Articles Posted in Employment Law

A former employee at Florida State University’s College of Medicine is suing the FSU Board of Trustees, alleging sexual harassment by a coworker, discrimination against black students seeking admission, and retaliation for filing complaints.

The woman filed a lawsuit on September 11th in Leon County court.

The woman was an Academic Program Specialist at the FSU College of Medicine Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Her lawsuit alleges that a supervisor made a sexually explicit comment to her in February 2016. She reported the comment to her staff Title IX liaison, who contacted the department chair, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges no action was taken to resolve the issue and the work environment became hostile and extremely stressful for the woman.

She says she later spoke out about a second inappropriate comment by the supervisor, and complained about refusal to consider black students seeking admission to the College of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

She says her supervisors further retaliated by demoting her, taking away her privileges and responsibilities, and ultimately firing her.

The suit seeks damages of more than $15,000 and asks that the woman be reinstated to her job. It seeks a jury trial.

FSU General Counsel Carolyn Egan said in a statement, “An independent external investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing. We have every reason to believe the court will reach the same conclusion.”

If an employer has terminated your employment, passed you over for a promotion or raise you deserved, or mistreated you in other ways at work, solely because of your race, gender, age or disability, you could have a discrimination claim. If you have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace, you need legal help from a law firm you can trust and who will help you protect your right to fair treatment in the workplace.

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A Riviera Beach Building Official nearing a criminal trial for allegedly misrepresenting her qualifications has sued the city for sex discrimination, claiming she earned less than the less-experienced men who preceded her.

The 16-page complaint, filed Sept. 20 in Palm Beach Circuit Court, alleges she was discriminated against and subject to a hostile work environment.

The woman’s suit states that, while she started in January 2017 at a total pay package of $75,900, her predecessors earned more than $90,000 in base pay alone. She never received the 10 percent raise she was promised she would get if she received a provisional, limited or standard building official license, it said. She got her provisional license April 22, 2017, the suit said.

The city also reneged on a promise to appoint a deputy building official to help her, the suit said.

Prior to her hiring, the city contracted with CAP Government, a private company, to handle building official duties. One of the woman’s first assignments was to review CAP billings, to curtail unnecessary spending, the suit said.

She found the value of a number of building projects had been underestimated, short-changing the city on building permit fees they paid. In March 2017, one project, a Palm Beach Cold Storage warehouse being built near the port was ordered to halt construction.

That move sparked a lawsuit by the company, saying the city’s administrative paralysis delayed the opening by 11 months and cost the owner tens of thousands of dollars.

The woman’s suit said that, instead of backing the stop-work decision, which was made by CAP and supported by her, her higher-ups retaliated against her.

She was reprimanded for using a city vehicle as a take-home car even though she was considered emergency personnel. In addition, the city tried to keep her from doing outside work, even though she had previously been exempted from that policy.

She filed an internal complaint with the city, then contacted the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity in July 2017, seven months after taking the job.

While that was pending, in April 2018 the State Attorney’s Office filed a charge against her, alleging she “fraudulently misrepresented herself as a building official and that her actions caused ‘developmental companies to change schedules, incur losses and remit fees.”

The charge is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

A spokesman for the State Attorney said Tuesday the case is headed for trial.

Sex discrimination is an increasing area of legal concern. This type of discrimination in the workplace can be one of the easiest things to spot as well as the hardest as every instance is situational.  

Our South Florida Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have outlined below the most common examples of sex discrimination at work:

  • Unequal pay — Men being paid more for doing the same job as a woman despite having the same position and status at work.
  • Different job responsibilities — Men and women given different responsibilities, such as women having administrative duties doled out while a man is asked to lift heavy items.
  • Interview questions — The biggest issue here is when women are asked completely different questions than men, such as if they have children or if they plan to have children.
  • Advancement opportunities — Men and women should have equal opportunities for advancement without their sex playing a role in the process.

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You may have never heard of the word pretext. It is one of those legal jargon words that employees and everyday people don’t use. What does pretext mean? Pretext is legally defined as a reason for an action which is false, and offered to cover up true motives or intentions. For instance, “My boss lied about why I was fired;” or even, “my employer blamed my demotion on poor performance that I was unaware of.”

When an employer lies about the reason an employee was fired, terminated or otherwise retaliated against, it does not necessarily create a claim, but it does give you reason to ask our Florida Employment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton to look into it. In order to show that the employer’s reason is a pretext it must be demonstrated that the their explanation is not credible. One thing to note is that a simple mistake made by the employer is not a pretext, rather a pretext is a bogus, phony excuse used to cover up the real illegal reason.

