Sexual Harassment Attorney

Sexual Harassment Claims Land Shaun White in Hot Water!

Olympian, musician, and entrepreneur Shaun White has found himself in hot water. Former bandmate Lena Zawaideh has filed a lawsuit against him, alleging sexual harassment as well as wage claims. She states he did not pay her for some of her work. The legal matter was initiated in May 2016, but was not filed in court until recently.

Zawaideh was fired from the band Bad Things (which she helped form with White in 2008) after the end of their 2014 tour. She claims that throughout her duration working with the band, she was subjected to sexual harassment by White, being forced to endure various explicit pornographic images, listen to White’s vulgar language, and have to wear provocative outfits. Zawaideh states she would receive text messages from White including images of “engorged and erect penises”, as well as being forced to watch “disturbing” pornographic videos, some of which sexualized human fecal matter. Another showed a couple killing a bear, then having intercourse on top of it. The court complaint also details scenarios ranging from White sticking his behind in Zawaideh’s face, to him grabbing her behind or trying to kiss her.

Screen captures of text messages between the two exhibit a very different side of the all-American “Flying Tomato”. Some conversations reveal White angrily admonishing Zawaideh for wearing a fleece sweater to a band photo shoot, (not provocative enough for his taste, presumably) saying he was “really disappointed” and if she were to do it again, she would be asked to go home. Another exchange shows White asking (or rather, telling) Zawaideh to cut her hair the following day “at shoulder length or above”, and that it’s “really important to [him]”. She then responds by declining to comply with this request, explaining that she is “very confident and happy with her long hair”, which elicits angry responses from White. Allegedly, the following day White went out of his way to avoid and ignore Zawaideh. This incident led to her unwilling separation from the group. Zawaideh did not hear from White or other management initially, but much later received word from the new band manager that the band had “decided to part ways with her”. Other band members called Zawaideh afterwards to let her know that they weren’t present at the time of the call as the manager claimed, nor did they have any part in her termination.

The accusations don’t stop at sexual harassment – Zawaideh is also seeking compensation for wages that she claims White stopped paying her. She alleges that she is owed about $42,000, as White stopped paying band members their contracted amount in January 2014 to “cut costs”. However, other band members’ payments were temporarily reinstated. Zawaideh’s payments were not, because as White told the other band members he believed she “did not need the money”. Additionally, Zawaideh is pursuing claims that she was misclassified as an independent contractor, and therefore is owed additional overtime pay.

In response to the allegations, White has issued a statement through his attorney, saying “Many years ago, I exchanged texts with a friend who is now using them to craft a bogus lawsuit….There is absolutely no coincidence to the timing of her claims, and we will defend them vigorously in court.” What he is referring to regarding the “timing of her claims” remains to be explained.

Zawaideh issued her own statement on the matter, saying, “I am pursuing this case because women should not have to tolerate harassment at work. Shaun White should not be allowed to do whatever he wants just because he is famous. Although I am embarrassed to have been treated this way, I cannot sit by and watch him do this to other women”.

Sexual harassment cases are seemingly on the rise in the entertainment industry, from the alleged victims of Bill Cosby coming forward to the multiple Fox News anchors alleging sexual harassment. Perhaps the occurrences of sexual harassment are not rising, but more people are willing to come forward about their experiences and fight for their rights.






General Counsel deposed in sex discrimination case, transgender professor

A sex discrimination case filed by the Department of Justice is in the news again, as a judge declared a potentially key witness in the matter will have to testify. The case is United States v. Southeastern Oklahoma University on behalf of former professor Dr. Rachel Tudor. The DOJ alleges that Tudor was terminated as the result of sex discrimination, due to the fact that Dr. Tudor is transgender.

The situation begins with Tudor being hired in 2004 on tenure track as an assistant professor at the university. At this time, Tudor presented as a male. In the summer of 2007, she notified the school that in the upcoming school year, she would begin presenting herself as a female, consistent with her gender identity. During this time, she started wearing a traditionally female hairstyle and clothing and took the name Rachel. This made Dr. Tudor the first transgender professor at Southeastern.

Shortly after notifying the school of the upcoming transition, she received a phone call from an HR representative stating that the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Douglas McMillan, had inquired about firing Tudor. His reason being that her “transgender lifestyle” offended his religious beliefs. The HR representative then advised Dr. McMillan that termination for this reason would be illegal. Jane McMillan (the sister of Douglas McMillan) advised Tudor to “take safety precautions” because some people were “openly hostile” towards transgender people. She also mentioned that her brother considered transgender people to be a “grave offense to his [religious] sensibilities”. This did not discourage Tudor, however, and she continued teaching without noted performance issues.

