Our employment law attorneys recently heard about the story of Ms. Rosette Pambakian, who filed a lawsuit against the parent companies behind Tinder and its former Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Blatt. Ms. Pambakian formerly served as the company’s VP of communications, and alleges in her lawsuit that she was fired in retaliation for bringing forth sexual assault allegations against Blatt.
The Blast obtained court documents that outlined Ms. Pambakian’s claims that she was harassed and assaulted in December, 2016 at the company’s holiday party. Ms. Pambakian alleges that Blatt approached her at the party and made a series of lewd remarks and inappropriate sexual advances.
Ms. Pambakian states that following Blatt’s advances, she left the party with friends, only to have Blatt show up to their hotel room at approximately 2 a.m., at which point Ms. Pambakian claims she was sexually assaulted.
Following the alleged assault, Ms. Pambakian said she told then-Chairman and former Tinder CEO, Sean Rad, about what happened. However, she states that the company ignored damning facts, never interviewed key witnesses, and failed to conduct a meaningful investigation because they were afraid to “risk their bottom line.”
Ms. Pambakian states she was put on administrative leave and in the course of time, was unjustifiably terminated. She is now suing for wrongful termination and retaliation, gender violence, sexual battery and negligence, for which she is seeking unspecified damages.
A representative for the Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, stated that they cannot comment on the lawsuit because they have not yet seen it. They did, however, forward a letter that was previously sent to Ms. Pambakian from their Chief Executive Officer, Mandy Ginsberg.
The letter, Ms. Ginsberg stated that Pambakian was not terminated due to reporting Blatt for sexual harassment, because no such report was ever made. Ms. Ginsburg further stated that although she was not the CEO at the time of the alleged incident, she had knowledge of Ms. Pambakian being interviewed on several occasions during which she made no accusations of sexual harassment. Tinder has declined to comment on the suit.
For the third consecutive year, McDonald’s Corporation must respond to allegations of widespread sexual harassment of female workers by male managers and coworkers. Protests concerning low wages began over seven years ago, but the workers have now added sexual harassment and discrimination to their list of workplace grievances. Last week, sexual harassment complaints were filed by 25 workers with assistance from the labor group Fight for $15, and the sexual harassment attorneys of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. The claims allege a broad range of incidents including groping, lewd comments, and retaliation by management.
More Than 50 Harassment Complaints Over Three Year Period
Over the past three years, McDonald’s has had more than 50 complaints about various types of harassment in the workplace. Sexual Harassment attorney, Eve Cervantes, who is representing one of the women, stated that some of the alleged victims were as young as sixteen. Three of the complaints were filed as civil rights lawsuits.
The complaints of sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination specifically included requests for sex, indecent exposure, inappropriate touching, and retaliation for reporting such conduct. In one complaint, Jamelia Fairley, a Florida employee alleged that for several months she was sexually harassed at the McDonald’s where she was employed. Her allegations included hearing lewd comments made about her daughter, who was only a year old at the time. Fairley alleges that her hours were reduced after the harassment was reported.
Another worker, Kimberly Lawson, expressed a desire to see McDonald’s recognize a union, which would assist employees to address issues such as sexual harassment, workplace violence, and low pay. Lawson filed a complaint last year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission–EEOC–alleging that she was groped by a coworker, but that her manager began to sexually harass her as well, after ignoring her complaint.
A McDonald’s spokeswoman declined to comment on Lawson’s filings with the EEOC; however, Steve Easterbrook, the company’s CEO, stated that McDonald’s is dedicated to ensuring that workers can enjoy a harassment-free and bias-free workplace.
High Profile Activists Join the Fight
Actress Padma Lakshmi and other high-profile activists joined an employee protest in Chicago. In addition, an open letter was sent to Easterbrook from Time’s Up concerning sexual misconduct and harassment in the McDonald’s workplace. The company will be faced with activist pressure from within and without at its upcoming shareholders meeting, and tensions are rising. Fight for $15, a higher wages advocacy group, is pinning its actions to the event, although the group cannot be present during the meeting, which is an investors-only gathering. In some cities where rallies were held about the company’s handling of harassment complaints, protesters were joined by Democratic presidential hopefuls.
The incidents are alleged to have taken place at franchise and corporate stores in 20 cities, with some workers contacting sexual harassment attorneys to handle their suits. The company promised more action in the future to ensure a safe, harassment-free workplace in all its locations.
Two female employees recently filed a class action against the Walt Disney Company (“Disney”) in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging Disney pays its female employees less than their male counterparts for the same or comparable work under the California Equal Pay Act.
The Plaintiffs, LaRonda Rasmussen, who worked as a manager in Disney’s product development department, and Karen Moore, who works as a senior copyright administrator, both allege they were paid significantly less than their male colleagues who performed substantially similar work.
For example, In Rasmussen’s case, she claims Disney paid her male colleagues between $16,000.00 and $40,000.00 more than her per year at various points throughout her career. Both Plaintiffs claim Disney discriminates against its female employees, paying women tens of thousands of dollars less than males who perform the same or substantially similar work.
Rasmussen and Moore claim this pattern of pay inequity is a result of Disney’s policies, practices and procedures. In addition to monetary damages, the suit seeks an injunction prohibiting Disney from engaging in such practices and an order requiring Disney to initiate and implement a program that will address these practices and eliminate them going forward.
