Showing posts with label retaliation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retaliation. Show all posts

Monday, May 2, 2022

I’m begging you, STOP firing union organizers

Brenda Garcia led union efforts at Chipotle as one of its employees. Or, rather, she was one of its employees until last week, when the restaurant chain fired her

Employers, I'm begging you, please stop firing union organizers. It's illegal. It's also a terrible union avoidance strategy because you're playing right into their hands.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Jury awards $450,000 to employee fired over unwanted birthday party

Kevin Berling, a 10-month employee of Gravity Diagnostics, made a simple request of the manager of his office —"Please don't throw me a birthday party; I have an anxiety disorder."

What happened next spiraled into a lawsuit that lasted more than two and half years and ended late last month with a $450,000 verdict for the employee.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Brian Flores burns down the house in his lawsuit against the NFL … and makes himself unemployable in the process

If you haven't read the lawsuit Brian Flores filed against the NFL and three of its franchises, you should. It reads like a law school employment law exam question. It has allegations of systemic and endemic racial discrimination, fraud, bribery, and Bill Belichek inadvertently providing the smoking gun text message.

This lawsuit will likely bring much-needed change to the NFL's hiring practices. It will also likely mark the end of Flores' coaching career. I'd be shocked if he ever coaches again.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Whistleblowing and self-help discovery: lessons from Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower

"Can she do that?" That was the question my wife asked me as we watched last night's interview of Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, on 60 Minutes.

The "that" was the revelation that Haugen stole a trove of confidential documents just prior to quitting her job to support her allegations against her employer.

"It depends," I told my wife, offering the stock lawyer answer to most questions.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

6th Circuit applies False Claim Act’s anti-retaliation protections to ex-employees

In the history of this blog's 3,603 posts, I've never written about the False Claim Act. If you've been waiting with bated breath for me to fix this omission, today's your lucky day, thanks to United States ex rel. David Felten, M.D., Ph.D. v. William Beaumont Hosp. (6th Cir. 3/31/21). Before diving into the Felten case, let's first take a 61-word peek at the False Claims Act and to what it applies.

The False Claims Act is a federal statute that imposes liability on people and companies that defraud the federal government, and further, relevant to Felten, permits private citizens (which the law calls "relators") to file lawsuits (known as qui tam claims) on behalf of the government and protects relators from retaliation when the lawsuit they are filing is against their employer.

At issue in Felten is whether the FCA's anti-retaliation protections only cover current employees, or whether they also extend to an employer's former employee who blows the whistle by filing a qui tam suit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Even though this employer won its ex-employee’s retaliation lawsuit, PLEASE don’t do what it did

Family businesses are difficult to manage. They become even more difficult when the owners are spouses, and an employee accuses one of sexual harassment.

For example, consider Allen v. Ambu-Stat.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Just because you’re out on FMLA does not grant you a license to threaten your co-workers

“Hey pussy … I’m going to get you for what you did.”

Ordinarily, if one employee confronts another employee with a threat like the one above, you’d consider it grounds for termination. Maurice Darby, however, claimed that the fact that he made the threat while out on FMLA leave constituted grounds for retaliation after his employer terminated him.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

No, your FMLA does not grant you license to threaten your coworkers

After being harassed by co-workers, Paul Ellis took to Facebook to air his grievances publicly. Among his comments was one that could be perceived as a threat violence: “he’s gonna have an accident on the dock.” When another employee brought a printout of the post to their employer, FedEx, an investigation began. During that investigation. Ellis admitted that one could perceive that comment as a threat. As a result, FedEx fired him.

Prior to his termination, Ellis frequently took leave under the FMLA to receive treatments for his chronic back pain and to take care of his sick mother. He alleged that FedEx retaliated against him for his use of FMLA leave by terminating him.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

It is an inexcusable sin for an employer NOT to have an anti-discrimination policy

There are some employment policies that you can get away with not having. An anti-discrimination policy is not one of them.

In Hubbell v. FedEx SmartPost (decided yesterday by the 6th Circuit), FedEx learned this lesson the hard way.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ohio lawmakers seek to expand the protections of the Ohio Whistleblower Act

Laws protecting whistle-blowers from retaliation have a long and storied history in the annals of American law. Indeed, according to The Personal Toll of Whistleblowing, recently published in The New Yorker*, these laws date back 241 years to the American Revolution and the Second Continental Congress:

The first documented whistle-blowing case in the United States took place in 1777, not long after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when a group of naval officers, including Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven, witnessed their commanding officer torturing British prisoners of war. When they reported the misconduct to Congress, the commanding officer charged Shaw and Marven with libel, and both men were jailed. The following year, Congress passed a law protecting whistle-blowers, and Shaw and Marven were acquitted by a jury.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Your employees do not understand their (lack of) free speech rights

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech….

So reads the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.

Take note that it does not say, “You have absolute freedom of speech in all things at all times.” It only prohibits government-imposed restrictions on speech.

Yet, just last week, President Trump tweeted the following:

I am continuing to monitor the censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS on social media platforms. This is the United States of America — and we have what’s known as FREEDOM OF SPEECH! We are monitoring and watching, closely!!

