Back Pay for Unpaid Minimum Wages for Immigrant Workers

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on November 1st, 2013

Collecting Unpaid, Minimum Wages, for California’s Immigrant Workers

According to a report titled “Hollow Victories: The Crisis in Collecting Unpaid Wages for California’s Workers,” thousands of mostly immigrant workers who are employed to perform minimum- and low-wage jobs won monetary judgments against their employers but were never paid.

The report by the National Employment Law Project and the UCLA Labor Center concludes from 2008 to 2011, only 17% of court-ordered claims for back pay and labor law penalties were collected. Even after judges signed orders and employers signed settlement agreements only 42% — $165 million out of $390 million — was recovered. Meanwhile, companies representing three-fifths of unpaid-wage judgments legally vanished.

“Businesses are dissolved, licenses canceled, and it’s very hard for workers to get their money,” said Eunice Cho, a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project and coauthor of the report.

Avoiding penalties for court-ordered back wages

Avoiding court-ordered back wages and penalties is the result of an unregulated underground economy that involves cash payments for goods, services, and labor. According to a decade-old study by the Economic Roundtable, a Los Angeles public policy research organization, more than a quarter of Los Angeles County workers are paid in cash.

For each of the 27,000 legally registered janitorial companies there are two to three underground firms, said the Maintenance Corporation Trust Fund, a nonprofit group that helps victims of wage theft.

“The lowest bidder gets the contract,” said Lilia Garcia, the fund’s executive director. “The way the irresponsible business gives the lowest bid is by breaking state wage and hour laws, not paying taxes and not paying workers’ compensation insurance.”

Advocates for low-income workers are backing a proposed bill named the Fair Paycheck Act in hopes they’ll be able to collect judgments more speedily before potential scofflaw employers can switch their identities and avoid paying employees. The Act, introduced in the Legislature, AB 1164, by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), would slap a wage lien on an employer’s property in order to ensure assets are available to settle any unpaid wages after a judgment is rendered.

The measure ran into opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which added the proposal to its list of “Job Killer” bills. It has been stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Other business trade groups and chambers of commerce have criticized the proposal, saying it “would cripple California businesses by allowing any employee, employee representative or the Labor commissioner to file super-priority liens on an employer’s real property … for an alleged, yet unproven wage claim.”

Lowenthal intends to revive her bill next year.

“AB 1164 is about fairness,” she said. “Every Californian deserves to be paid the wages they are due.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

Racial Discrimination Charged by African-American Hooter’s Waitress

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination on October 27th, 2013

Hair Color Deemed Improper for An African-American Woman

Farryn Johnson, an African-American 25-year-old Hooters waitress, alleges she was let go because of her blonde highlights, even thought white waitresses are allowed to color their hair at the chain restaurant.

In the racial discrimination complaint filed with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Johnson is claiming she was let go from her job on grounds of having an “improper image” after she refused to remove the blonde highlights from her dark brown hair.

“They gave me write-ups, and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair. And they said I couldn’t have blond in my hair because I’m black. They specifically said, ‘Black women don’t have blond in their hair, so you need to take it out,'” Johnson said.

In her complaint she wrote, “Because Hooters permits non-African-American women with their hair dyed colors vastly different from their natural hair colors to work as Hooters Girls, I believe Hooters only deemed my hair color ‘improper’ because I am an African-American woman. I was discharged because Hooters imposes different and more restrictive beauty standards on African-American women than it does on women of other races.”

…employers can’t have two separate unequal sets of rules

Her attorney, Jessica Weber, had this to say; “The law is clear that employers can’t have two separate unequal sets of rules-one for African-Americans employees and one for everybody else, and yet that’s exactly what Hooters did here in firing Miss Johnson, an African-American employee solely because she’s African-American. They targeted her because of her hair solely because of her race.”

Hooters’ chief human resources officer, Rebecca Sinclair said in a statement, “When you’re representing an iconic brand, there are standards to follow.

Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known.” She went on to say, “Hooters adamantly denies that it has different policies and standards for hair based on race. As a global brand, Hooters embraces our culturally diverse employee base and our standards are applied impartially.”

Peter K. Levine

A Professional Law Corporation

Bank Of America Ordered to Pay $2.18m in Racial Discrimination Case

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on October 4th, 2013

The bank’s “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” led to the rejection of qualified black candidates

The U.S. Department of Labor is reporting that Bank of America Corp, the second-largest bank in the U.S., was ordered to pay $2.18 million to 1,147 black job applicants for alleged racial discrimination in their hiring process that barred qualified candidates from being hired.