In 2009, Tudor met with the Dean of her school Dr. Lucretia Scoufos in order to prepare for her upcoming tenure application. It was at this meeting that the Dean became aware Tudor is transgender. Despite being made aware of this fact, Tudor states that the Dean continued to refer to her using male pronouns. Also at this meeting, Tudor made it clear that she felt a faculty member in her department had been discriminating against her, and requested that this person not be a part of her tenure review board. The Dean did not relay the request to the Affirmative Action Officer, who responds to claims of discrimination.

At Southeastern University, tenure must be obtained by all professors by the end of their 7th year of employment. They are not allowed to apply until their 5th year of employment, however. If they fail to obtain tenure, their employment will be terminated. The application process includes assembling a portfolio to be reviewed by the chair of their department, other tenured faculty members, the Dean of the school, and various administrative figures before the final decision being made by the President of the university. Tudor received positive reviews and recommendations for tenure, until her portfolio reached the Dean of her school who, in spite of the praise from other faculty members, chose to not recommend Tudor for promotion and tenure. His letter of denial did not offer an explanation as to why or how he arrived at this decision. The portfolio was then passed to Vice President McMillan, who also wrote a letter not recommending Tudor for tenure without explanation. In February of 2010, Tudor requested the reason for denial from each party, in order to amend her portfolio before it was reviewed by the President of the University. Both the Vice President and Dean refused to offer her this insight, though another non-transgender male English professor had the opportunity to meet with McMillan, for guidance on strengthening their portfolio. This professor was later granted tenure.

The unwillingness to provide her with a fair opportunity for improvement led Tudor to file a grievance with the President of the college, Lawrence Minks. She also requested a hearing by the Faculty Appellate Committee, alleging that she was “denied due process” by McMillan and Scoufos refusing to provide reasoning for their negative evaluations. The FAC eventually ruled in Tudor’s favor, advising for McMillan and Scoufos to provide the missing information. However, that request was also denied by the responsible parties, rendering Tudor unable to supplement her portfolio, and ultimately leading the President to deny her application in April of 2010. His letter of denial did not give specific reasoning for the decision, but simply stated that the specifics would be discussed with her in a separate communication within 10 days. This communication never arrived, also leaving Tudor unable to file an appeal within the necessary time frame. Tudor’s application for tenure was the first in school history to be denied with positive recommendation of faculty and peers.

Eventually in June of 2010, Tudor received a letter identifying the reasons for her denial being that the areas “research/scholarship” and “university service” were supposedly deficient. However, it has been shown that her qualifications exceeded those of at least 3 other English professors granted tenure during her employment with the university. Supposedly, the Dean and VP insisted that they “couldn’t verify” a work listed in her portfolio, however, copies of that very publication sat in the University library. Covers of both clearly indicated Tudor’s role as editor.

Moving forward, Tudor notified her department chair in August 2010 that she intended to re-apply for tenure in the upcoming school year. Before she could do so, she received a letter the following October stating that she would not be allowed to re-apply that semester, saying it was “not in the best interest of the university” and that, among other reasons, he did not think her deficiencies could be corrected so quickly. He also made an odd comment stating that if administration once again disagreed with the faculty recommendations, the situation could “inflame” their relationships. This caused Tudor to once again file a grievance with the FAC who ultimately ruled in her favor once more in December, insisting she be allowed to re-apply that school year.

January of 2011, the Vice President of Business affairs responded to the FAC recommendation, He stated that the administration would not allow Tudor to re-apply because he and President Minks “interpreted” Southeastern’s policy on the matter to mean that applicants may not re-apply after the President declines them.

In May of that year, Tudor was ultimately terminated for “failing” to obtain tenure. Ironically enough, before her employment ended she received the Faculty State Recognition Award for Excellence in Scholarship for the 2010-2011 school year.

After her termination, Tudor filed a complaint with the regional EEOC office. Their investigation concluded that there was reason to believe Tudor had been discriminated against, and they referred the case to the Department of Justice.

The most recent development occurred on August 11th 2016. U.S. District Judge Robin J. Cauthron has granted the DOJ’s motion to compel the deposition of the university’s General Counsel Charles Babb. He will have to answer the federal government’s questions about communications he had with university employees about Rachel Tudor. The discussions included her gender transition and grievances she had filed.

Disability Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has initiated a lawsuit against a McDonald’s franchise for violating the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). A former employee was terminated in February of 2015, seemingly due to his disability – being HIV positive. His termination came only days after management became aware of his condition, though he had been hired in November 2014.