I promise you that if the President of the United States does not understand how the 1st Amendment works, your employees don’t understand it either.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The three things you need to know from the EEOC's 2018 charge data

Yesterday, the EEOC released its charge statistics for 2018. There are three big things you need to know.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Does Title VII protect an employee's self-help discovery?

Suppose one of your employees believes that she was discriminated against because of her protected class. She files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and, in support of the charge, provides the agency information from your confidential personnel files that she had copied. In response, you fire the employee for violating your confidentiality policy? She then files a new charge, alleging that her termination was in retaliation for her protected activity of gathering evidence in support of her discrimination claim.

Does her retaliation claim succeed?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Timing of retaliation is key factor in reinstatement of employee's lawsuit

"See something, say something" is one of the most important elements of any workplace intent on stopping harassment. Employers are supposed to empower employees to report any harassment they witness, whether or not they are the target. Key to this idea is ensuring that employees who report harassment do not suffer retaliation as result. Retaliation of any kind will chill efforts of employees to say what they see.

With this background in mind, consider Donley v. Stryker Sales Corp. (7th Cir. 10/15/18) [pdf].

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Temporary employees have permanent legal rights

Temporary employees do not leave their legal rights at your door. In fact, they enjoy the same rights as your permanent employees.

Consider, for example, EEOC v. Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, in which an employer recently agreed to pay $65,000 to settle claims brought by a temporary employee that she was subjected to a sexually hostile work environment and fired after repeatedly complaining about it.

The allegations are not pretty.

LaToya Young began working as a temp at Massimo Zanetti in late January 2015. Within 10 days of starting her placement, a male co-worker began making sexually harassing comments to her:

  • Telling Young that he had "blue balls" and asking her "Why don’t you help me out with that?"
  • Telling Young that he wanted to "suck [her] bottom lip."
  • Telling Young that he wanted to have sex with her, often using lewd language.
  • Telling Young that he imagined himself engaging in sexual relations with her.
  • Telling Young that he would "ball [her] up like a pretzel" and would "have [her] screaming."
  • Grabbing his groin area while looking directly at her.
  • Blowing kisses at her.
  • Licking his lips and biting his bottom lip while looking at her.

Young complained three times to her supervisor. The harassment continued unabated after the first complaint. After the second complaint, Young alleges that her supervisor warned her that going to HR "would jeopardize her employment." After the third complaint, she was fired. 

According to EEOC Regional Attorney Kara Haden, "Employers must take appropriate action to stop harassment of all employees, including temporary workers." She adds, "We hope that this case sends a clear message that the EEOC will hold accountable employers who fail to protect all employees from workplace harassment."

Take heed of this lesson. Your temporary employees have the same civil rights as your permanent employees.

* Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Nearly half of American workers admit to engaging in workplace revenge

Photo by Avalon_Mists on Pixabay
And every time I scratch my nails
Down someone else’s back I hope you feel it
Alanis Morisette 
Revenge. So natural, and yet so wrong. “Turn the other cheek” is always the preferred practice, and, yet, often life is more “smack you in the cheek” as you turn away.

Even at work.

According to a recent study, 44 percent of workers admit to partaking in some type of workplace revenge.

Monday, February 19, 2018

NLRB dismisses James Damore charge against Google—complaints about too much diversity are not protected

It is lawful for an employer to fire an employee who complains that his workplace is too diverse

According to the NLRB, the answer, at least under federal labor law, is yes, the termination is legal.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Is employee copying of documents protected activity or unlawful stealing?

It’s a situation that plays out all too often. An employee emails a slew of documents to a personal email address, or drags them into a personal Dropbox, or copies them to a stick drive.

Your first instinct is to assume that the employee is engaged in something nefarious, fire the employee, and even sue for misappropriation of trade secrets/confidential information.

But might there be something else going on? What if, instead of competing against you, the employee is preparing to go to battle against you in a discrimination lawsuit?

Does an employee have a right to copy your documents to prepare a discrimination lawsuit?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Timing is everything when defending a retaliation claim

Miriam Valle worked as a ticket agent for Frank Martz Coach Company, until it fired her on January 27, 2016.

Two weeks prior, she had advised her immediate supervisor, Edward Steltz, that she needed to apply for FMLA leave for breast cancer surgery. Martz approved the leave to begin on January 19, and was scheduled to return to work on January 25 following her surgery. Complications pushed that return dated back by four days. Before she could return, however, Martz fired her following an investigation into complaints by co-workers that she had made violent threats (allegations which Valle denied).

In Valle v. Frank Martz Coach Company (M.D. Pa. 11/16/17), the court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment and held Valle’s FMLA retaliation claim for trial.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Letter to employees during EEOC investigation may violate discrimination laws

Suppose an employee files an EEOC charge of discrimination against you. And, further suppose that during the investigation, you receive a request from the agency for the name and contact information for all similarly situated employees. You correctly assume at the EEOC may use the information to contact your employees for investigatory interviews.

Do you—
  1. Allow the EEOC process to proceed; or
  2. Inform your employees of the nature of the charge, the EEOC investigation, that the EEOC may contact them, and that their participation would be 100 percent voluntary?
If you choose option “2”, you may have violated federal discrimination laws, at least according to a Connecticut federal judge.