The decision and order made by an administrative law judge at the Labor Department, Linda Chapman, awards back pay and interest to former candidates seeking teller, clerical, and entry-level administrative positions in the bank’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Chapman concluded in a statement that Bank of America’s “unfair and inconsistent selection criteria” led to the rejection of qualified black candidates.

About $1.22 million would go to 113 people who were rejected during the hiring process between 2002 and 2005. Another $964,000 would go to 1,034 people who were rejected in 1993.

The Labor Department initially filed its first complaint against Bank of America in 1997. Allegedly, the bank had challenged its authority to pursue the case.

The most recent order followed two settlements of litigation regarding alleged bias that Bank of America disclosed within the last month.

“We are currently reviewing this recommended decision and order,” said Bank of America spokesman, Christopher Feeney. “At Bank of America, diversity and inclusion are part of our culture and core company values. We actively promote an environment where all employees have an opportunity to succeed.”

The Labor Department said Bank of America’s, a federally insured financial institution, qualified as a federal contractor, putting it under the OFFCP’s purview.

This is not the first time Bank of America has been involved in this type of litigation

In August, the bank reached a $160 million settlement with hundreds of black Merrill Lynch & Co brokers who alleged racial bias in the areas of pay, promotions, and allocation of large accounts.

And in September, it reached a $39 million settlement with female brokers claiming they were paid less than their male counterparts and that they had been deprived of their share of major accounts.

“Judge Chapman’s decision upholds the legal principle of making victims of discrimination whole, and these workers deserve to get the full measure of what is owed to them,” said Patricia Shiu, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFFCP).

If you feel that you have been the victim of discrimination in hiring, promotion, layoffs, or any other aspect of employment related actions, you need the services of an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles. Please contact the Law Offices of Peter K. Levine at (323) 617-4406 or visit the Discrimination page on our website. Call today and we will connect you with Peter K. Levine, an experienced, aggressive, affordable Discrimination Attorney in Los Angeles. After you have spoken with our Los Angeles Discrimination attorney, we can schedule you a free face to face appointment to discuss your circumstances. If you have questions or concerns with any aspect of Discrimination and Employment, we can help! Call us now at (323) 617-4406. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your Discrimination Law case.

Fast Food Chain Accused of Failure to Accommodate Religious Beliefs

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law on October 1st, 2013

The EEOC has accused two corporations that operate a chain of Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants: Scottish Food Systems, Inc. and Laurinburg KFC Take Home, Inc., of violating federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and firing her because of her religion.

According to the EEOC’s employment discrimination lawsuit, the employee, Sheila Silver converted to Pentecostalism in 2010. A belief of the Pentecostal church is women should wear skirts rather than pants. In accordance with this religious belief Silver has not worn pants since the fall of 2010.

Silver has worked at various Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant locations since 1992. Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home purchased the KFC restaurant where Silver worked in April 2013. At that time, they informed Silver, citing their dress code policy that she must wear pants to work.

Silver told Scottish Food Systems and Laurinburg KFC Take Home she could not wear pants because of her religious beliefs and the companies fired her for refusing to wear pants to work.

Civil Rights Act violations

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs as long as doing so does not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“Employers must respect employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs and carefully consider requests made by employees based on those beliefs,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s continued commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”

EEOC: Buffalo employee fired after standing up for hiring black worker

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 29th, 2013

Production manager fired for hiring recommendation

According to a federal lawsuit, Myrna Peltonen, a production manager lost her job at Izza Bending Tube & Wire, a small industrial company for defending her recommendation that a temporary black worker be permanently hired after logging 500 hours with the company.

When the owner of the company, Scott Landgraf, rebuffed the recommendation, he punctuated his point with racist language, and also told Peltonen to let the worker go, alleges the suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Peltonen was demoted to an office position and had her pay cut when she refused to let the worker go.

The worker, Randall L. Smith, “worked hard and deserved the opportunity for a full-time permanent position with benefits at Izza,” says Peltonen. “This case is about doing what is right and taking a stand against intolerance. Mr. Smith deserved better. Everyone at Izza deserved better.?”