The complaint against Mathews Management Co./Peach Orchard Inc. details one undeniable violation of the ADA, as the franchise required employees to disclose all of their prescribed medications to management. This policy is actually listed in the company’s employee handbook, but no information has been released as to how or when employees are required to disclose. Through such disclosure, management became aware that the “aggrieved party” is HIV positive.

About a week before his termination, the employee was questioned by his shift leader regarding his HIV status. At this time, the supervisor warned the plaintiff that he may be fired, because another female employee was previously terminated due to being HIV positive [Disability Discrimination]. At a different meeting with the general manager, the employee faced questioning about his relationship with a co-worker. The employee admitted they had an “interest” in their co-worker, and also had he had confided his HIV positive status to them. It was at this meeting that the employee was terminated, supposedly due to “attendance issues”. The plaintiff and his council maintain that other employees with far worse attendance records continue to work without consequence.

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, and seeks to protect employees from Disability Discrimination. Under federal rule, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual”. HIV positive status is protected under the ADA, both symptomatic and asymptomatic. Not only would it protect those with a disability, it also extends protection to those associated with someone having a disability. For example, if employment was denied to an applicant because their partner has AIDS/HIV. Additionally, a “presumed” disability would not be an acceptable reason for termination/denial of employment.

There are some stipulations for ADA coverage to be applicable to an employee. First, the business must be a private entity employing 15 or more people. Moreover, the employee must be able to complete the “essential functions” of the job, with or without “reasonable accommodation”. Alleviation of the “essential functions” would not be considered a “reasonable accommodation. The ADA describes an essential job function as “Essential functions of the job are those core duties that are the reason the job position exists. For example, an essential function of a typist’s position is the ability to type; an essential function of a bus driver s position is the ability to drive. Requiring the ability to perform “essential” functions assures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified because of his or her inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions”.

Regarding what a reasonable accommodation includes, the law states, “A ‘reasonable accommodation’ is any modification or adjustment to a job, the job application process, or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, participate in the application process, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Examples of ‘reasonable accommodations’ include: making existing facilities readily accessible to and usable by employees with disabilities; restructuring a job; modifying work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; and reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified”.

Finally, an employer is not required to make a certain reasonable accommodation if the accommodation would place an “undue hardship” upon the business and its operations. Generally, the larger the company, the less chance there is that an employee’s absence or accommodations will place an undue hardship upon the company as there will be more resources available to support the change. Finally, it is the responsibility of the employee to notify the employer that they need accommodations in order to perform their job successfully. An employer cannot be held responsible for conditions they were not aware of.

Events like the ones the former McDonald’s employee was forced to endure are what the ADA seeks to prevent. The good news is, the employee took appropriate action by retaining an attorney to fight their case. If you have experienced a similar situation, or feel like you may have been terminated due to your disability, please contact our firm as soon as possible for a confidential no obligation case evaluation. Injustices shouldn’t go without consequence. For all Disability Discrimination inquires contact us at, an award winning law firm representing employees only.


Are you eligible for overtime pay?

The Obama Administration will be raising the eligibility threshold of salaried workers qualifying for overtime. Currently, salaried workers can make as little as $23,660 per year and still be exempt from overtime pay. This translates to the portion of California law which states properly classified salaried employees can make no less than twice the minimum wage (which in California is currently set at ten dollars per hour). The new rule will raise the threshold to $47,476 per year, and will take effect on December 1st 2016. This means that any salaried employee who makes less than $47,476 per year will be eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. This number will also adjust every three years to keep up with the rate of inflation. The rate will be determined by calculating the worker’s hourly rate, and multiplying it by the appropriate rate factor (either 1.5 times normal rate of pay or double time). The new threshold was not chosen arbitrarily. Administration states that the number was chosen because it represents the 40th percentile of salaries in the Southeast, which is the lowest-paying region in the United States.

This change is estimated to impact about 4.2 million workers, who did not previously receive overtime pay. It will not affect non-exempt or “hourly” employees (people that were already eligible). However, critics (namely employers) are raising concerns about the new law, questioning whether or not this will actually benefit workers or will a negative outcome. The opposition to the rule are citing such possible outcomes as salaried employees being re-classified as hourly, base wages being lowered in order to compensate for overtime pay, or mass layoffs. Truthfully, there are an equal number of positive outcomes despite these hypotheses.

Employers will have a few options when it comes to making adjustments to wages or work hours:

  • They can raise base wages above $47,476 annually if they truly wish to avoid paying overtime, which would make a large difference in the compensation for underpaid salaried employees.
  • They can enact protocol changes to make sure their employees do not work more than 40 hours per week, which would in turn give the employee more free time for leisure, family, and health benefits. This would also encourage job creation, as employers will need to fill the excess hours previously worked by the exempt employees.
  • They can keep base wages where they are but pay employees overtime when necessary, which most likely would still be a welcomed change in the eyes of the eligible salaried employees.

