Retail Giant H&M Settles Class-Action Suit for $3.8 Million

Retail Giant H&M Settles Class-Action Suit for $3.8 Million

Retail Giant H&M Settles Class-Action Suit for $3.8 Million

Retail giant H&M plans to pay a settlement of $3.8 million to refute allegations that off-the-clock work is not paid for by the company. The amount will be distributed to H&M employees who were allegedly affected by the establishment’s conduct regarding this matter. A portion of the money will also go to California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and toward employment attorneys’ fees. The settlement now awaits preliminary approval from United States District Judge Edward J. Davila.

H&M and the employees involved in the class-action lawsuit agreed to settle the dispute so that the costs and risks of continued litigation could be avoided. Workers involved in the lawsuit stated they believe the compensation offered in the settlement was fair.

Why the Plaintiffs Would Rather Settle Versus Litigate

Employees explained some of the reasoning behind their willingness to make the motion requesting approval of the settlement rather than continuing to litigate. For most workers involved in the suit, their hesitancy to continue litigating stemmed from concerns about the ultimate cost of trying the case, as well as the possibility, however slight, that they might lose.

For example, one of the complaints they feared might fail in court was their issue with the company’s policy requiring them to complete a security check when their shifts commenced. With regard to wage and hour violations, compensation for the security check could go either way during a trial. If this were the case, it would likely be due to the “de minimis rule” of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits employees from suing over minuscule amounts of unpaid time that are so short that it is viewed as unreasonable to expect compensation.  California law, however, is generally more liberal than the Fair Labor Standards Act, finding such time to be compensable in most instances.

How Settlement Funds Are Distributed

According to employment attorneys in Orange County, the terms of the H&M wage settlement state that the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency will be paid $75,000 of the $3.8 million, and $41,750 will go to administrative funds. Attorneys’ fees will be approximately $1.27 million, $250,000 is earmarked for legal costs, and workers will receive $15,000 each.

Class Certification Awarded Despite H&M’s Attempt to Prevent It

The class-action lawsuit brought forth by the retailer’s employees survived the company’s attempt to stop workers from gaining class certification. This failed for some claims, but the plaintiffs were ultimately granted class certification. Employees asked Judge Davila for certification of a group of H&M workers who have worked for the retailer since the fall of 2019 and are not exempt from overtime.

The Gray Area of Before-and-After Duties

Employees who perform shift work may encounter tasks before and after their designated start and end time, and some companies may attempt to circumvent payment for such duties. These include those listed in the class-action suit against H&M. Other examples include the time it takes for a person to change into a uniform. If it is essential to the principal activities of their employment, workers must be compensated for the time it takes to don the uniform, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”).

Not all jobs require one to perform duties prior to the start and following the end of a shift; however, federal law requires employees to be paid for many tasks that are outside their typical shift or duties, but nonetheless mandatory. For example, in certain industries, workers may have to attend meetings or participate in trainings. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay workers for lectures and training as well as additional activities, provided they are job-related and mandatory.  California employees may be able to receive compensation for such pre and post shift tasks even if the time is “de minimus” as California law follows a different standard than the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  An employment attorney is the best person to speak to if a worker has questions about wage and hour violations or other work-related issues.

H&M Retail

Source Article: https://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/employment-labor/hm-settles-wage-and-hour-class-action-for-3-8m

 

 

Lack of “Cultural Fit” Cited as Reason for Amy Palcic’s Termination from Texans

Lack of “Cultural Fit” Cited as Reason for Amy Palcic’s Termination from Texans

Employment attorneys in Orange County are following the story of the termination of Amy Palcic, the former Vice President of Communications for the NFL’s Houston Texans. Palcic referred to her termination as “humiliating,” and this is only the latest in a series of baffling moves made by The Texans, who are becoming known for off and on abrupt changes, as exemplified by the firing of Palcic.

Franchise Altering Moves Made Since October

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the Texans terminated Palcic for a lack of “cultural fit.” It may not come as a surprise to some people, however, as the Texans have made headlines for a series of franchise altering moves since October. The most notable of these was the alarming lack of return on a trade for DeAndre Hopkins, an All-Pro receiver. This move, among other head scratching decisions lead to the termination of longtime general manager and coach Bill O’Brien just four games into the current season.  While the termination itself was somewhat expected, the Texans again surprised the sports world with its timing.

