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Ohio Nurse Brings Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

By Peter Levine posted in Discrimination, Employment Law, Law on November 20th, 2013

Operating Room Nurse Claims Wrongful Termination After a Healthy Kidney Was Discarded

Operating room nurse, Melanie Lemay, fired from the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) almost a year ago after a kidney intended for transplant was accidentally discarded, has filed a lawsuit against the hospital for wrongful discharge, defamation, slander, and libel. The lawsuit seeks damages exceeding $25,000.

Allegedly the kidney, was accidentally disposed of by another nurse, Judith K. Moore. Ms. Moore, a part-time employee resigned. Mrs. Lemay, a 30-year employee of UTMC was fired.

Nurse Claims Healthy Kidney Was Accidentally Discarded Due to Computer System

According to lawsuit, on the day of surgery, Moore failed to log out of the hospital computer system before taking a scheduled break. The oversight required Lemay to make entries in the system under Moore’s chart while Moore was on her break.

Upon returning from her lunch break, Moore failed to obtain a status update before proceeding to remove the kidney from the OR and disposing of it.

Lemay upholds she did not witness the removal of the items and was unaware they had been removed after the other nurse had returned from her break.

Tragically, the kidney was a viable organ. Lemay claims she was fired for failure to stop the other nurse from removing items from the operating room before the procedure had concluded, as well as violating policies on communications and logging out procedures but that UTMC implemented new policies and procedures for responsibility of transfers in operating rooms six days after the incident occurred.

Nurse Claims Wrongful Termination Due to Policies Implemented After the Kidnay was Discarded

Lemay also alleges that the dossier of hospital OR policies and procedures that hospital administrators submitted to investigators with the Department of Health was identified as having an effective date of August 16, six days after the failed procedure in question.

The complaint claims Lemay’s firing was motivated by UTMC’s “need to deflect its responsibility for the inadequate policies that were in place on Aug. 10, 2012, and to uphold the public image of its kidney transplant program.”

State officials denied the initial claims for unemployment benefits. But after two telephone hearings with witnesses the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission ruled that Mrs. Lemay “was discharged by the defendant without just cause in connection with work.”

Vesper C. Williams II said, “It’d be nice. Something. Because she was only six months from the ability to retire. By getting fired, she lost the ability to get the next six months in and lost her health insurance after 30 days, and she was the primary breadwinner.”

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

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

http://www.employmentforall.org/

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.”

Wrongfully Terminated Bus Driver Reinstated by the NLRB

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law on September 9th, 2013

Still waiting for his back pay

A year ago, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered Latino Express to reinstate driver Pedro Salgado with back pay and benefits after he was fired for trying to organize drivers at the Chicago-based bus company.

Salgado, who was unemployed for about a year, was reinstated as a driver at $14 an hour. But he’s still waiting for his back pay.

His case is among the more than 100 in which the NLRB ruled in favor of workers and unions but which remain in limbo as a result of company challenges of the NLRB’s authority.

The issue stems from an appellate court ruling that presidential appointments to the NLRB in 2012 were unconstitutional due to the fact they were made during a short Senate recess. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the lower court’s decision at the request of the Obama administration.
In the interim, companies have seized on the appellate court’s decision, stalling other apparent worker victories.

“There are forces in this country that don’t like the labor law and what it stands for but they know that it would be unpopular to attack workers’ rights directly, so instead of attacking workers’ rights directly, they attack the agency that protects workers’ rights, but the effect is the same, it hurts working people,” said Lynn Rhinehart, general counsel for the AFL-CIO.

Some Republicans have characterized the labor board under President Barack Obama as a rogue agency that has tried to obtain and hold onto power by issuing rules rather than just hearing disputes between labor and management.

The board has been led by Democrats since 2010, with no Republicans since December as the appointment process stalled amid a stalemate between the Obama administration and Congress. Last week, the Senate confirmed five members of the NLRB, including two Republicans. With these two new Republican members, the board will at least consider a business agenda, said Steve Bernstein, a labor attorney who represents management.

