Trucking Company Settles Huge Wage Lawsuit

Trucking Company Settles Huge Wage Lawsuit

big rigs on the roadAn Oregon-based trucking company has agreed to settle with a group of California truck drivers for over $1.5 million as a result of a class-action wage lawsuit. Our employment attorneys in Orange County have learned that the lawsuit against Reddaway Trucking was filed by more than 1,000 commercial drivers and the company–owned by YRC Worldwide–agreed to the settlement on April 12, 2019.

If the courts approve, an average payout of $726.40–with a maximum of $1,742.40–will be awarded to each driver. An incentive award of $20,000 may also be given to each named plaintiff, and attorneys may collect up to 33 percent of the settlement, which is roughly $500,000.

Saul Montes and Mario Barrios filed the lawsuit in November, 2017, on behalf of themselves and 1,170 other individuals who drove for Reddaway. The suit was filed in the Central District of California. The lawsuit alleged that California’s state wage and hour laws were violated when drivers were not paid in a timely manner and expenses were not reimbursed. It also claimed that drivers were forced to skip meal breaks and that their itemized wage statements were not provided by the company.

If an employee works more than five hours, he or she must be given the opportunity to take a 30 minute, uninterrupted meal break according to California Labor Code Section 512, and those who work longer than ten hours must be given the option of a second meal break.

In some cases, an “on duty” meal break is permitted if the employee’s work duties are such that prevent him or her from being entirely relieved of job related tasks for that period of time. However, written consent must be obtained from the employee, and drivers involved in the lawsuit claimed that they never gave Reddaway such consent. The law allows the drivers to recover one hour of pay for all days during which a meal break was denied. Similar California laws and compensation guidelines also apply to rest breaks.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Reddaway did not reimburse employees for the company-mandated, work related use of their personal cell phones. Drivers also claim that the company did not keep appropriate, itemized time records showing when they started and ended each shift, including split shift intervals, meal periods, and total daily hours worked. Reddaway is also accused of reporting total hours inaccurately and failing to show all reimbursements and deductions. California law states that each driver may be awarded up to $4,000 for the violations involving record-keeping.

Finally, some drivers who quit or had their employment terminated by the company claim they either received due wages late or not at all. According to state law, any compensation due must be paid immediately to employees who are terminated. Those who voluntarily sever their employment must receive due wages within 72 hours of their last day worked. If a 72 hour or greater advance notice is given to the company that the employee is leaving, the company must pay all wages due on that person’s last day of work.

If you believe that your employer has forced you to skip meal and rest breaks, or has failed to pay you due wages, we urge you to contact our employment law attorneys in Orange County.  We often hear from employees who weren’t aware that their rights were being violated for several months – or even years. Our employment attorneys specialize in helping people recover the wages they earned, but never received. Call us today to discuss your case. (949) 629-2519

Mariah Carey Sued for Sexual Harassment and Wrongful Termination

Mariah Carey Sued for Sexual Harassment and Wrongful Termination

Our employment attorneys in Orange County recently learned about a lawsuit that was filed against pop-icon Mariah Carey, by her former executive assistant, Lianna Shakhnazaryan.  In the suit, Ms. Shakhnazaryan claimed that Ms. Carey—along with her one time manager, Stella Bulochnikov—sexually harassed her and wrongfully terminated her employment. The allegations made in the lengthy lawsuit against Ms. Carey included wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and failure to prevent harassment or discrimination in the workplace.  Ms. Shakhnazaryan also claimed that she was owed wages upon her termination, including overtime pay she never received.

According to Ms. Shakhnazaryan, in September 2015 she began working as Ms. Carey’s assistant and claimed she had a verbal agreement that included an annual salary of $328,500.00, although no formal paperwork was drawn up through an employment attorney or other third-party.  The former employee also alleges that she was forced to meet continuous demands of considerable magnitude and frequently faced short deadlines for which proper compensation was not offered.

Ms. Shakhnazaryan also claims that she was subjected to sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct as well, and that Ms. Bulochnikov repeatedly made offensive sexual comments to her, including remarks about Ms. Shakhnazaryan’s physical appearance.  The former assistant alleges that Ms. Carey was fully aware of the inappropriate conduct of her then manager, and that on more than one occasion Ms. Carey witnessed Ms. Bulochnikov’s emotional abuse and sexual harassment of Ms. Shakhnazaryan and did nothing to stop to the behavior. Ms. Shakhnazaryan went as far as to claim that Ms. Carey gave permission to Ms. Bulochnikov to act in this inappropriate and troubling manner toward Ms. Shakhnazaryan. In addition, she has stated that other individuals employed by Ms. Carey also witnessed the alleged sexual harassment and battery, but did nothing to prevent or stop future episodes.  Among the laundry list of complaints in Ms. Shakhnazaryan’s lawsuit is a claim that she was terminated as retaliation for her allegations against Ms. Bulochnikov.