Logically, employers will not want to make changes that would hurt their employees. Morale comes into question when employees realize they are being treated poorly and are not valued by the company they work for. Employers will not be required to convert their salaried employees to hourly if they do not meet the threshold, and while it may seem more convenient to do so, in reality it wouldn’t be. Realizing that employees will not want to feel “demoted” simply because they are being compensated fairly, it would be a far more efficient (and more likely) move for employers to track the hours being worked. This wouldn’t be difficult change to make, seeing as how a majority of companies already utilize some form of electronic tracking for hours worked or projects being completed. This information can easily be sent via laptops or mobile devices when employees are not in the office or otherwise completing “overtime” work.

A final thought to consider, is just how rampant employment status misclassification is in today’s workforce. People are often misclassified as salaried employees or independent contractors when they should in fact be W-2 or hourly employees. Perhaps, if employers do make the decision to re-classify some of their employees, this change will bring justice to those who have been working long arduous hours without the proper overtime compensation.

If you you are owing overtime pay and have a difficult time getting paid for overtime, please consult with one of our attorneys at Aegis Law Firm, Irvine, CA. For more information contact us HERE

Read our previous blog post on unpaid overtime HERE

Where Commissioned Employees Fit in to California’s Overtime Law Requirements


In California, an employer is required to pay its employees overtime if the employee works in excess of eight hours a day or more than forty (40) hours a week. Overtime is compensated at the rate of no less than one and one-half times (1 ½) the regular rate of pay for an employee. However, there are certain employees whom are exempt from this general overtime requirement, depending on their profession and/or compensation structure. One these exemptions apply to employees whose compensation is based upon commissions. The Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders provide that, “employees (except minors) whose earnings: (1) exceed one and one-half times the minimum wage; and (2) more than half of their compensation represents commissions,” are exempt from the general overtime provision. This is the California Overtime Law.

As such, it is important to note that just because an employee earns some commissions, the exemption does not automatically apply. The exemption only applies to the employee if both prongs are met.

A relatively recent and important case that touched upon this issue was the case of Peabody v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., 59 Cal.4th 662, 663 (2014) (“Peabody”) which resulted in a published 2014 decision by the California Supreme Court. There, Ms. Peabody, the employee who worked for Time Warner Cable, Inc. (“Time Warner”), received paychecks that encompassed both hourly wages and commission wages. After leaving her employment with Time Warner, she sued for overtime wages, among things, based upon the claim that she regularly worked 45 hours per week and occasionally 48 hours per week. Although Time Warner did not dispute the fact that Ms. Peabody worked 45 hours per week and was paid no overtime, it argued that she fell within California’s “commissioned employee” exemption and thus was not entitled to overtime compensation. At the time of the lawsuit, the minimum wage in California was $8.00 per hour. As such, in order for the “commissioned employee” exemption to apply, Ms. Peabody’s compensation must have amounted to no less than $12.00 per hour. Time Warner reasoned that even though most of Ms. Peabody’s checks included only hourly wages and were for less than $12.00 per hour based upon the hours she worked, the commissions should be attributed to the “monthly pay period for which they were earned,” and that attributing the commission wages in this manner would satisfy the exemption’s minimum earnings prong. The district court bought this argument and dismissed the case. Upon appeal, the Ninth Circuit struggled with the issue of whether the employee’s commissions must only be counted toward the pay period in which the commissions were paid or where they can be allocated over the course of a month.” Due to the absence of controlling precedent, the Court of Appeal affirmed the district court’s ruling with respect to the overtime claims.

The California Supreme Court ultimately held, however, that Time Warner cannot attribute wages paid in one pay period to a prior pay period to cure a shortfall with respect to the minimum earnings prong and whether the minimum earnings prong is satisfied depends on the amount of wage actually paid in a pay period. This decision was definitely a win for commissioned employees as it serves to deter employers from deferring the payout of commissions to weeks or months later in order to satisfy the minimum earnings prong — a practice that is relatively common amongst California employers.

Based on the above, employees whom are not receiving overtime compensation and whose earnings are entirely commissioned-based, or is comprised of both commissions and hourly wages, need to be wary of how much they are being paid in light of the number of hours they are actually working to ensure that their compensation for each pay period meets the minimum earnings prong. If you suspect that your employer is improperly relying on this “commissioned employee” exemption to avoid paying you overtime compensation, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your rights.

For more information on California Overtime Law and your personal situation involving unpaid overtime, make an appointment with one of our attorneys at or call and ask for Kashif or Sam at (949) 379-6250.