Category: Wrongful Termination

FMLA, Retaliation, and Lawsuits

Ronald Rice was excited to share the news of his wife’s pregnancy with his co-workers and employer in January 2012. Within days of his announcement, however, his work relationship turned sour.

Suddenly, Rice was assigned a multitude of extra duties that were outside his job description. He endured the extra workload for six months until his wife’s pregnancy took a difficult turn. In order to take care of his wife who now had more doctor’s appointments to attend and had severe morning sickness, Rice requested to take five days of vacation time. Two of those days were denied, so Rice put in an FMLA request for those days, three days after his vacation request. The employer swiftly terminated Rice.

Rice then sued the company for interfering with his FMLA rights. The district court decided that there was enough evidence to conclude that the employer had terminated Rice due to his association with his pregnant wife and discriminated against him for trying to take an FMLA leave. The employer’s defense hinged on the testimony of managers who claimed the executor of the termination was not aware of Rice’s request. The court, however, found that there was no plan to terminate Rice previous to his FMLA request, and therefore concluded that the sole reason for termination was borne out of retaliation.

Source: Rice v. Kellermeyer Co. (Ohio 2014)

Crunch Wrap Supremes’ Worth of Trouble—Taco Bell Sued

A Los Angeles based franchisee of Taco Bell is facing a chalupa-sized lawsuit from a former employee. Raymond Brantley, an African-American, is suing Cotti Foods Corp., the franchise owner, for racial discrimination.

Brantley alleges that assistant manager, Juan Mondragon, repeatedly used racially offensive slurs in the restaurant that Brantley was employed. Mondragon would often type offensive comments into the restaurant’s order system in lieu of orders or Brantley’s name. The comments could be seen by other employees on a screen where workers normally viewed and printed copies of the orders.

On many occasions, Brantley attempted to resolve the issues, asking Mondragon to stop. Brantley was not the only employee to be subject to racial discrimination. A string of African-American employees working for the franchise were terminated or transferred out of the location. Ultimately, Brantley transferred as well, but was terminated not too long after arriving at the new facility.

Source: Daily Journal

All the Days of our West Hollywood Lives

This is a tale of soap operatic proportions. Let’s meet the characters of this story, in fair West Hollywood where we set our scene.

First, there is Ian Owens, a deputy to a city council man of West Hollywood. He is accused of bugging a co-worker’s office to prove her of wrongdoing.

Enter the co-worker, Fran Soloman, who is the deputy to another councilman that works with Owens’s boss. She is accused of soliciting unethical campaign contributions for her boss from wealthy developers.

Now comes the two bosses at the heart of the matter. Owens’s boss was Councilman John Duran. He is accused of having a sexual encounter with Owens and then hiring him after they met on Grindr, a dating app for homosexual men. Afterwards, Duran purportedly continued his attempts at a sexual relationship with Owens, despite Owens’s consistent rebuffs.

Soloman’s boss was Councilman John Heilman. Heilman isn’t directly accused of everything but is swept up in this dramatic tale.

So here’s how the story unfolds. Owens, suspecting Soloman was up to no good, reported it to his boss, Duran. Duran refused to entertain the idea because he was upset at Owens for not engaging in a relationship with him. So Owens took matters into his own hands and became what he calls the “whistle blower.” He placed surveillance bugs in Soloman’s office, though Owens’s is now claiming he just heard her through the thin walls. Regardless, after listening to these conversations one way or another, Owens created a spreadsheet of quotes from Soloman’s phone conversations in her office. That spreadsheet was then emailed to city residents and the city’s resident bloggers.

Owens had emailed out the spreadsheet under an alias, but metadata from the document revealed Owens was the creator. He has since been suspended, on paid administrative leave while the city investigates the allegations from all sources. His attorney is claiming that he is being wrongly punished because he was blowing the whistle on Soloman’s wrongdoings.

Owens’s attorney is demanding that his client be restored to his position, outlining the whistleblowing status of his client as well as the sexual encounters between Owens and Duran.

We’ll keep you updated on the every growing drama that is the West Hollywood City Council.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Buffets Aren’t Always the Best Deal Out There

A California Labor Commissioner based in San Francisco, Julie A. Su, cited ten buffet style restaurants in Northern California for wage theft violations. The citations total almost $16 million.

After a series of investigations, the Labor Department found servers at these restaurants were paid, on average, on $1.15 per hour for a 72 hour work week. Some servers and kitchen workers were paid low fixed salaries, sometimes as low as $200 per month.

During the investigation, the Labor Department found that the buffet restaurant owners falsified timecards and payroll documents. If a server wanted to report taxes, the employer required them to purchase what looked like paychecks for the amount on the checks or had to pay $8 per day (in cash) so they could work in the restaurant.

Servers were subjugated to egregiously long shifts with no meal or rest periods and no compensation for overtime pay. “The fact that these same violations were found in multiple restaurants across the state shows how rampant wage theft is,” stated Commissioner Su.

Some of the restaurants cited were repeat offender. These employers had been cited for minimum wage and cash pay violations in previous years.

Source: Department of Industrial Relations

Mother of Former Target Employee is Suing for Wrongful Death

The mother of a former Target Corporation cashier, who worked for a store in Pasadena, is suing the company for wrongful death, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of her son’s suicide. Graham Gentles, the former employee, jumped from a hotel roof three days after he was terminated from the retailer.

His mother, Virginia Gentles, is alleging that Target’s “Walk of Shame” policy led her son to make such a catastrophic choice. The policy in question is a humiliation ritual that is meant to detour employees from shoplifting.

For Graham, he allegedly was confronted by police officers and Target security when he reported to work one day in July. They arrested him, handcuffed him, and led him to a backroom to question him for an altercation that supposedly took place outside of work. The suit claims that Gentles was paraded around the store in handcuffs so all other employees could see, as a testament to the “Walk of Shame” policy.

The younger Gentles was detained at both the store and the police station but was later released with no charges. Graham “experienced severe emotional distress” as heightened by his Asperger’s Syndrome.

“The allegations in the lawsuit of a Target policy or practice are simple not true” stated Target spokesperson  Evan Lapiska, “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of his individual…as this is pending litigation, we don’t have further comment at this time.”

Virginia Gentles has named the company and the two Target managers involved in the incident in the lawsuit.

Source: Business Insider and The Daily Journal

Image Source: NBC