Rasmussen and Moore are pursuing their claims as a class action on behalf of “all women employed in California by The Walt Disney Company in the Walt Disney Studios business segments” beginning in April 2015 until the disposition of the case. Disney is not alone in facing allegations of unequal pay. Several other organizations have been accused of similar pay disparity practices including Oracle and Nike.
It is no surprise Rasmussen and Moore are pursuing their claims under California’s Equal Pay Act, as it is one of the most expansive laws prohibiting discrimination in gender pay. While the federal Equal Pay Act of 1964 prohibits unequal pay based on sex, it looks at employees who perform essentially the same job and who work under similar working conditions.
In contrast, California’s Equal Pay Act focuses on whether the employees in question perform “substantially similar work”—not the same work—and does not require employees work at the “same establishment.” Additionally, California’s Equal Pay Act prohibits pay disparity based on race and ethnicity in addition to sex.
If you believe you are being paid less than your colleagues who perform substantially similar work based on your gender, race or ethnicity, you should speak with an Employment Attorney experienced in Equal Pay matters.
Our employment attorneys in Orange County have extensive experience in handling Equal Pay and discrimination claims on behalf of employees. Ares Law Group, P.C. attorneys also offer a unique perspective with their collective of 30 years experiencing in employment law.
According to an announcement made by California’s State Department of Industrial Relations, Ares Law Group’s employment law attorneys have learned that Burrito Factory has agreed with state regulators to pay a one million dollar settlement after two hundred thirty-nine workers filed wage theft complaints.
In 2017, the Labor Commissioner’s Office in California, launched a formal investigation and ultimately found that restaurant workers allegedly received less than the mandatory California minimum wage due to the restaurant’s failure to adequately pay them for split shifts and overtime.
Additionally, according to the Labor Commissioner’s Office, the restaurant allegedly paid workers in cash, failed to offer legally-mandated breaks for meals, and were negligent with regard to maintaining accurate payroll records.
Julie Su, California’s Labor Secretary, stated during a news conference that a clear message is being sent that it is not merely optional for businesses to comply with California’s labor standards and the State will always be on the side of workers who come forward to demand pay to which they are entitled.
Negotiations for a settlement started in February following the restaurant’s claim that it was willing to comply with the labor laws of the State Which occurred after the establishment received citations.
The announcement was made several weeks after officials in the Santa Clara County orchestrated a crackdown on workplace mistreatments, such as the aforementioned wage theft. Additional funding was given to the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement in Santa Clara County. San Jose officials also recently spoke of expanding their policies on wage theft to encompass the construction field.
In July, 2019, employees will begin receiving compensation, and an additional $100,000.00 in civil penalties will be paid by the restaurant. The settlement agreement followed a series of investigations initiated by Julie Su’s office, a campaign entitled “Wage Theft is a Crime.”
If you believe you have been the victim of wage theft, we urge you to contact Ares Law Group’s employment attorneys in Orange County to assist you. With over 30 years of experience our employment lawyers have handled a variety of wage claim cases for overtime, meal and rest breaks, expense reimbursement and travel time.
Many employers utilize the practice of having employees “on-call” in order to flex their workforce. This practice, however, often comes at a cost to the affected employees, be it by way of inconvenience, sacrificed opportunities or time spent waiting around to determine if he or she will be required to report into work. On February 4, 2019, in Ward v. Tilly’s, Inc., the California Court of Appeals addressed this common wage an hour practice used by California employers and held that Tilly’s employees who were subjected to on-call scheduling were entitled to compensation under California’s reporting time pay requirements.
Under Tilly’s policy, employees were scheduled for both regular and on-call shifts. Tilly’s then required its employees to call in two (2) hours before the start of their on-call shift to determine if they needed to report to work for their shift. Worse, Tilly’s disciplined employees who failed to call in before their on-call shifts, if they called in late or if they refused to work an on-call shift.
For their part, Tilly’s made various arguments in opposition to the claims, including pointing out that employees were not required to physically report to the workplace for an on-call shift. The Court rejected this argument, ultimately holding Tilly’s telephonic call-in requirements trigger reporting time pay. Notably, the Court pointed out how Tilly’s practice benefits employers by allowing them to keep their labor costs low when business is slow at the expense of their employees “while having workers at the ready when business picks up.” The Court recognized how this practice creates “no incentive for employers to competently anticipate their labor needs and to schedule accordingly.”
The Court also recognized how these types of policies “impose tremendous costs on employees” such as precluding other job opportunities, requiring employees to make contingent child or elder care arrangements, preventing employees from taking classes and stopping employees from making social plans. In short, the Court found such policies “significantly limit employees’ ability to earn income, pursue an education, care for dependent family members, and enjoy recreation time.” The Court also noted that reporting time pay may also be required if an employee is required to remotely log into a computer system.
This ruling in this case may have a significant impact on employer on-call policies in favor of California employees. If you believe your employer’s on-call policy is similar to Tilly’s and may require that you received reporting time pay, you should speak with a California Employment Attorney who is experienced in wage and hour matters.
Our employment attorneys in Orange County have extensive experience in handling wage and hour cases exclusively on behalf of employees. Ares Law Group, P.C. attorneys also offer a unique perspective with their collective of 30 years experiencing in employment law.