Peltonen then also escalated to Creative Staffing Solutions, the temporary employment agency that placed Smith, about what Landgraf had said. She also told Smith.

The owner of the staffing agency, Rose Vaughn suggested to Smith that he be fired, and she then gave Izza a false reason for why Smith would not be working there anymore. The agency also stopped trying to find work for Smith.

Discrimination charge filed

Peltonen filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC a couple of weeks later. She was then fired from Izza after having been with the company for about 14 months.

The EEOC hopes to win back pay as well as force Izza to put in place an anti-retaliation policy that complies with federal law.
“Myrna Peltonen was a woman who felt she was just doing her job, and did not want to make a fuss,” says Jean Kamp, an associate regional attorney for the EEOC. ” But she felt that this was wrong and that she had to become involved. The EEOC will support such a woman as strongly as we can.”

Car Dealership Accused of Offensive and Hostile Work Environment

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 27th, 2013

Council on American-Islamic Relations blames finance manager

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has accused Rizza Cadillac Inc. of violating federal law by allegedly encouraging a work environment that was hostile and offensive to Muslim and Arab sales employees Medhat Adawy, his son Adam, and Mohammed El-Hajjami when they worked from January 2007 to November 2009.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman Maryam Arain blamed Rizza Cadillac’s finance manager. Allegedly the dealership fired the Adawys in September 2009 and terminated El-Hajjami two months later. That same year the finance manager was promoted to general manager.

The EEOC claims managers at the dealership created a discriminatory work environment by using offensive slurs as well as mocking references to the Quran and the manner in which Muslims pray.

John C. Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney said, “Employers may not allow managers to repeatedly make offensive slurs and insults about an employee’s religion or national origin.

“Comments implying that all Muslims are terrorists cannot be excused or minimized by calling it mere ‘banter’ about a minority ethnicity or religion.

The EEOC stands ready to protect Muslim and Arab workers when they are subjected to such harassment.”

Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures…

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s district office, said an investigation showed “Rizza Cadillac failed to take prompt and effective measures to stop and prevent this abusive misconduct, as they were required to do by federal law. Employees should be judged by their performance, not their religion or ethnicity.”

Harassment based on national origin or religion violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The commission filed suit in federal court after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The lawsuit filed against the new car dealership seeks compensatory and punitive damages and requires the dealership to implement measures to prevent a recurrence of harassment as well as a permanent injunction against future discrimination.

Chicago restaurant accused of being “a hotbed of racism”

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 26th, 2013

Since the 1970’s Alex Dana’s Rosebud restaurants have been comfortable places for diners seeking hearty Italian entrees. The company operates 10 sites in the Chicago area and employs more than 900 people.

But allegedly, according to a recently filed federal lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Rosebud is also a hotbed of racism and discriminatory practices and has been since late 2009.

The EEOC claims the restaurant violated civil rights laws by refusing to hire blacks. It found during its investigation, most Rosebud restaurant  locations had no black employees. The EEOC charges that these discriminatory practices have occurred at the 10 current locations as well as three other locations that have been closed.

John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for the EEOC said the lawsuit seeks compensation for black applicants denied employment, a class of potentially hundreds of people.

Hendrickson alleges that based on interviews with numerous witnesses the restaurant uses slurs when talking about blacks, and also that Dana and other managers have expressed a preference not to hire African Americans. The EEOC claims it has tried “informal methods of conciliation, conference and persuasion” involving Rosebud, but to no avail.

Rosebud spokesman claims “zero tolerance” for discrimination

A spokesman for Rosebud sites the company’s “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination, saying it has cooperated with the EEOC. “We have provided them 32,000 job applications and copies of other documents,” the spokesman said. In a separate statement, a spokesperson said, “We consider it our mission to treat our employees as a family – with honesty and respect – and we are proud of our employment record and the diversity of our work force.”

The company states they have no reliable data on the racial composition of its work force. A spokesman said the reports are based on information employees provide voluntarily. Many do not fill out the form, he said.

Hendrickson said the company’s hiring record was so outrageous as to immediately suggest bias. “There are lame excuses and there are lamer excuses,” he said.

The EEOC has also accused Rosebud of violating federal law by failing to hold onto employment applications for at least a year and by not filing required annual reports with the agency before 2009. These annual reports are required of companies with more than 100 employees. They include information data on workers’ job categories, race, ethnicity and gender.

