Category: Right To Privacy

A Lawsuit for Lawsuit—A Sexual Harassment Case Turns Into Insurance Battle

inspectionIn 2012, Roxanna Sevilla, Maria Orozco, and Rosa Isela Gonzalez filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment against their employer, Jon Davler Inc.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that one day, supervisor Christine Yang found a used sanitary napkin and blood in the toilet area of the women’s restroom. Angered by the mess, Yang approached the plaintiffs and others in their department and accused them all of being “dirty.”

She then demanded to know who was on their menstrual period. Yang wanted to determine which one of the plaintiffs was the “unclean” one who had left the napkin in the bathroom. Everyone denied being on their menstrual period. Yang then forced the employees to line up against a wall and then one by one go into the bathroom to be inspected by a female attendant. The female attendant had all the women pull down their pants and underwear so their vaginal areas could be examined for a menstrual period.

Unsurprisingly, this incident led to a class action lawsuit. Now, two years after the suit has been filed, the defendant’s insurance company, Arch Insurance, is refusing to provide coverage for damages arising out of this suit. Jon Davler Inc, in turn, has filed suit against the insurance providers for a breach of contract.

Arch’s defense lies within an exclusion carved out in its policies; omissions include, “termination of a person’s employment, or employment related practices.”

So the moral of the story is: there are demands of your employees that go too far.

Source: Roxanna Sevilla, et. al v. Jon Davler Inc,; Jon Davler Inc. v. Arch Stone Insurance Company

Costco to Pay For Firing an Employee & Fabrication of Write Up

costco forkliftA Riverside County Superior Court jury awarded a former employee of Costco a sizeable settlement for his disability discrimination and wrongful termination claims.

Jose A. Rivera worked for Costco in 2012. He was a forklift operator who took multiple medical leaves to treat shoulder, knee, and back injuries. At the end of his tenure, Rivera was investigated and accused of sexually harassing a female supervisor. The supervisor alleged that Rivera yanked her back and spun her around. Rivera’s attorney contended that Rivera, a native Spanish speaker, was only interviewed and investigated in English. Also, in order to paint Rivera in an irresponsible light, the general manager of that location emailed Rivera’s medical records to investigators, establishing he had missed substantial amounts of work.

Rivera’s attorney pointed out how odd Costco’s conduct was of this particular investigation; it did not follow Costco corporate’s standard protocol and procedures. The jury agreed that the investigation was a pretext to terminate Rivera for his disability.

The jury awarded Rivera a combined $1.7 million– $1.18 million for disability discrimination and $500,000 for defamation. Rivera’s attorneys commented that this kind of verdict for Riverside County was rare and unique, especially “for someone making $21 an hour.”

Source: Daily Journal

You Have Been Deactivated-Uber’s SciFi Way of Terminating a Driver

Christopher Ortiz, from Alberqueque, drove for UberX throughout this past summer to make some extra income for his media start-up company. The beauty of Uber’s much contested independent contractor system is that Ortiz was able to take time off from driving to set up his company.

Months later, Ortiz decided to pick driving for Uber up again to supplement his income. When he tried to begin his second trip with Uber, he was told his account had been “deactivated” Ortiz received an email from an Uber Operations Manager, John Hamby, stating, “due to hateful statements regarding Uber through social medial”…”Your account has been permanently deactivated.”

What comments were so hurtful that Uber took so much offense? Briefly after Ortiz took his break from Uber, he tweeted an article from Pando Daily, a web technology and news publication, about an Uber driver being robbed in Los Angeles. The article was accompanied by a brief summary from Ortiz: “Driving for Uber, not much safer than driving a taxi.”

Ortiz took to social media and tweeted out a screenshot of the email. The email went viral with Forbes and BuzzFeed reporting on it. Uber almost immediately reversed its decision. The company tweeted a response—a screenshot of a message reinstating Ortiz as a driver.

In the media age, it is frightening that an employer can monitor your social media accounts with such ease, but in the inverse, employers must be cautious that their otherwise private hiring and firing decisions can be broadcast within seconds of it occurring. Needless to say, both parties must be careful introducing social media hiring decisions into their vocabulary.

Source: The Guardian

The Pitfalls of Using Social Media to Hire—Or Not Hire—Prospective Employees

Carol Miaskoff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) recently spoke on a panel at a Federal Trade Commission Workshop regarding the use of social media to screen employment candidates.

Miaskoff warned employers to be cognizant of using social media because the company can uncover a variety of information that alludes to the applicants’ protected statuses (i.e. race, gender, or disability). In some cases, the decision not to hire someone based on their social media account can be interpreted as a violation of labor law, especially if a company decides not to hire someone once discovering their sexual orientation or that the prospective employee is pregnant, as an example.

Employers must not use prospective workers’ social media sporadically, but instead, should utilize it consistently with all applicants. Again, the employer may be at fault for using social media discriminatorily, but some may argue that employers can use social media for good cause.

Source: National Law Review

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Canon Inc. Settles Unlawful Background Check Lawsuit

In 2012, Canon date entry worker, Anya McPherson, was terminated from the company after information from a background check reached the company. She had been on the jobs for 4 days when the company cited a felony from over a decade prior as the reason for her termination.

Shortly after her termination, McPherson and her attorneys filed a class action lawsuit in New Jersey against the technology mogul for conducting illegal background checks on current and prospective employees. McPherson, specifically, had no opportunity to explain that her 12 year old felony charge was up for expungement. Additionally, she was not given a copy of the background check, which may violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Without admitting liability, Canon offered McPherson an unreported settlement 2 years later. Especially now with “ban the box” legislation well under way in many states, background checks are a hot topic.

As a prospective or current employee, make sure the employer is no longer using the “box”—i.e. the check box on employment applications (“Have you ever been convicted of a crime?). Also, the company and/or employer must get an executed legal release form and inform an applicant of their rights, including obtaining a copy of the report and any communication from the check that resulted in an adverse action against the applicant.