Category: Wrongful Termination

Forever 21 Sued by Transgender Employee

Alexia Daskalakis began working for a Forever 21 store in New York in 2011 as a sales associate…and a man. Three year’s into Alexia’s tenure, she began her physical transition from male to female, and thus the harassment and discrimination began.

Though she had identified as female previously, in January 2014, Alexia began presenting herself in a more traditionally feminine way—wearing makeup, dressing more womanly. At this point in time, Alexia has also been promoted to the role of visual merchandiser and was responsible for setting up window displays.

Alexia had begun taking hormone pills for her physical transition in August 2014. Supervisors and co-workers, male and female alike, immediately began harassing Alexia, subjugating her gender identity. One manager called her a “hot mess” and told her that she looked “offensive,” asserting “in my eyes and the in the company’s eyes, you’re still a male.”

Alexia was sent home from a shift one day for not abiding by male dress code and following the female dress code. The manager who sent her home that day, also told her, “you used to be a hard worker when you were a guy, but not anymore.” Alexia was fired the following January.

The lawsuit alleges that the company discriminated against Alexia based on gender identity, a protected class is becoming more and more indoctrinated into various anti-discrimination laws and labor codes.  Filed last month, this lawsuit comes in the wake of a different lawsuit against Saks Fifth Avenue for similar claims. The Saks suit settled only a few weeks before Alexia’s was filed

Source: Fortune Magazine

Age Discrimination—Statistics Don’t Lie

Different industries have their own signature labor code violations that you often hear about in the news. Tech industries are often accused of gender discrimination and sexism. Food service institutions are routinely served with wage and hour lawsuits. Fashion retailers see sexual harassments claims from both employees and customers. The often forgotten prejudice in labor law, however, is age discrimination.

In California, the law protects employees over the age of 40 from age discrimination. However, high wage earners are not a protected class. Since those over the age of 40 are usually the employees who are most seasoned and therefore paid more, it is easy for a company to label an age fueled termination as a “lay-off” based on finances.

Though baby boomers make up a good portion of the current workforce, median ages in many industries and companies reflect a much younger work force. Is it coincidence? Or are older workers targeted in an unassuming, inconspicuous way? Payscale compiled some interesting statistics based on company and industry about ages and wages.

The median age for a Google employee is 29 years old, with median salary at $107,000. On average, an employee will stay with Google for 1.1 years. Other companies with young employees are Target (28), Office Depot (27), and eBay Inc. (30) with tenures of 2.2 years, 2.0 years, and 1.9 respectively. Only one company surveyed out of the hundreds, reflected a median age of 50—Kodak.

If you feel you have been discriminated against based on age, call an Aegis attorney.

Source: Payscale & Fox Business

City of San Francisco Getting a Hefty Bill

Kelly O’ Haire joined the San Francisco Police Department in 2006 as an attorney. She had previously served for ten years as a deputy district attorney in Marin County. At the time of her hire with the SFPD, the department was headed by Police Chief Heather Fong.

In 2009, a deputy police chief, Greg Suhr received a call from a female friend who alleged that her boyfriend had battered and chocked her. While Suhr encouraged her to make a formal police complaint, he failed to comply with the SFPD’s policy since he did not attempt to arrest the female friend’s boyfriend.

Enter O’Haire, whose prime responsibility was handling disciplinary cases for the department. She filed a complaint with the Police Commission; in her findings, she urged the department to fire Suhr because the situation was handled poorly. Suhr had a previous record from a criminal charge involving an assault and battery cover up by off-duty police officers. Suhr was demoted by Police Chief Fong.

During the pending disciplinary case against Suhr, Fong retired her post. She was replaced by George Gascó who was elected district attorney two years later. In 2011, Suhr was back in the hierarchy and appointed police chief by the mayor.

O’Haire alleged that once Suhr transitioned into the leadership role, he swiftly retaliated against her for filing that report in 2009. Suddenly, O’Haire was disciplined for bad performance to the point of her termination. She was shamed in the last weeks at her employment; the city’s attorneys accused that she had no legal basis for bringing a claim against Suhr for wrongdoing in 2009.

After years in negotiations and litigation, the city chose to settle the case right before jury selections were set to begin. San Francisco agreed to pay O’Haire a settlement of $725,000 but did not admit to any wrongdoing.

Robbed at Gunpoint, Pregnant, and Not Getting Paid Properly

A manager of a Houston Popeye’s was terminated by the franchise owner for getting robbed at gunpoint. The manager, Marissa Holcomb, was working her shift when a masked gunman jumped the counter, forcefully knocked another employee to the ground, and held Holcomb at gunpoint, demanding money.

Holcomb handed over $400 cash. The gunman promptly fled after receiving the money. The restaurant owner, Amin Dhanani, was not happy about the incident. He alleged it was Holcomb’s fault that much money was taken because she had failed to follow company policy and kept too much money in the cash register. Holcomb responded by saying the restaurant was too busy to allow the transition to take place.  The owner gave her choice—be fired or pay the money back. Dhanani fired Holcomb three days later, stating it was not her first offense.

Holcomb is pregnant with her 4th child. “I just had a gun to me. I’m not paying the money.” Not too long after, Dhanani realized his mistake—he had just terminated a pregnant woman after she was robbed at gunpoint.

Dhanani offered Holcomb her job back, but she refused, even after he graciously threw in another $2,000 for back pay (so that meant she wasn’t getting paid right either). She wanted to move on from a place that would do things like terminate employees after a robbery.

Source: Grub Street

Major Awards in Los Angeles Discrimination Case

Luz Hessler worked in the Los Angeles County Department of Health until April 2012. Her story of disability discrimination, racial discrimination, and harassment began in September 2008 after she sustained a work related injury.

Hessler alleged that her manager slammed a door into her knee that resulted in a necessary knee surgery. She further alleged that there was a culture of ongoing discrimination and harassment based on her Mexican heritage and accent from her co-worker Raquel Paxton. Due to the knee injury, Hessler took a leave of absence from work to take care of the surgery.

Plaintiff returned in July 2009. As expected, she had physical work restrictions and accommodations, but more surprisingly Hessler came back to work with psychological restrictions to limit the hostile work environment that she had experienced before. Paxton, the co-worker who was allegedly responsible for the harassment and hostility, took up the mantle once more. Paxton continuously accused Hessler of faking her injury and convinced other employees that Hessler was a fake.

While plaintiff claims the County of LA did little to nothing to properly investigate the abuse, the defendants’ counsel provided evidence that Paxton had been disciplined for her behavior. In response, plaintiff stated the County had given Paxton numerous verbal and informal warnings, but it never culminated into anything of substance. Eventually, in April of 2012, Hessler had to stop working for the County because they would not abide by her accommodations.

Hessler filed her lawsuit initially on April 12, 2013. Though it was a long road for Hessler and her attorneys to trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. She was awarded $154,040 in damages alone, since her worker’s compensation case took care of her medical expenses. The attorneys, meanwhile, were awarded $1.28 million.