Category: Wrongful Termination

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

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

Female Comedians Will Face Sexual Harassment at Work Everyday

Jen Grant, a comedian from Toronto, started a set at a corporate event, ready to get some laughs. Grant has been a comedian for 16 years. That day, rather than leaving the stage with a smile on her face, she left the stage in tears. She had never cried after a set before in her entire career.

While doing her set, a man in the audience spoke, in what Grant described as a “rapey” voice, “There’s a 51 percent chance that my buddy here will have sex with you, and I will take the other 49%.” Grant took to her blog after the show, titling her post, “I was sexually harassed at work.”

Since the days Grant posted in her blog, there have been both supporters and critics. The comedy industry is not void of sexism; many male comedians actually embrace it for material. The most difficult realization to swallow, however, is that any workplace can be rampant with sexual harassment.

According to a study done last year, the most sexually harassing job is being a server in the food industry. Not only is a server susceptible to harassment from patrons, but he or she can get heckled and harassed by owners, managers, etc. 37% of sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were from restaurant servers.

The technology industry also sees continuous sexual harassment complaints; many that go unheard. In an industry that is primarily male driven, female victims of sexual harassment feel unable to speak in case it makes them look weak or the tables are turned against them.

If you feel you have experienced sexual harassment on the job, please contact one of our Aegis attorneys today.

Source: sheknows.com: EEOC

pregnancy discrimination

Housing Non Profit Had “No Pregnancy” Policy

Shamira Johnson was a resource technician for the Houston based home and community services organization, United Bible. Johnson, who had always performed her job well, but was terminated suddenly for revealing she was pregnant.

Johnson and then the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that the non-profit organization had a “no pregnancy in the workplace” policy. Employees would became pregnant would not be permitted to continue their employment, nor would pregnant applicants be considered.

The organization, caught with such a policy, admitted that it had terminated Johnson on the basis on her pregnancy. It further admitted that Johnson was a good employee who did not have any issues with carrying out her job functions, other than being pregnant. With those admissions, an EEOC judge awarded Johnson $75,000 for back pay and damages. United Bible failed to prove why pregnant women could not sufficiently and safely perform the functions of a resource technician.

In California, pregnant women and their ability to take leave are protected. If you have experienced discrimination based on pregnancy, give our Aegis attorneys a call.

Source: National Law Review