A female ironworker was fired from a Staten Island construction project after complaining that a male colleague demanded her panties and took photos of her in the bathroom.

The 34-year-old woman of Long Island says she was recruited to work for the company in July because of her “experience and professionalism.”

Two weeks into the project, the woman said a male colleague accused her of flirting with a shop steward. She said he told her that he would tell her fiance unless she gave him her underwear.

The woman reported the behavior to her supervisor and the man was reportedly reprimanded, but the harassment continued.

The man followed the woman to the porta potty and took pictures of her through a broken vent above the door and then threatened to disclose the pics unless she had sex with him, according to court papers.

The woman reported the incident to the union and her boss, but the man still shared the images with male coworkers.

When she demanded a more secure bathroom, she was fired in August.

She is suing for back pay and other damages.

Every person has the right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment. Despite the laws that are set in place to protect workers from illegal behavior, sexual harassment cases are filed every single day. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Employment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are committed to helping employees who have suffered harassment on the job get the justice they deserve.

Sexual harassment is unacceptable in the workplace. This includes any unwelcome comments, actions, or behaviors that affect your ability to enjoy and perform your job, such as:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Demands for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical conduct with sexual undertones

Continue reading

On Friday, a Jackson County Circuit Court jury awarded $20 million in punitive damages in a case that alleged retaliation, age and sex discrimination against an American Family Insurance sales manager.

The plaintiff, a 60-year-old woman of Blue Springs, brought the case against the company and a former Missouri state director of the company who supervised her.

The woman continues to be an American Family agent after she was removed from her manager position in a corporate restructuring.

A spokesman for American Family said Monday that the company strongly disagrees with the verdict “and believe it is contrary to the facts and testimony that were presented at trial.”

The media relations director for the company said: “We do not illegally discriminate in any way, and there was no discrimination in this situation. We are considering our options for appeal.”

Attorneys for the woman said they believed the jury agreed that she was targeted as part of a corporate movement to let older workers go and hire younger ones.

The plaintiff’s case included testimony that the woman was an award-winning sales manager and had produced results on par with or better than her peers who were younger and mostly men.

The jury also awarded $450,000 in actual damages.

There are many Federal and Florida laws and statutes that all prohibit discrimination in the workplace. In Florida, employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, or age.

The law prohibits any such discrimination in hiring, firing, promotion, job assignment and pay. Employment discrimination can encompass many different things. Rude jokes, failure to promote, and reasons for termination can all constitute discrimination.

Continue reading

McDonald’s has settled a case with workers who said they were subject to labor violations at franchisee-owned stores.

This is the first time the corporation has settled a case with employees.

The company agreed to pay $3.75 million to workers who alleged that several San Francisco Bay Area McDonald’s stores miscalculated their pay, denied them overtime, and did not compensate them for cleaning their uniforms, according to documents filed Friday in a U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The Bay Area workers argued that they reasonably believed they were employed by McDonald’s, which stamped its logo on their paychecks, uniforms and orientation materials. U.S. District Court Judge James Donato thought that argument was rational enough to be heard by a jury, which is apparently something McDonald’s wanted to avoid.

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s, said in an email that a California court had already determined that the company was not a joint employer. “We entered into this mutually acceptable resolution to avoid the costs and disruption associated with continued litigation,” the spokeswoman wrote.

If approved by a federal judge, $1.75 million of the settlement will go to more than 800 workers and $2 million will go to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The franchisee had already settled with the workers for about $700,000.

The same plaintiffs’ lawyers have already argued in another case, also in San Francisco, that a group of 1,200 workers at McDonald’s stores owned by a franchisee can sue the company on the theory that they rationally believed the company was their employer.

A federal judge is expected to rule on the demand for class-action status in December.  

McDonald’s operates under a franchise business model, so a good amount of McDonald’s restaurants are not actually owned by McDonald’s USA, the franchisor, but by independent franchisees. Lots of fast food chains operate under a similar model. The franchise model has been viewed as a way to guard against liability for employment law claims due to the fact that the franchisee is ultimately responsible for employment matters. While this has been found true in many employment law cases, there has also been an exception in certain situations where the franchisor and franchisee are viewed as joint employers, which is what is being brought up in this particular suit. To be a joint employer, the franchisor would have to have been directly involved in some way in the day-to-day operations of the franchisee.

Continue reading

A jury awarded former Penn State assistant football coach Mike McQueary $7.3 million in damages on Thursday, finding that he was defamed by the university after it became public that he had reported seeing another former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in a team shower.

McQueary was a key witness in the sexual molestation case.

