013, James was hired by the network and made one appearance, but just days later, he was terminated. James’ hiring came only months after he had lost the Texas Senate Primary during which he had made comments on gay marriage and homosexuality.

During the 2012 debates for the election, James opined that homosexuality was a choice and those who choose said life would “have to answer to the Lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions.” James referred to the accepting of homosexuality as “our moral fiber…sliding down a slope that is going to be hard to stop if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades.” James finished the election in fourth garnering only 3.6% of the vote.

Upon James’ termination from Fox Sports, the company stated that they had failed to “properly vet” James before he was hired by regional level executives. To further, the company reasoned that James was fired “based on the perception that he abused a previous on-air position to further a personal agenda,” referring to a 2009 incident outlined below.

James is suing the network for at least a $100,000 in damages due to “lost friends, business relationships, and numerous business opportunities as a result of Fox Sports’ actions.” He alleges that he has been blacklisted after an embarrassingly short stint with the regional affiliate of Fox Sports.

“The case is much bigger than me…I will not let Fox Sports trample my religious liberty…I intend to make sure Fox Sports knows they aren’t above the law,” James said in a prepared statement.

Fox Sports is vehemently defending itself against the suit, stating James’ termination had nothing to do with his religious beliefs. They reasserted their previous position when he was first separated from the company.

This isn’t the first time James had to engage in a legal battle. In 2009, during a college football commentary, he alleged that the coach of the Texas Tech football team, Mike Leach, was mistreating his son Adam. Adam was a receiver for the team. Mike Leach was terminated after the commentary, but filed a defamation lawsuit against both James and ESPN, the network that aired the commentary. However, it was dismissed.

Source: LA Times, Washington Post

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

Uber Drivers: Employees or Not?

It has been a long war between drivers and the app based company Uber. Here and there, one side or the other gets a victory but more and more battling continues to make the fight confusing and convoluted. Turns out, in a very quiet judgement, the drivers may have had a victory. Like always, however, Uber isn’t going down without a fight.

Barbara Berwick, a former driver for Uber, filed a complaint with the California Labor Commission for unreimbursed business expenses, among other allegations. On June 3rd, the Labor Commission officer surmised that Berwick was treated like an employee as per California law, and she had been misclassified as an independent contractor, therefore was entitled to the $4,152.20 reimbursement.

In the Labor Commission case, the officer pointed out various points to assert drivers are employees. Upon applying for the company, drivers are subject to background checks and must register their cars. Cars cannot be over 10 years old, and if a driver’s client rating falls below 4.6 stars, they can be terminated from the company. Drivers cannot accept tips because it interferes with Uber’s marketing strategy (easy, streamlined, transportation). The Commissioner further qualified that the plaintiff did not exercise any managerial skills that “could affect a profit or loss” (i.e. they could not negotiate cancellation fees, only Uber could do that). Other than her vehicle and her time, Berwick had no other investment into the company.

Uber responded that it was a “neutral technological platform” that connected drivers with riders. The drivers chose their own hours and relative locations to work. However, their arguments fell flat with the Labor Commissioner. The company filed a notice of appeal, which turned the quiet judgement into another war cry.

This administrative judgement comes on the heels of a federal court decision (‘O Conner v. Uber Techs Inc.) that denied Uber’s motion for summary judgement, an attempt to claim that all issues were resolved or were unresolvable because they are so one sided. This case is also deciding whether an Uber driver is an employee or independent contractor.

Source: NY Times