Texans-Amy-Palcic

Photo Credit – New York Post

Palcic Seeks Legal Advice

Palcic has hired Joseph Ahmad, a lawyer in Houston who has made only one statement so far, in which he confirmed that Palcic retained his services. Many employment attorneys specialize in wrongful termination, gender discrimination, and similar work-related issues that involve unethical or illegal action by a person’s employer.

Ahmad is a lawyer to many executives and has tried numerous cases involving employment issues and breach-of-employment contracts. Palcic may indeed have a contract that was breached. She may also have engaged in protected activity, such as voicing concerns about specific comments made in the workplace by management or raising objections about certain practices which could lead to claims of retaliation.

Regardless of the legal theory, the case could ultimately hinge on whether or not he could poke holes in the “cultural fit” explanation given by the Texans. In other words, if the stated reason for Palcic’s termination can be proven incorrect or baseless, it would suggest that it was merely a cover for a different reason that is in violation of the law.

In the days before her firing, Palcic re-tweeted criticism of members of Donald Trump’s staff and tweeted her support of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, but there is no direct evidence that Palcic was fired because of these actions.

As legal matters go, the termination of the former VP of communications may not be a case for discrimination attorneys and may not be actionable, depending on a broad range of circumstances. It could possibly be disregarded as an inconsequential, organizational change, but all this remains to be seen. Either way, few would argue that Palcic was loved and respected by many of her colleagues, and that the Texans may once again be cast in a terrible light for this decision.

Amy Palcic  Texans

Photo by ClutchPoints

Achievements and Recognition 

In 2017, Palcic won the Pete Rozelle Award, bestowed by the Pro Football Writers of America. Her staff won the 2017 Rozelle Award as well, which is given to the best public relations team in the NFL. In 2019, Palcic was named as one of Houston Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” and included on the WISE “Women of Inspiration” list. WISE is an acronym for the organization “Women in Sports and Events.”  Many predict Palcic will land on her feet, regardless of how her story with the Texans ultimately ends.

 

X-Rated Zoom Call Incident Leads to Jeffrey Toobin’s Untimely Termination

X-Rated Zoom Call Incident Leads to Jeffrey Toobin’s Untimely Termination

Our employment attorneys in Orange County have learned that The New Yorker has terminated Jeffrey Toobin’s employment after an investigation concerning a Zoom call incident that took place last month. During the call, Toobin inadvertently exposed himself to colleagues during a break in the show. He announced his own termination on Wednesday on Twitter, and wrote that he was fired as a staff writer after having spent 27 years at The New Yorker. A spokesperson for the magazine confirmed Toobin’s statement to Variety, simply stating that Toobin was no longer affiliated with the company as a result of their investigation. 

jeffrey-toobin

CNN Screenshot

Initial Suspension After Zoom Incident

The New Yorker revealed that on October 19th, Toobin was suspended after exposing himself on a Zoom call with WNYC and some of his New Yorker colleagues. Vice’s tech news website, Motherboard, alleged that during the call Toobin was seen masturbating. Toobin made a statement to Motherboard in which he referred to the incident as “an embarrassingly stupid mistake.” He went on to apologize to his coworkers, friends, family and wife, stating that he thought he was off-camera, and therefore not visible or audible to anyone.

Statements Made to VICE

Two individuals on the call made separate statements to VICE, stating that the call was a simulation of the election, and featured some of The New Yorker’s biggest stars: establishment Republicans were played by Jane Mayer, Joe Biden was played by Evan Osnos, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Jelani Cobb played establishment Democrats, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats and Andrew Marantz played the far right. The military was played by Dexter Filkins and Jeffrey Toobin played the courts. Also on the call were several other producers from WNYC and The New Yorker. 

Both individuals who spoke to VICE did so under the condition of anonymity, and it was unclear how much was visible to each person, but both said that it was obvious to them that Toobin was masturbating. It occurred at a juncture in the election simulation during which a strategy session was underway. The “Republicans and the Democrats” dispersed to their respective rooms for approximately ten minutes. They said at this point it appeared as if Toobin was on another video call and that when the groups returned from their break out rooms, he could be seen touching himself. 

Following this incident Toobin left the call, then a few minutes later called back in, but seemed entirely unaware of what had been visible to his co-workers in the meantime. The group then continued with the simulation. On the 19th of October, Natalie Raabe–a spokesperson for The New Yorker–said that Jeffrey Toobin was suspended, and that the matter was being investigated. It is not clear whether or not the incident was directly referred to as sexual misconduct by anyone at The New Yorker, but not all comments were made public.