A decade before the Sandusky scandal broke in 2011, McQueary testified that he reported to then-head coach Joe Paterno that he saw Sandusky engaged in a “clear” sex act with a young boy.

McQueary, who was a graduate student at the time, claims because of that testimony he lost his assistant coaching job and was made a scapegoat in the case. He was criticised for failing to stop the abuse he witnessed.

McQueary said that since his testimony was made public he’s been unable to find work, his marriage broke up and he lives with his parents.

The university argued in court that McQueary’s contract was not renewed in a routine shake-up after Paterno was fired. University lawyers also said that McQueary could have reported the crime to the police himself.

A judge has yet to rule on McQueary’s whistleblower claim in the case.

Employees who report any illegal activity in the workplace are protected by whistleblower laws. Our Florida Whistleblower Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you get the answers you need about how to respond to or prevent retaliation after you report an illegal activity at your place of work.

We understand the importance of confidentiality and whistleblowers’ concerns about reporting illegal actions, especially when it is committed by their employers. We seek to maintain confidentiality and maximize financial awards in each case we take on.

Continue reading

A Muslim businessman and his wife are suing a Connecticut yacht club because club board members allegedly rejected their membership application last year because of their religion and falsely claimed they supported terrorism.

The man suing is a co-founder the fruit bouquet business Edible Arrangements. He and his wife sued the Connecticut yacht club in state court in August, alleging discrimination, racism and bigotry. They are seeking a court order for the club to stop discriminating, undisclosed damages and a suspension of the club’s liquor permit.

Club officials have apparently denied the allegations.

Religious discrimination occurs when a person is treated unfavorably due to his or her religious beliefs. As this case shows, this discrimination can happen outside of the workplace. Any business that chooses to refuse service or membership based on religion could be subject to a religious discrimination lawsuit.

If you or someone close to you has questions about religious discrimination or needs the assistance of an attorney, please contact our Florida Discrimination Lawyers at Whittel & Melton. We have a deep understanding of the protections provided by state and federal laws regarding discrimination. We can help you understand your rights and how best to proceed.

Continue reading

NASCAR is being sued for alleged racial discrimination, according to a complaint filed on Monday.

Terrance Cox III, the CEO of Diversity Motorsports, claims that NASCAR refused to work with him and tried to prevent him from increasing the number of African Americans in the sport.

Cox is seeking $500 million in damages for racial discrimination in a complaint filed Monday.

The complaint also said NASCAR prevented African American comedian Steve Harvey from creating a racing team with Diversity Motorsports. Harvey allegedly wanted to start a team called “Steve Harvey Races 4 Education” in September 2015, but NASCAR wouldn’t sanction it.

Harvey denied that during his radio show on Tuesday. He said Cox approached him about helping to expose underprivileged kids to NASCAR, and he was willing to participate. But, he said he wanted nothing to do with the suit and told Cox not to use his name.

The suit named 19 other defendants including Richard Petty Motorsports, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Cox claims he’s been working to increase the number of African American drivers and racing teams since 2009. He founded Diversity Motorsports to promote that effort.

NASCAR has three national racing series — the Sprint Cup Series, the XFINITY Series and the Camping World Truck Series. The Sprint Cup Series is considered the most prestigious and “viewed as the major league level,” according to NASCAR.

There aren’t any African American drivers in the Sprint Cup Series and there’s only one in the XFINITY Series. No African-American driver has ever participated in the Daytona 500 and only three African American drivers have ever raced in top-tier events.

NASCAR said in a statement that Cox’s suit is an attempt to gain publicity, and that it would pursue action against Cox for defamation.

Racial discrimination can rear its ugly head in many ways. In some cases, employers may fail to hire or promote a person because of the color of their skin. In other scenarios, the discrimination involves unequal compensation and work conditions. Racial discrimination may also be shown by unfair or unequal rules enforced by supervisors, verbal harassment by supervisors or co-workers, or even wrongful termination.

Continue reading

One of St. Petersburg’s highest ranking sewage operators has filed for federal whistleblower protection, claiming the city was warned that closing a water treatment facility would result in sewage being dumped into Tampa-area waterways.

Since August 2015, St. Petersburg has dumped more than 190 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay and other local waterways. The sewage operator says city officials were warned this could happen when they shut down the Albert Whitted water treatment facility.

The man has sent a letter informing the mayor and City Council that he has filed for federal whistleblower protection, citing public safety.

In the document, he says he is “exercising my rights” under the whistleblower act and Federal Water Pollution Control Act “prohibiting retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violation relating to discharge of pollutants into water.”

The whistleblower letter claims a 2014 study showed St. Petersburg’s southwest water treatment plant “could not handle the flow due to high weather events” if Albert Whitted were to close.