An employer will usually not tell an employee they are firing the for an illegal reason. They will make up an arbitrary reason for termination, and the illegal reason will have to be proved through circumstantial evidence. Even though an employer may provide a pretext that seems valid on paper, this does not mean the employee does not have a case.

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The former head football coach at Escambia High School has filed a lawsuit against Escambia Schools Superintendent alleging racial discrimination and harassment.

The former coach filed the lawsuit on Aug. 23, in the Northern District of Florida Pensacola Division, against the Superintendent of Schools for Escambia County District of Schools.

In the filing, the former coach alleged “mistreatment” by the Superintendent and several other district employees.

The former coach served as the high school’s physical education teacher and head football coach from March 2012 until his termination in September of 2014, according to the lawsuit.

The former 2013 Escambia High School Teacher of the Year alleged that upon his hiring, the Escambia High School principal warned him that “some individuals would become upset once they learned of his having hired a black coach.”  

The lawsuit also alleged that the principal participated in racially motivated actions “by making inappropriate comments and racially derogatory remarks directly to Plaintiff regarding his race,” as well the coaches, stating that the sidelines were “really dark,” which referred to the coaches’ race, and commenting on their “gold teeth.”

According to the man, he was treated badly and held to a different standard than his peers because of his race. He said that this created a hostile work environment.

He was eventually terminated based on gross insubordination, effective September 17, 2014, despite the support of his students and players. His firing came after the former coach allegedly used several football players in the team’s opening game, although there were questions about their eligibility. After his termination, the former coach continued to allege that the principal and superintendent continued to damage his reputation and launched “professional attacks against Plaintiff’s character and his professional teaching career.”

The former coach further alleged that the defendant maliciously interfered with other prospective business relationships, causing embarrassment, a damaged reputation and emotional distress.

The lawsuit has brought five counts against the superintendent, including racial discrimination, tortious interference, as well as First Amendment retaliation for protected political association.

People are discriminated against everyday in the workplace because of their race.  Management and supervisors still say and do racially motivated things that are not only wrong, but against the law. Sadly, many get away with it and are never challenged.

It is against the law for a company or employer to discriminate against someone based on their race. This includes any term or condition of employment, such as hiring, firing, being laid-off, promotion, compensation, and job training.

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An AutoNation-owned Coral Gables car dealership will pay a former longtime assistant parts manager $150,000 to settle a sexual discrimination lawsuit after the dealership hired a less-qualified man as parts manager, then had her train him.

The lawsuit says AutoNation management told the woman that the job “needed a man.”

The money owed to the woman is part of a consent decree between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the lawsuit, and Abraham Chevrolet-Miami (better known as “AutoNation Chevrolet Coral Gables”) and LP Evans Motor WPB (better known as Mercedes-Benz of Miami”).

For the next three years, both dealerships also must have annual live messages from the general managers on equal employment opportunity and diversity. Also, there will be annual training for managers and employees of certain departments on obeying laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when hiring and dealing with discrimination complaints.

According to the lawsuit filed on the woman’s behalf by the EEOC, she started working at AutoNation Chevrolet Coral Gables in 1996 and became assistant parts manager in 2003. During the 10 years she held that job, she helped run all aspects of the Parts Department, including occasionally doing the manager’s job when necessary. She also let it be known she’d like the parts manager job should the position come open.

The suit says that happened during summer 2013 when the parts manager got bumped up to wholesale parts director. But the dealership never posted the job as open nor did it interview anyone, the suit says.

In August 2013, a new parts manager was announced at a company meeting. He had been a sales associate, so the dealership told the woman to train him in his new job.

The dealership felt she was equipped enough to train the parts manager, the suit claims, but not equipped to be the parts manager.

The woman was told by management that the dealer “needed a man” for the position, the complaint said. But the “defendants’ management acknowledged that Charging Party was the most qualified candidate for the Parts Manager position, but advised that ‘it was too late to undo things.”

Gender discrimination in the workplace entails failing to hire someone or firing someone because of their sex or gender. This includes not promoting worthy candidates, paying less compensation to a worker of one sex or one gender identification than another, creating a hostile work environment, and numerous other job aspects that relate to discrimination. If you have been treated unfairly at work, you may be the victim of unlawful discrimination.

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A former employee is suing an Orlando company, citing alleged retaliation and wrongful termination, after he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

The man filed a complaint on Aug. 1, in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida – Orange County. He alleged that the company subjected him to adverse employment actions.

According to his accounts, on Jan. 17 he was injured while in the course and scope of his employment working for the defendant. He was terminated on or about July 1.

He has suffered emotional distress, lost wages and benefits, pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses, according to the complaint. He holds the company responsible because the defendant allegedly terminated his employment in retaliation for filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

An employer is strictly prohibited by law from discriminating against an employee because of a workplace injury. Workplace accidents can cause an employee to suffer substantial injuries that may result in them being unable to return to work for an extended period of time or unable to perform the same duties that they did before the injury occurred.

