Category: Uncategorized

Yahoo Exec Fires Back and Counter Sues Former Employee

If you’ve ever wondered why employers and their lawyers mistrust employees who report supervisor misconduct, look no further than this case of an apparently desperate and deceptive employee:

According to a suit recently filed by a Yahoo executive, a Yahoo software engineer under her supervision allegedly had performance problems and received negative performance reviews from multiple managers.  After receiving the reviews, the software engineer worried she would lose her job and went to human resources and complained about several of the managers.  The company looked into it and determined there was nothing to the claims.

Realizing she was about to be fired, the software engineer went back to Yahoo’s Human Resources department with all new claims that her boss, the Director of Engineering, had coerced her into having “oral and digital sex” and that the boss – also a woman – threatened to fire her if she refused.  The software engineer, however, gave human resources no evidence, witnesses, or any other support for her outlandish accusations and after a lengthy investigation including reviewing the emails between the two, Yahoo determined that there was nothing at all that supported the employee’s claims and closed the investigation.  After completing the investigation, Yahoo terminated the employee as planned, but not before the under performing employee received hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and stock options that she would not have been eligible for if she had been fired before her allegedly false complaint. We previously blogged about the employee’s suit here.

After her termination, the employee sued not only Yahoo but also her former boss, alleging the same sexual harassment allegations and that she was fired because she complained about the harassment.

The executive and Yahoo are fighting the employee’s suit and in a rare turn of events, the former boss has actually filed a counter-suit for defamation for the “outrageously false” claims the employee made up to try to save her job.  In order to win her defamation suit, the former boss will essentially have to prove that what the software engineer said was actually false, so filing the suit shows that the executive is very confident that she can show the employee made everything up.

In all, the proceedings indicate that Yahoo and the former boss believe very strongly that the employee did nothing less than lie so she could get more money out of Yahoo before she was (properly) fired.

Unfortunately, the occasional dishonest employee makes it that much harder for honest, hardworking employees to be believed when they report unlawful conduct.  Making sure you hold on to evidence of a supervisor’s unlawful conduct, including any texts, emails, or notes you make at the time, can go a long way towards showing you are a real, honest victim of unlawful conduct and not a greedy employee trying to game the system.

Image Source: The Daily Telegraph (left Yahoo Executive Maria Zhang, right the former employee Nan Shi)

California Supreme Court Votes in Favor of Undocumented Workers’ Rights

ssVicente Salas was an employee of Sierra Chemical in California when, while on the job, he injured his back and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim. Sierra Chemical, then, underwent an annual force reduction, a seasonal occurrence, and terminated Salas. Salas was not hired again when the season’s hiring process began.

Salas sued the company alleging disability discrimination and retaliation for his workers’ compensation claim. Originally, Sierra Chemicals prevailed and was granted a motion for summary judgment since Salas had used a false social security number to obtain his position at Sierra Chemical. The appeals court upheld this decision as well.

The case escalated to the California Supreme Court.  It reversed the lower courts’ motion of summary judgment. The California Supreme Court that while recovery rights of undocumented workers are limited, they are afforded to protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The decision makes it possible for undocumented workers to bring a lawsuit against an employer for unlawful behavior.

Travel Time and How it Should be Compensated

Frequently, clients will ask us if traveling from one’s area of work to and from one’s home is compensable. The answer, as it is so frequently in labor law is: maybe.

There are certain instances where drive is considered compensable hours for the employees. For example, if the employer mandatorily requires an employee or employees to meet at a specific place and use transportation provided by the employer to and from the designated location, then it passes the “control” test. The employee is within reasonable control of the employer and thus, is owed payment for that travel time.

Another instance where travel time is eligible to be paid is if the employer requires its worker to travel beyond the employee’s normal commute. If the job site is “within reasonable proximity” to the employee’s regular work site, then it is not eligible to be compensated. Additionally, if the employee does not have a regular work site, travel time may not be compensable.

If the travel time is indeed compensable, and the employee is subject to a fixed hourly pay rate, then applicable overtime is required as well. There may, however, be a pay differential between travel time and traditional work hours, but both must comply with current minimum wage laws.

Source: The Industrial Welfare Commission


The United States of America—Home of the Free, Brave, and Overworked

According to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Articles 23 and 24, all members of society has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to join trade unions, and the right to rest and leisure, “including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” Hate to break it to the UN, but if this declaration is upheld, then amongst the most severe violators would be China, Uganda, and…the United States?

Recently, researchers, authors, and government officials alike have found that the United States might be the most overworked, industrialized nation in the world. The US has consistently maintained longer work hours, later retirement, and less vacation time while other nations have passed/are passing legislation that cut hours in order to preserve a life outside of work.

Some indicators that support these researchers’ theories include: rising number of children placed in afterschool programs/day cares while their parents are still at work; road rage before and after work hours; and even workplace shootings.

Other countries are attempting to remedy the overworked work week. In Sweden, the city of Gothenburg is experimenting with 6 hour work days. They argue, it will increase productivity. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”), the countries with the shortest work days are the most productive and vice versa.

The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, and Denmark all clock in the lowest hours but are amongst the top ten of most productive companies in the OECD. The lowest performing countries (Greece, Poland, and Hungary) maintain the longest hours.

Shopkeeper’s Defense Though Lawful, Violates Company Policy

It is a story heard more often than not. Last year, Shannon “Bear” Cochron was robbed at knifepoint while on duty at a New Hampshire gas station. Well, it’s more accurate to say that the robber was attempted to rob Cochron at knifepoint.

When the heavily masked would-be robber approached, Cochrane quickly produced his Ruger pistol and threatened the robber to leave. After slowly backing away from the store clerk, the robber fled the premise.

While the police in the small New Hampshire town commended Cochrane on knowing when it was appropriate to use the weapon, his employers terminated Cochrane for violating company policy. According to said policy, employees are prohibited from carry firearms to work.

Though the circumstances around his termination seem outrageous, the “at-will” presumption in much of the country allows for Cochron to be fired for any reason or no reason at all, as so long as it does not violate public policy (i.e. termination based on discrimination or whistleblowing). While it was within Cochron’s rights as a citizen to bear arms and defend himself, it was outside the gas station company’s policy for an employee.

Don’t be worried for Cochron though. When the incident first broke, Cochron commented, “I would rather find a new job than either be in hospital bed or in a coffin.” Well said Mr. Bear.

Source: Washington Times