Category: Uncategorized

Small Town Mayer Faces Big Time Protesting

latta policeThe town of Latta, South Carolina, with a population of less than 1,500 and total land area of 1 square mile, is in the center of controversy. Its mayor, Earl Bullard, is under fire for the termination of long time police chief, Crystal Moore. Moore is beloved by the tiny community, however, some believe that she has become a target of the mayor’s homophobic attitude.

Mayor Bullard fired Moore for receiving seven reprimands that primarily stemmed from allegedly questioning authority and failing to maintain order. Moore, however, did not begin receiving these write ups until Bullard took office. Taking office in December 2013, Bullard allegedly broke protocol and procedure by not providing Moore with any verbal or written warnings or counseling.

Dozens of residents were picketing town hall within days of the termination. Others held a prayer vigil for the former police chief. The city council also took action by voting to strip the mayor of certain powers and shifting it to the council.

One city council member produced an audio recording of a phone call in which the mayor goes on a homophobic tirade. He states that he will never allow his children to see two women or men “up there holding hands,’ and he would rather leave his children with a drunk than with someone whose “lifestyle is questionable.”

Moore had served Latta for over 20 years. The Human Rights Campaign drew national attention to the situation by calling for Moore’s reinstatement and calling to expedite the passage of Employment Non-Discrimination Act by Congress.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits harassment and discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, and gender. FEHA also protects gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and marital status. Therefore, Moore, in California, would be a protected class.

If you feel you have been subject to discriminatory behavior, contact Aegis Law Firm.

Oh We’re Facebook Friends? Guess I Can’t Take Your Case

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton is experiencing a bit of real life drama over a not-so-real friendship. So how does this drama play? The characters: two rival RV dealerships. The setting: a court room in which a defamation law suit has been slapped on one RV dealership from another. The conflict: the judge (Hamilton) is Facebook friends with attorney Jeffrey Hammerschmidt, counsel for the prevailing dealership.

Judge Hamilton had ruled that Hammerschmidt’s client receive a $4.5 million award from the opposing side. The attorneys for that side are now calling into question Judge Hamilton’s ability to be impartial during the case. Hammerschmidt had removed himself from the case two weeks before the final judgement.

The attorneys for the opposing side and rival RV dealership are seeking the judge’s removal and a new trial in a court petition. They contend that Hamilton’s failure to disclose his social media relationship to Hammerschmidt could have skewed the outcome.

Hamilton has claimed that throughout litigation, he had disclosed his causal friendship with Hammerschmidt to counsel on several occasion, and neither side had seemed to have taken issue with it. In fact, if one looks at the timeline of events, it seems the rival RV legal team had plenty of time to reveal Hamilton’s pseudo friendship was a problem. The non-jury trial commenced in May, a preliminary ruling occurred in September, and a final damages calculation and judgment was made in January. Counsel’s petition to disqualify the judge came almost a month later on February 18th.

Where does it stand now? The case has been given to another judge but that judge may choose to preserve Hamilton’s judgment and sign off on it. The new judge may also order a new trial, which the losing RV dealership would love to play out.

California Unemployment Rate Dropped in February

The Employment Development Department (“EDD”) recently revealed California’s unemployment rate in the wake of February. The Los Angeles Times reported a net of 58,800 jobs added in the month of February particularly in the fields of education and health services. Despite significant losses in the manufacturing industry, this growth is said to be on par with the national unemployment statistics.

In February 9 out of 11 employment sectors reported payroll gains; California leading the rest of the nation in overall payroll increases (2.2% over the national 1.6%). This is good news for California residents who captured more than a third of all new jobs nationally according to the LA Times article.

Orange County’s unemployment rates led the rest of the region as it has held strong at 5.8% unemployment versus Los Angeles at 8.7%, San Diego at 7%, and Riverside and San Bernardino Counties at 9.4%.

Sexual Harassment Need Not be Motivated by Desire, Further Explored

hand-stop-300x300We previously blogged about this topic here, but we explore the topic further below.

The California Court of Appeals recently clarified that under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), sexual harassment attacks do not have to be motivated by sexual desire or intent.  In the case of MAX TAYLOR, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. NABORS DRILLING USA, LP, Defendant and Appellant, Taylor was hired in June 2010 as a “floorhand” on an oil rig. Taylor, a heterosexual, alleged he was harassed by his supervisors who called him “queer,” “fagot [sic],” “homo,” and “gay porn star” and subjected him to other humiliating and harassing conduct.  After trial concluded, the jury awarded Taylor $160,000 in damages, including $10,000 for past loss of earnings and $150,000 in emotional distress.  The jury also awarded $680,520 in attorney’s fees.

Nabors appealed the jury verdict and argued Taylor failed to prove he was harassed “because of his sex and/or perceived sexual orientation” and that the harassment was motivated by actual sexual desire or intent by the harassers. The Court of Appeal affirmed the jury verdict on the ground that “the focus of a [sexual harassment] case is whether the victim has been subjected to sexual harassment, not what motivated the harasser.” (Cal. Gov’t Code § 12940(j)(4)(C)).   The appellate court further reasoned “a heterosexual male is subjected to harassment because of sex under the FEHA when attacks on his heterosexual identity are used as a tool of harassment in the workplace, irrespective of whether the attacks are motivated by sexual desire or interest.  Pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.), which prohibits sexual harassment, ‘harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.’” Furthermore, that “California courts have recognized that a sexual motive or interest is not required for sexual harassment under the FEHA. (See Pantoja v. Anton (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 87, 114 [plaintiff “need not show that the conduct was motivated by sexual desire”]; Mogilefsky v. Superior Court (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1418 [“The focus of a cause of action brought pursuant to Government Code section 12940 is whether the victim has been subjected to sexual harassment, not what motivated the harasser”].)

The Court of Appeal affirmed the jury award in its entirety, except that it reduced Taylor’s past loss of earnings damages because the jury determined he was lawfully terminated for poor job performance.  Therefore, the judgment was modified to reduce Taylor’s damages from $160,000 to $150,000 (reduction of $10,000 in past loss of earnings).  The award of attorneys’ fees of $680,520 was affirmed.

New York, New York…is Settling a Discrimination Lawsuit

Today’s big spender is New York City, who will be shelling out approximately $98 million to settle a long running lawsuit against the city for discriminatory practices. The suit, which was filed in 2007, alleges that the entrance exam required of applicants to the New York City Fire Department led to “a disproportionate number of black and Latino applicants” being excluded from the application process.

According to the suit, only about 3% of 9,000 firefighters were black and only 7% were Latino. This hardly accurately reflected the city demographic in which about a quarter of the population is African American and more than a quarter is Latino-American.

A consent decree has also been filed, which will allow for court-appointed monitoring of NYC’s application process for firefighters. This is meant to ensure an equal opportunity process. Since the lawsuit was filed, the numbers for African American and Latino firefighters have almost increased, settling at 6% and 12% respectively in 2013.

Source: Los Angeles Times