Career Highlights

Toobin wrote “The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson” in 1996, which was eventually adapted by FX to become part of “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” a true-crime series. Toobin is also a chief legal analyst for the cable news channel, CNN. Following the incident, he was granted time off and took a leave of absence. His status at CNN is not yet clear. CNN simply stated that they had approved his request for time off “to deal with a personal issue.”

A source told Motherboard that WNYC instructed staffers to refrain from booking Toobin on its shows or allowing him to work in any other professional capacity with the network. However, WNYC declined to comment, as did Kritsitne Dahl, the latter of whom is Tobin’s literary agent. No sexual harassment charges have been filed and it is not yet clear if Toobin will seek the advice of employment attorneys.

Controversy Surrounds Ellen DeGeneres as She Kicks Off Her Show’s Eighteenth Season

Controversy Surrounds Ellen DeGeneres as She Kicks Off Her Show’s Eighteenth Season

For several months, the Ellen DeGeneres Show–named after its host–has been steeped in controversy. Our employment attorneys in Orange County can confirm that troubling reports have emerged concerning sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as claims of racial insensitivity and intimidation involving some of the show’s staffers. DeGeneres, who is 62, apologized twice to employees for the toxic work environment and said that some employees had been let go. However, an investigation is ongoing, as she was accused of fostering that very environment. Seeking the advice of an employment attorney is typically recommended if one plans to bring such allegations. With regard to the Ellen DeGeneres Show, however, three senior staffers are no longer with the show. Recently, in front of a virtual audience, the talk show host addressed the situation.

Ellen Degeneres talks about sexual harassment

DeGeneres Expresses Regret and Speaks of Necessary Changes

In a candid monologue, DeGeneres acknowledged that things took place that never should have occurred, and she expressed her remorse to those who were affected. She made reference to her position of power and privilege, stating that such a position also comes with responsibility, which she indicated she was willing to bear. DeGeneres went on to say that numerous conversations took place in the recent past between herself and staff members, and that necessary changes were made.

The talk show host spoke of emerging as the “Be Kind Lady,” calling it a “tricky position to be in.” She received this nickname following the suicide of Tyler Clementi, who took his life in 2010 after being bullied in college for being gay. DeGeneres responded to the suicide with a strong message about the need to stop bullying of all kinds. The talk show host confirmed that although she is the kind person seen on television by her fans, she is also like everyone else in the sense that she gets impatient, anxious, frustrated, angry or sad from time to time. She referred to herself as “a work in progress,” during the virtual speech.

An Opportunity to Learn

DeGeneres spoke about how she initially got into show business to make people feel good and laugh. She said she wants her 270 employees to be proud and happy to work with her for this reason. DeGeneres also indicated that she was very sorry if she ever hurt someone’s feelings, and that if she did, she let herself down as well as that person. Later, she referred to such incidents as opportunities to learn.

DeGeneres said that despite the Black Lives Matter protests and the coronavirus pandemic, she still wants her show to be a daily hour of joy and was committed to making it the best season yet, despite the new controversy surrounding it. People Magazine reported that Portia de Rossi, DeGeneres’s wife, was backstage to show her support during the premiere and that DeGeneres received applause from her crew  as she walked off the set following the taping of the announcement.

It is unclear whether or not those who are no longer with the show are pursuing legal actions.  They may choose to seek legal advice from an employment attorney if this is the case.

 

 

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Fox News and Ed Henry

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Fox News and Ed Henry

Lawsuit Filed Against Ed Henry Alleges Sexual Assault and Harassment

Ed Henry from Fox News

According to employment attorneys in Orange County, a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday against former Fox News anchor, Ed Henry. The suit was filed by a woman previously employed by Fox News, along with a frequent guest of the network. The cable news outlet fired Henry earlier this month after receiving the complaint about his alleged willful sexual misconduct.

Multiple Defendants Named in Suit

Tucker and Hanity

Jennifer Eckhart, a plaintiff in the case, accused Henry of sexual assault, alleging that she was forced to have sex with him against her will in a hotel room. Cathy Areu, the other plaintiff, stated in the filing that sexually graphic messages and photos were sent to her by Henry. The case was filed in Federal Court in the Southern District of New York.