Despite the concerns, the man claims the city closed the plant anyway without making the recommended upgrades to the southwest site.  

Moving forward, the man recommends the city reopen the Albert Whitted facility until the necessary upgrades are complete.

Continue reading

Nearly 10,000 workers are suing Chipotle for allegedly not paying them the money they are owed.

Current and former Chipotle employees claim that the company made them work extra hours “off the clock” without paying them. This is called wage theft, and Chipotle is accused of doing this all over the United States.

“Chipotle routinely requires hourly-paid restaurant employees to punch out, and then continue working until they are given permission to leave,” according to the class action lawsuit known as Turner v. Chipotle. It’s named after a former Chipotle manager in Colorado who claims she had to work without pay and was told to make workers under her do the same in order to meet budget goals.

Chipotle denies any wrongdoing and says the case has no merit. The company said it has paid all wages it owes employees.

Chipotle has faced similar lawsuits previously, but this is the first time there has been such a large class action case against the company for wage theft. As of Friday, 9,961 current and former workers have sent in consent forms to join the lawsuit.

Chipotle is expected to continue fighting the case.

Employers expect employees to do their assigned tasks, plain and simple. Employees expect to be paid their agreed upon wage for all hours worked, equally as simple. However, sometimes employers fail to live up to their end of the obligation. When employers fail to pay workers the full and fair wages they are entitled to receive, employees can take legal action, as this case shows.

Continue reading

A lawyer in the Chicago office of Sedgwick has sued the firm for gender discrimination, unequal pay and retaliation.

The insurance lawyer, alleged in a lawsuit filed in California that female attorneys “cannot crack the glass ceiling of equity partnership at Sedgwick.”

The San Francisco-based firm has more than 300 lawyers, 26 in Chicago, and last year booked $183.0 million in revenue. In the suit, the woman described being publicly singled out in a meeting by a powerful partner who recommended lowering her pay because she “needed to learn to behave.”

“Sedgwick’s male-dominated culture systematically excludes women from positions of power within the firm, which in turn leads to lower compensation for female attorneys as compared to male attorneys,” the lawsuit says.

The firm retaliated against the woman after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February, seeking to force the dispute into private arbitration, the lawsuit says.

The firm is “confident there has been absolutely no discrimination or retaliation in the partner compensation process or otherwise, and we will defend the firm against these baseless allegations.”

This woman is not the first to accuse a firm of discrimination. In January, a former partner at LeClairRyan sued in January in Virginia alleging unequal pay and retaliation. In 2013, Greenberg Traurig settled a class-action brought by female attorneys.

While this case is in California, our Florida Discrimination Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know the issue of unequal pay is a widespread problem that affects women across the country.

A recent compilation by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women face unequal pay in most industries. An average for all full-time and salary workers shows median weekly wages for men being $895 and $726 for women. For marketing and sales managers: men-  $1,603 and women – $1,258. For human resource workers: men – $1,158 women – $984. For personal financial advisers: men – $1,738 women – $1,033. Sadly, the gender pay gap is reportedly worse for mothers and older working women.

Continue reading

Lakeland police have arrested and charged three Walmart employees with manslaughter in the February death of a shoplifter.

Police said just after 3 a.m. Feb. 7, a 64-year-old man stole nearly $400 worth of DVDs and ran when he was confronted by employees.

The employees chased him down and at some point, the man fell to the ground and was held there by the employees.

The man stopped breathing and the employees called 911. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition, but later died.

During an investigation, the Medical Examiner determined the man died of mechanical asphyxia due to restraint and that the man had 15 broken ribs.

The three Walmart employees charged were a 35-year-old support manager, a 23-year-old customer service manager, and 58-year-old employee for loss prevention.

Walmart issued a statement Friday afternoon:

Our hearts go out to everyone affected by these events. The status of the associates involved continues to be reviewed. We’ll continue working with law enforcement officials, as we have from the beginning, while conducting our own review.

If it can be demonstrated that Walmart’s employees used an unreasonable amount of force, or acted unreasonably in detaining the suspected shoplifter, they could face liability for wrongful death and even false imprisonment in a lawsuit by the deceased man’s relatives.

Employers must be cautious about what their employees do in regards to shoplifters because employers may be legally responsible for the harm caused by their employees’ actions. Customers, including shoplifters, may be able to hold the employer liable when they suffer injuries or are harmed by employees or wrongfully detained by employees for suspicion of shoplifting.

As this case shows, it is possible to hold the employee’s legally responsible for their actions, but usually employers are the target of lawsuits because they have bigger insurance policies than their employees, which means if they are successful in proving their claim, they will receive a larger financial settlement.

Continue reading

Contact Information