With respect to unpaid compensation, Ms. Shakhnazaryan’s claims include, but are not limited to compensatory damages, such as unpaid overtime, lost wages on future and past earnings, and money for mental pain and anguish. General damages were added to the suit as well, including punitive damages and attorney’s fees. She is also demanding a jury trial as opposed to an out-of-court settlement.

The inflammatory allegations made in her lawsuit came quickly on the heels of Ms. Carey’s own suit, in which Ms. Shakhnazaryan was accused of being “an extortionist, a grifter, and a Peeping Tom.”  Mark Quigley, Ms. Shakhnazaryan’s lawyer, released a statement to Entertainment Tonight firmly denying the claims made in Carey’s lawsuit.

Carey settled a high-profile lawsuit with Ms. Bulochnikov earlier this month. Ms. Bulochnikov filed legal documents last April against Ms. Carey, after being terminated near the end of 2018. She accused the singer of breach of contract and sexual harassment, although those claims were strongly denied by Ms. Carey.  According to court documents acquired by Entertainment Tonight, Ms. Carey and Ms. Bulochnikov settled the matter before the trial date was set.

Our Orange County employment attorneys specialize in cases regarding inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace, unpaid wages and wrongful termination. If you have experienced any of these offenses, we urge you to contact our employment law attorneys today for a free consultation.

New NFL Network Sexual Harassment Allegations

New NFL Network Sexual Harassment Allegations

The attorneys at Ares Law Group, P.C. who regularly handle sexual harassment cases, are following new allegations against multiple NFL Network analysts. Erin McParland and Jami Cantor, who both worked as make-up artists for the NFL Network, have raised allegations of sexual harassment including sexually suggestive comments, inappropriate touching and sexual advances by NFL Network personalities including Eric Davis, Michael Irvin, and top executive Eric Weinberger.  Ms. McParland describes how, shortly after her hire, she was told that she needed to be careful because she was new, pretty and would likely be targeted.  Ms. McParland was stunned by the conduct she claims she was subjected to by the male personalities at the network.  Ms. McParland explained what gave her the courage to speak up was talking to other female make-up artists and learning they were subjected to the same or similar conduct by the same individuals.  After hearing these similar accounts, Ms. McParland felt empowered and took her complaints to the NFL Network’s Human Resources Department.

While both Ms. McParland and Ms. Cantor have separate individual cases, their allegations will likely be used to corroborate each other’s account.  One piece of evidence which will likely be central to Ms. McParland’s complaint are alleged Instagram direct messages from Davis in which she claims he commented on her flexibility and made suggestive remarks about how good they would be sexually.    Additionally, both Ms. McParland and Ms. Cantor’s attorneys will likely seek evidence related to complaints or concerns raised by other females in the workplace about similar conduct by the alleged sexual harassers.  If they find evidence the NFL Network was aware of inappropriate conduct by the accused harassers and failed to take appropriate action to stop it, it will likely strengthen their claims.

The allegations of sexual harassment by female make-up artists at the NFL Network against various NFL Network analysts reiterates what many experts in the field already know to be true, sexual harassment is often times not isolated incidents.  Rather, it consists of repeated actions indicative of a pattern of behavior.  Many women who are subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace never report the conduct for a variety of reasons including: fear of retaliation, financial need for a job, fear of being ostracized and fear of not being believed.  With the #metoo movement, many women are now feeling empowered to shine a light on inappropriate conduct in the workplace.  In doing this, what many are finding is they are not alone not only in the larger sense of the #metoo movement but often times, in terms of their own work environment.

Accordingly, if you continue to look where you see smoke, you may eventually find a fire.  In today’s day and age fire is often times found through the use of evidence provided through electronic communications and social media.  It remains unclear what will play out with respect to Ms. McParland and Ms. Cantor’s claims but what is clear, is that individuals who feel they have been subjected to sexual harassment, or other types of harassment, in the workplace, are often times not alone and should consult with a sexual harassment attorney to ensure they understand their rights.

Holiday Parties and Harassment, Not a Good Combination

Holiday Parties and Harassment, Not a Good Combination

Colleagues at a holiday partyIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, when everyone is bustling around preparing for the holidays and yet, they still get to find time to attend the obligatory office holiday party. The holiday party has evolved over the years from the blow out, open bar event to more subdued gatherings. Some employers now opt for employee only soirees without spouses or significant others. Others issue “drink tickets” in an attempt to limit the amount of alcohol consumed.

Even still, we have all heard a tale or two of the poor unfortunate soul who has a little too much to drink at the holiday party and finds themselves in an embarrassing situation. For some, this may be a version of Elaine’s holiday office party dance on Seinfeld, but for others it may be something more serious. One need only look to today’s headlines to find examples of where these events may go if individuals throw caution, good judgment and common courtesy to the wind.