The sexual harassment lawsuit also names some of the most famous anchors of the cable news outlet as defendants, including Howard Kurtz, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and a Fox News contributor, Gianno Caldwell. Fox News hired an outside law firm that reportedly interviewed multiple eyewitnesses, managers, and the aforementioned hosts. The firm stated that Areu’s claims were utterly devoid of merit.

Attorney for Henry Alleges that Relationship was Consensual

Sexual harassment attorneys for Henry claim the relationship between Henry and Eckhart was consensual. Catherine Foti, an attorney for Henry, said that the defendant looks forward to offering evidence and facts to contradict the plaintiff’s allegations. Foti claims part of the evidence that will be presented includes aggressively suggestive communications and graphic photos sent from Eckhart to Henry, rather than the other way around.

Fox News executives have stated that a thorough investigation was conducted after an initial complaint was made on June 25th by a former employee about Henry’s behavior in the past. Fox News President, Jay Wallace, and Fox News Media CEO, Suzanne Scott, said that Henry was suspended the day the complaint was filed, and then ultimately terminated on July 1st, based on the findings of the investigation. Both executives said that complaints of sexual misconduct or harassment are regarded very seriously by the news outlet, and swift action was taken as soon as the problem was brought to their attention.

Fox News no Stranger to Accusations of Harassment in the Workplace

harassment lawsuit against Fox news

In 2016, the cable news station had to confront a series of embarrassing and frequently sordid lawsuits after firing Roger Ailes, its former CEO who allegedly harassed numerous female staff members and other individuals throughout his television career. Ailes denied every charge made against him, including the high-profile case brought by Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. This lawsuit ignited extensive conflict between Fox News and its parent company.  Roger Ailes died in 2017.

Plaintiffs Eckhart and Areu are seeking damages in a jury trial, but the trial date has not yet been scheduled. Anyone being victimized by sexual harassment or being unjustly accused of such behavior should seek the advice of an employment attorney in Orange County without delay.

 

 

Do I have any Recall Rights if My Employer is Bringing Laid Off Employees Back to Work?

Do I have any Recall Rights if My Employer is Bringing Laid Off Employees Back to Work?

As employers continue to try to adjust to the ever-changing economic realities brought on by COVID-19, some are now in a position to bring employees back who were previously laid off or furloughed.  Some of these laid off workers may have recall rights, which will depend on factors such as: where they worked and their industry.  Los Angeles City and County and Long Beach have enacted local Ordinances that encompass recall rights for certain laid off workers.

Covered Employers

The Ordinances only apply to certain covered employers.  Under the Los Angeles City Ordinance, certain airport employers and businesses, commercial property employers, event center employers and hotel employers are required to offer recall rights.  The Los Angeles County and Long Beach Ordinances only apply to certain commercial property and hotel employers.

Covered Employees

Under all three Ordinances, the laid off worker must also meet certain requirements to qualify for recall rights.  The laid off worker must have: (1) worked within the required geographic areas; (2) worked the requisite length of service of six (6) months or more; and (3) been separated from employment due to lack of business, a reduction in force or other economic reasons not related to discipline on or after March 4, 2020.

Recall Rights

Assuming the requirements are met to fall under one of the recall Ordinances, laid off workers are entitled to written notification of any position which becomes available for which the employee is qualified under most circumstances.  Upon receiving this notice, the laid of worker has five (5) business days to either accept or decline the offer of re-employment.  It is also important to note under the Ordinances, laid off workers are considered qualified for the position if they: (1) held the same or similar position prior to being laid off, or (2) is or can be qualified for a position with the same training that would be provided to a new hire into that position.  Accordingly, the recall rights outlined in these Ordinances are broader than simply a reinstatement to a laid off worker’s previously held position.

Union employees may not be entitled to these benefits depending on certain terms outlined in their Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Also, the Ordinances do not cover managers, supervisors or confidential employees.

Types of Notice

Laid off workers who believe they may fall under one of the Ordinances should pay special attention to their mail, email and text messages as the Ordinances allow covered employers to provide the requisite written notice to the laid off workers’ last known mailing address, email or text number.

The Ordinances also prohibit retaliation against any worker seeking to enforce or otherwise asserting their rights under the Ordinances or for participating in proceedings related to the Ordinances.

Employees who believe their rights as outlined under these Ordinances have been violated should speak with an employment attorney as all of the Ordinances provide laid off workers with the right to file a civil action seeking damages including monetary damages, reinstatement and punitive damages, after meeting certain preliminary notice requirements.