Category: Whistleblower

It’s the Circle of Wrongful Termination

The Disney Corporation is famous for their lavish, daily productions that happen in their parks around the world. Their animatronics are impressively advanced, their floats are decked out in color and sparkle, and their “cast members” are dressed incredibly detailed costumes. What happens to those who try to disrupt Disney’s mechanized and methodical shows?

At Walt Disney World in Florida, summer rain is not an uncommon thing. One day in June, it rained on some performer’s costumes that were being stored outside. The costumes had been worn recently, so they still were covered in the performers’ sweat and bodily fluids. The costumes were brought inside to save them from the rain. They were set down on top of and leaning against unitards and other costume pieces for other performers set to dance in “The Festival of the Lion King Show.”

When the Lion King performers retrieved their unitards for the evening show, they discovered their costumes had been dirtied by the other garments. The three male performers approached management and asked for new unitards. Management did not comply with their requests, but rather asked them to wear the soiled costumes “for the sake of the show.” The dancers refused, stating it was unsanitary, unhealthy, and not safe to do so. The show was canceled as a result, and later, the dancers were terminated.

The union that represents the cast members, Teamsters Local 385, worked with the former employees in their arbitration process. A federal arbitrator sided with the employees, ordering Disney to rehire the performers and compensate back pay owed to them for being out of work.

An addendum has been added to the employees’ union rights stating “all costume pieces will receive a minimum of 12 hours of drying and sanitation between performances.”

Source: News 13 Orlando News

A Wildfire in Silicon Valley Ignited

After decades of thinking, “this is just the way things are” the defeat of Ellen Pao ignited a new sensitivity to possible gender discrimination, especially in Silicon Valley. Thus far, two new lawsuits have been filed in the technology mecca, both by women complaining of discrimination and bias based on sex.

Elisabeth Sussex, former counsel for wearable technology company Jawbone, file a wrongful termination suit against her former employer. She alleges that over a year earlier, she filed a complaint against the chief technology officer, Michael Luna for his demeaning behavior. Regardless of her performance, Sussex always received a negative review from Luna. The most recent one being only one month before her termination. She was demoted based on, what she alleges to be, inaccurate and fabricated facts.

Sussex was terminated in April 2014. She further alleges that Luna’s behavior specifically turned female employees away and that kind of behavior was saved for female employees only.

Another Silicon Valley lawsuit details not only gender discrimination, but race discrimination and sexual harassment as well. Heather McCloskey worked for Paymentwall Inc., an online based payment system. McCloskley alleges that her supervisor, Benoit Boisset  said she was in need of a good spanking because she was a “bad girl.” Benoit also compared McCloskey’s chest to an airport runway and mimed oral sex acts toward her.

McCloskey complained, in writing to the CEO, and was fired two weeks later. McCloskey, who was only twenty-three at the time of the incident, had work piled on her with impossible expectations—a mere pretext for her termination.

Pao, though not a favorable verdict for the plaintiff, opened many other Silicon Valley women’s eyes to the possible disparate treatment around them.

Source: Daily Journal

Health Care Executive Cheated Half a Million Dollars

Former Chief Technology Officer for Blue Shield of California is suing the company for wrongful termination and breach of contract, alleging he was due almost half a million dollars for a bonus just prior to his termination.

Aaron Kaufman accused the health insurance giant of retaliation. Kaufman claims he questioned the company’s $4.6 million contract with a vendor called “Veritas data project.” The terms of the contract allowed the unfamiliar vendor to continually bill the company without a fixed rate. With no cap, the vendor was essentially issued a “carte blanche” by Blue Shield.

The company’s dispute with Kaufman elevated when the former CTO offered an alternative vendor whose offer would have cost a fraction of what was spent. Michael Mathias, the Chief Information Officer, disagreed with Kaufman’s choice and continued on with Veritas.

From that point on, Mathias did all he could to get Kaufman terminated until ultimately the CTO was discharged from service on March 10, 2015. The date of termination was purportedly one day before Kaufman’s $450,000 bonus was supposed to be paid.

Blue Shield responded, stating they disagreed with the suit, but did not comment further on any allegations of wrong doing.  The insurance company has been riddled with misfortune in the last year. Its high profile corporate spending and high executive payouts led to a revocation of its tax exempt status last summer, resulting in a large payment for back taxes–$62 million. Compared to that Kaufman’s bonus just seems like change in the pocket.

Source: LA Times