Major Retailer Loses in a Civil Rights Lawsuit

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on September 23rd, 2013

Former employee claimed she was fired for wearing a hijab

Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) has lost a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of a former employee who said she was fired for wearing a head scarf, also known as a hijab.

In late 2009, Umme-Hani Khan, then 19, started working at a Bay Area Hollister store. She wore a head scarf during her interview and regularly on the job but was allegedly fired four months later after a district manager visited the store.

Khan says she was approached by her manager and that the manager “Expressed concern about my hijab,” Khan said. “That’s when I felt like it was not appropriate, what they were saying.”

She was terminated after refusing to remove the hijab while at work. According to court documents the company offered her the job back eleven days later, as long as she did not wear the hijab. She declined the offer.
The manager and a corporate human resources director said the scarf violated the company dress code. At the crux of the issue is Abercrombie’s dress code.

Look Policy

Internally referred to as the “Look Policy,” the dress code includes a grooming guidebook for employees outlining everything from what they should wear to how they should style their hair while on the job.

In court, the Abercrombie argued that the hijab, worn by Muslim women as a sign of modesty, would negatively affect sales. The dress code goes to the “very heart of its business model” and that any deviation from it threatens its bottom line. But the judge said in writing “Abercrombie failed to offer any evidence from those four months showing a decline in sales.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the case on behalf of Khan in 2011. A California district judge ruled that the termination violated the portion of the Civil Rights Act that bars religious discrimination.

Women’s Track Coach Alleges Discrimination

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law on September 17th, 2013

Suspended for a Prior Relationship

Former Texas women’s track and field coach Bev Kearney, who alleged discrimination based on gender, race and retaliation in an official charge last spring, has not yet filed a lawsuit against the university but likely will within the next month. Coach Kearney won six national titles in track at UT.

Kearney was suspended when school officials discovered she had had a relationship with a student some ten years prior. Kearney alleges she was disciplined for an offense for which other coaches have not suffered similar discipline. Kearney resigned after she claims she was told by school officials they were prepared to fire her.

Case Depends on Similar Offenses

Her case will depend on the extent to which she can show other coaches or other staff members committed the same or similar offense and were then treated more leniently.

The employee must show 1) the comparator is truly comparable, and 2) the offense is the same or similar. And, her case has another twist. The fact she resigned adds another twist. The law recognizes that some situations are so intolerable that a person feels they must quit, but, the situation must be so bad that a person’s health is at stake, or the treatment is so degrading. Under Title VII, a person is not entitled to any remedies if s/he voluntarily quits.

There will surely be an issue regarding the extent to which her termination was truly imminent or likely.

After six months, an employee can ask the EEOC for permission to file suit. The 180-day anniversary of Kearney’s initial complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission has now passed. In that document, she said she was “subjected to a severely hostile work environment” and former coach intends to sue soon.

UT officials have said they disagree with the allegations in her claim of discrimination, but said they would review them “thoroughly.”

Three California police officers suing for discrimination

By Scott posted in Discrimination on August 16th, 2013

California police officers appear to be facing wide-spread discrimination lately. Earlier this week, we talked about a California lieutenant in Concord who recently settled his retaliation lawsuit with the department. Now, we will talk about three Latino officers who say they have been passed up for multiple promotions on the basis of their race.

Three officers with the Westminster Police Department has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they are suffering from race discrimination. In particular, they argue that they have been passed over for promotions, with the department opting to promote less experienced white officers over them.

One plaintiff gave a specific example of his application for a detective position a few years ago. The Latino officer is a U.S. Marine Corps major and has received many positive performance reviews while on the police force. Despite his credentials, the position was given to a white candidate with no military experience, no college degree and only one year on the job as an officer.

The Latino officer described that “it’s glaring to the point where I can’t figure out anything else except discrimination.” Together, the three men say that they have been denied at least 30 promotions. Most of the time, they say, officers who had less experience and fewer qualifications were given the positions over the Latino officers.

Of the 90 police officers in the Westminster Police Department, only 12 are Latino. Three of them are involved in this lawsuit, which they hope will cause the department to correct its discriminatory practices. They men are requesting monetary damages as well as promotions to the positions they have been passed over for.

Sexual Harassment Attorney Los Angeles – Peter K. Levine

Source: San Jose Mercury News, “Police officers file employer discrimination suit,” Amy Taxin, 2 March 2011

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