“For the first time in quite a while, you’ll have the prospect for real dissent,” Bernstein told Bloomberg News. “Dissents are very valuable for the courts on appeal, because they have an opportunity to perhaps gauge both sides of an issue more effectively.”

Unfortunately, experts expect the NLRB to only deal with cases going forward and not to revisit cases that are pending before the courts.

“Justice is not denied, but delayed, and that’s not acceptable,” said Leah Fried, a spokeswoman with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union.

Barista Fired for Eating Out of the Garbage: Wrongful Termination?

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 6th, 2013

Starbuck’s policy claims it’s for health reasons

A Starbucks barista claims he was recently fired for eating one of the cafe’s famous breakfast sandwiches — out of the garbage.

Coulson Loptmann, 21, says his manager told him eating something from the trash is “considered stealing,” according to a report in Seattle-based alternative weekly The Stranger. Loptmann explained, however, the sandwich was expired and had already been marked out.

“It sounds ridiculous, but having bread and mustard and mayonnaise and some kind of meat and lettuce—it doesn’t sound expensive, but that adds up. … There were some days where I lived off of Starbucks food,” said Loptmann, who used to get a 30 percent discount and a few free coffees a day from Starbucks.

On the day he took the sandwich from the garbage, Loptmann said: “I hadn’t eaten all day and I was on a seven-hour shift.”

He didn’t think anyone at the company would have a problem with it but he was wrong.

A week later, his manager sat him down and told him she had found out about him taking the sandwich from the garbage and took the matter to human resources. He was then told: “they consider it stealing, and it’s against policy. So I’m sorry, but I have to terminate you.” Loptmann was fired on the spot.

Loptmann reports he made $9.94 an hour for 23 to 32 hours a week and brought in another $30 in tips — at most $348 before taxes and that he had asked for more hours, but did not receive them. He survives partly on food stamps because his paycheck isn’t always enough for him to buy food.

Eating marked-out food at Starbucks is against company policy — because it’s considered stealing, and for health reasons. “We don’t want our partners to consume something that could make them sick,” Starbucks spokesman Zach Hutson said.

Hutson confirmed Loptmann’s firing and said an employee wouldn’t normally be let go for a single violation of this policy, but Loptmann was let go in light of a history of “documented performance issues,” which he declined to specify.

Fast Food Workers Face A Tough Situation

The situation for fast food workers can be tough with little chance for advancement and 70 percent earn between $7.26 and $10.09 an hour.

“Not only are wages low in these industries, but you compound it with the fact that you’re not even getting full time hours and that contributes to the very high poverty rates that these workers experience,” said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, attorney at the National Employment Law Project. Many of the workers are forced into such government programs as food stamps and subsidized housing.

All this comes on the heels of a worker strike planned across the nation this month.

Welcome to Our Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

By Scott posted in Employment Law on August 16th, 2013

At the Los Angeles law firm of Peter K Levine, we know that an employee’s expectation of a consistently fair playing field in the work place is often undermined by behaviors that harass, discriminate and otherwise violate his or her legal rights.

As an employment law firm headed by an attorney with decades of proven success representing clients who have suffered from the adverse work behavior of an employer and/or other employees, we are exceptionally well- placed and strongly disposed to do something about that. We routinely resolve both individual and class action cases concerning all types of employment law violations.

Our firm offers strong and smart advocacy across a full spectrum of employment matters, including the following:

  • Wage and hour disputes, including unpaid overtime
  • Wrongful termination
  • Discrimination
  • Employer retaliation
  • Sexual harassment
  • Whistleblower claims
  • Unpaid meals and rest breaks
  • Employer paychecks with insufficient funds
  • Use-it-or-lose-it vacation policies

We view our blog as an important educational component of our practice, and seek to have it provide timely and important information to clients with employment concerns. We welcome feedback and thank you for visiting.

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