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A former supervisor in Adam Putnam’s Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sued the agency in 2013, claiming “gross misconduct” in the handling of gun permit applications. The woman also claims that quotas for approving concealed weapon permits “guaranteed abuse,” according to reports.

In a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in a Leon County circuit court, the former chief of the Bureau of License Issuance, said she was threatened with retaliation for saying workers were deficient in processing licensing applications, and that her bosses told her she “worked for the NRA (National Rifle Association).”

The agency denied most of the woman’s allegations in court filings. But in a settlement signed in 2016, the agency agreed to pay $30,000, without admitting wrongdoing, including a $10,000 lump sum payment to the woman and $20,000 for her attorney’s fees and costs.

The False Claims Act allows a person or organization to bring a lawsuit against a government company that receives public funds after they have witnessed an act of fraud against the government. Taking legal action like this is called qui tam and the plaintiffs are known as whistleblowers, hence the name whistleblower suit.

Whistleblower suits often involve illegal kickbacks, Medicare fraud, FDA regulation violations, financial fraud claims involving the Dodd-Frank Act, and claims that fall under the IRS whistleblower reward program. A whistleblower can be awarded between 15 and 30 percent of the overall recovery of a successful qui tam lawsuit. This amount can add up to millions of dollars.

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A Miami Beach medical transport company is accused again of shorting workers on overtime pay. This time, it cost them $222,059 in back pay.

The company paid 53 employees an average of $4,189.79 after the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company has a problem obeying some parts of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“(Wage and Hour) investigators determined that Miami Beach Medical Transport LLC failed to pay drivers for time they spent working from home confirming appointments with patients for the following day’s route,” the Department of Labor said in a Wednesday release. “The employer also automatically deducted 30 minutes from employees’ timecards for lunch each day, whether or not employees were actually able to take those breaks.”

A Miami Beach Medical Group employee named filed an unpaid overtime lawsuit in 2012. The suit was dismissed without prejudice in February 2013 for failure to prosecute.

A similar lawsuit was filed by a driver in 2017. The July 11, 2017 settlement says Miami Beach Medical Transport officially denies all of the man’s claims. However, the company paid the man $1,775 to cover his unpaid wages, $2,225 in damages, and $3,500 for Diaz’s attorney’s fees.

The Fair Labor Standards Act has set forth strict standards for employers. If your employer has not paid you in compliance with overtime or minimum wage laws, you are entitled to pursue an unpaid wage claim. Our South Florida Unpaid Overtime Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know you work hard for your money, which is why we have a passion for representing clients against large companies and organizations recover what they rightfully deserve. The law has the power to hold anyone accountable for their wrongful actions, and we want to help you fight for what you are owed.

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A man who worked as Donald Trump’s personal driver for a quarter of a century filed suit against the president’s company on Monday.

He says he wasn’t paid for thousands of hours of overtime.

The man, who served as Trump’s personal driver for more than 25 years and gave up the responsibility after the Secret Service took on the role in 2016, said he was owed overtime wages for about 3,300 hours of driving over the past six years.

Over a 25-year period, the man says he worked 50 to 55 hours a week and earned a base salary but was never paid overtime for the time he worked beyond 40 hours per week.

The suit lists the Trump Organization as a defendant but not Trump himself.

If you are not being paid for all overtime worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek, your employer may be violating the Fair Labor Standard Act. Federal law requires employees who have worked over 40 hours in a week to receive one and a half times their normal pay rate. Moreover, if your employer knowingly refuses to pay you overtime wages, you are entitled to the amount owed to you. You could also recover additional funds such as liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees.

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An African-American employee is suing St. Petersburg, alleging discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

The man filed a complaint June 12 in Pinellas Circuit Court against the city of St. Petersburg, alleging violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act.

According to the complaint, on Sept. 30, 2016, the man was terminated from his employment in the city’s Water Resources Department where he has been the first African-American interim director. He says he has suffered loss of employment, loss of income, privileges and benefits, mental and emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and damage to his professional reputation.

The man alleges St. Petersburg unlawfully discriminated against him based upon his race and terminated him in retaliation for reporting unlawful discrimination, allegedly his salary being less than whites who held the same position as interim director.

He seeks trial by jury, reinstatement to the equivalent position, actual and compensatory damages of more than $15,000, attorney fees, costs and all proper and just relief.

Even in this day and age, sadly racial discrimination is still rampant in the United States, especially at work. Our Tampa Bay Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton fight aggressively to put an end to racist policies and practices in the workplace.

Racial discrimination includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be, let us help you.

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