What is key for all those who attend holiday office parties to remember is that your employer’s policies and procedures concerning harassment and sexual harassment in particular apply at company sponsored events and to non-employees. In fact, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act provides employers may be held liable for harassment by non-employees in certain situations. Accordingly, even if the harasser is not your co-worker, your employer likely still has an obligation to take immediate and appropriate corrective action to stop the conduct.

Examples of inappropriate conduct can include conduct that is visual, verbal and physical. It may be a flirtatious comment about one’s appearance, an expression of a sexual desire/fantasy, or an inappropriate touching. In more egregious cases it may involve someone exposing themselves or, worse, sexually assaulting a co-worker. It is also common in today’s electronic communication to see inappropriate text messages or photos.

Individuals who operate under the assumption that because they are “off the clock” or out of the office, they are free to engage in whatever conduct they choose do so at their own peril. It is not uncommon for complaints of sexual harassment to stem from employees behaving badly at holiday parties. This can sometimes lead to an unhappy new year with a formal investigation or possible termination of employment.

It is important for employees to understand they have the same ability to report inappropriate and unwelcome behavior that occurs at office events, or other work-related events, even if they are after hours, off-site or the alleged harasser is not an employee. If you or someone you know has been subjected to inappropriate behavior at the yearly holiday party or another company sponsored event, you should report the conduct immediately. Employers are required to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into such complaints. Additionally, employees who report such conduct in good faith are protected from retaliation under both state and federal laws. If you have been subjected to inappropriate conduct and your employer has failed to take action, you should contact an experienced employment attorney immediately to discuss your rights.

Matt D’Abusco and Cynthia Sandoval, partners at Ares Law Group, P.C., with a combined 30 years of experience in employment law and litigation, have handled a multitude of sexual harassment cases.  Ares Law Group’s background and experience allows its attorneys to approach cases in a unique manner. Understanding how their adversaries view and defend cases, their strategic perspective is invaluable to clients.

 

Sexual Harassment: No One Is Above The Law

Sexual Harassment: No One Is Above The Law

Harvey WeinsteinThe news of Harvey Weinstein’s termination in the face of mounting sexual harassment allegations demonstrates no one is immune from being held accountable for their actions under the standards set forth in both federal and state laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace.  It does, however, beg the question, why was this not brought to light sooner?  Were the alleged victims unaware of the law?  Did they fear retaliation and irreparable damage to their career trajectories?  Anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace has likely struggled with these same questions.   No one will ever really know the reasons behind the delay but if the allegations currently circulating around Mr. Weinstein prove to be true, they are text book examples of sexual harassment.

There are two forms of sexual harassment under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and Title VII the Civil Rights Act of 1964: (1) hostile work environment and (2) quid pro quo.  Anyone can create a hostile work environment based on sex/gender, such as a co-worker, supervisor/manager, owner, or a third-party (i.e. customer/client).  A hostile work environment exists when an individual is subjected to conduct, based on his/her sex/gender, which is severe or pervasive, and which a reasonable person would consider offensive.  Quid pro quo, on the other hand, can only be committed by a person in a position of power, typically a supervisor or an agent of the employer.  In such instances, the alleged harasser exploits his/her position and makes unwanted sexual advances or engages in unwanted verbal, physical or visual conduct of a sexual nature and conditions the terms of employment (i.e. being hired, benefits, wage increase) by word or through conduct, on the victim’s acceptance of the sexual advances or conduct.

The type of conduct that usually gives rise to a sexual harassment claim can also come in many forms.  In today’s technology driven society, more sexual harassment claims stem from conduct engaged in via electronic communication, such as inappropriate text messages or emails.  It can also exist when there are advances, conversations or inquiries of a sexual nature, even if an employee is not the person engaged in the conversation but forced to endure them.

Another component of sexual harassment that employees may not appreciate is the prohibition against same sex harassment, regardless of sexual desire. The California Legislature amended the FEHA effective January 1, 2014 to provide an employee need not show the alleged harasser’s conduct was motivated by sexual desire.  Sexual harassment is often motivated by hostility toward an individual, which is more common in same-sex harassment cases. In such instances, the harassment may appear similar to bullying conduct.

Although it is often difficult and intimidating, employees should immediately complain about workplace harassment to their supervisor, human resources department, or another responsible manager.  If your employer does not immediately and seriously take action against workplace harassment, you should immediately contact an experienced employment attorney in Orange County.

If you have questions about workplace harassment or other employment issues, please feel free to contact one of the experienced employment lawyers at Ares Law Group, P.C.  Their unique backgrounds, spreading over 30 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Ares Law Group, P.C. provide clients the experience they need, with the attorneys they want.  “Se habla Español.” Call us today for a free consultation (949) 629-2519.