Articles Posted in Personal Injury Attorney

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More than 50 ex-wrestlers have filed a Connecticut lawsuit stating that World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. is responsible for their long-term neurological damage and failed to care for their injuries.

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Joseph “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinaitis and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff are among the plaintiffs who filed suit Monday in federal court in Connecticut against Stamford-based WWE.

WWE denies the allegations. They said that an attorney for the ex-wrestlers previously has made false claims against the company and filed lawsuits that ended up being dismissed.

The plaintiffs allege they suffered concussions and other head trauma that resulted in long-term brain damage.

Snuka is charged in the 1983 death of his girlfriend near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He has been ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial, and his defense partly blames head trauma suffered in the ring.

Repetitive or single blows to the head can cause concussions, something that is commonly referred to as traumatic brain injuries or TBIs. These hits to the head can cause a degenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy – CTE. CTE happens when repetitive head trauma results in the production of abnormal proteins in the brain known as “tau.” Tau proteins essentially knot the brain’s blood vessels, which can disrupt normal functioning and will eventually kill nerve cells.

Early stages of CTE involve memory loss, disorientation, rage, confusion and dizziness. As the disease progresses, more symptoms appear, including poor judgement and dementia. In severe cases of CTE, you can see impaired speech, vertigo, tremors and deafness.

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A Disney College Program participant working in Magic Kingdom restaurants was fired and subsequently rehired after she Tweeted a picture of a sign posted in the breakroom regarding gators.

If guests ask whether there are alligators in the water around the Magic Kingdom’s Tom Sawyer Island, the sign told employees, the correct answer is: “Not that we know of, but if we see one, we will call Pest Management to have them removed.’ Please do not say that we have seen them before.”

She tweeted out a picture of the sign, which was typed on paper in several different colors

Disney quickly removed the sign, which the company had not authorized to be posted. Around the same time, the female was fired.

The Orlando Sentinel inquired about the girl’s termination on Thursday evening. On Friday morning, Magic Kingdom Vice President Dan Cockerell paid a personal visit to Sullivan to offer her the job back. She will return to work until later this month, when her internship was originally scheduled to end, according to reports.

When visitors ask about alligators, Disney said it has advised workers to acknowledge that parts of the theme-park resort can attract wildlife. They are also supposed to tell guests to notify security if they see any alligators.

Disney said it does not know who posted the sign and that no one else is being disciplined over the incident. Cast members were trying to do the right thing, the company said.

“We do not want our Guests to be afraid while walking around Frontierland,” the sign read.

The female staff member said she knew sharing a picture of the sign on social media might get her in trouble, but she was bothered by the idea of misleading visitors.

She said a manager confronted her Thursday with the tweet, told her that her College Program stint would end early and took her identification. She was then escorted from the park.

Awareness of alligators has been heightened after one snatched a 2-year-old from the shore of Seven Seas Lagoon last month, dragging him into the water and killing him. Since then, many guests have come forward with stories of Disney gator sightings.

Emails obtained by the Orlando Sentinel this week showed Disney firefighters had been admonished for feeding alligators on the property.

The Rivers of America around Tom Sawyer Island is one place where people have spotted alligators in the past.

While just about everyone has their own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog or any other type of social network account, you are ultimately responsible for what you post and who sees it. No matter what social networking site you are posting on, you have to be careful about what you write and choose to share with the public at large. You could be terminated for entries that your employer may read and does not like or agree with. However, there are certain limits to what an employer can do regarding posts that employees make during their own private time away from the workplace.

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A Tavares man was killed after being crushed by pallets of dirt and mushrooms at a Zellwood processing plant.

The 45-year-old man was moving pallets with a forklift late Monday night — some weighing between 800 to 1,000 pounds — at Monterey Mushrooms on Sadler Road when the stack of trays started shaking, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Office report.

The man jumped off the forklift and tried to run, but the pallets fell on him, according to a witness.

He was taken to Florida Hospital Apopka, where he was pronounced dead.

Deputies and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

Monterey Mushrooms has not released a statement.

The aftermath of a crush injury can be devastating. Sadly, crushing accidents are one of the top killers when it comes to workplace accidents. Because of the serious nature of these injuries, employers have an obligation to make sure that their workers are protected from crush injuries at all times.

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St. Petersburg, Florida – Every company is in possession of private and sensitive personal information of their employees. Employees expect that sensitive information to remain private. We currently represent a Ocala man who is an employee at Advance Auto Parts, who along with an estimated 75,000 employees, have lost a secure hold of their sensitive private information. Local media has reported that we have sued Advance Auto Parts alleging that his employer failed to protect sensitive information about its employees, placing them at heightened risk for identity theft.

We filed the complaint, or lawsuit, in federal court on behalf of our client and all similarly situated employees on March 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division against Advance Stores Co. Inc., doing business as Advance Auto Parts Inc., citing negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and invasion of privacy.

We believe our client has suffered an increased risk of identity theft and tax fraud because of his employer’s actions.

We believe that Advance Auto Parts Inc. is responsible because the company voluntarily disclosed corporate files containing class members’ sensitive information to a third party posing as an employee. The information apparently included IRS Form W-2, Social Security numbers, 2015 gross wages and the states where the class members pay income tax.

It has been reported that employees for the national Advance Auto Parts should have also received a letter making them aware that their risk of identity and tax refund theft has greatly increased.

Whittel & Melton is seeking compensation for all damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and any further legal and equitable relief as the law may require on his behalf.

We continue to investigate the facts and circumstances of this case, and would like to speak with anyone who has been affected by this breach, or anyone with information related to this invasion of privacy.

Data breaches like this one seem to be rampant these days. In March, the IRS sent out an alert to HR professionals to be aware of phishing scams like these. This phishing variation is known as “spoofing,” and will come from an outsider posing as what appears to be a legitimate employee requesting company information.

It is imperative that companies protect their employees and sensitive data from outsiders. In order to avoid these phishing scams, HR professionals need to make sure that security protocols are in place so that these email tricks do not lead to leaked data. A review of all data protection policies, procedures and technologies should take place regularly to keep these types of threats under control.

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