Articles Posted in Personal Injury Claim

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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Crews responded to a construction accident at a parking garage on the Miami Dade College Campus Friday.

The accident happened around 2:30 p.m. at the West Campus at 3800 Northwest 115th Avenue in Doral.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said two injured construction workers were being treated on the third floor for their injuries. According to reports, they had to hoist them down to the ground before transporting them to the hospital. One is believed to have suffered a leg injury.

The accident is currently under investigation with MDFR.

Reports indicate that one of the concrete plates that interconnect to make up the structure, came crashing down on the third floor. Crews are not calling the accident a collapse at this time.

MDC released the following statement after the accident: “There was a construction incident at MDC’s West Campus garage that is currently under construction. There are some minor injuries reported. Because it is Friday, there are not many classes taking place or many people around. Classes and operations have not been impacted. The Campus is open.”

Crews began construction on the $22.5 million, five-story garage to accommodate the increasing number of students at the campus in January 2012. That October, part of the nearly completed garage collapsed, killing four workers.

Miami Dade College reached a $33.5 million settlement with the contractor and subcontractors hired to build the garage after the collapse occurred.

Working on a construction site is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. As this case shows, construction accidents injure or kill thousands of workers each year. Construction accidents account for one in five workplace fatalities in America. Accidents like these happen when safety engineers are negligent or when safety programs are absent. Regardless of what type of injury was suffered, the injured worker is entitled to some kind of compensation. A Florida Worker’s Compensation Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help injured workers and families pursue personal injury or wrongful death claims to make sure injured workers are fully compensated for any damages suffered.

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The Internal Revenue Service recently issued an alert to payroll and human resources professionals to beware of a phishing email scam that appears to be from company executives requesting personal information on employees.

The IRS has learned this scheme has already claimed several victims as payroll and human resources offices mistakenly email payroll data including Forms W-2 that contain Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information to cybercriminals posing as company executives.

IRS Criminal Investigation is already reviewing several cases in which people have been tricked into sharing SSNs with what turned out to be cybercriminals. Criminals using personal information stolen elsewhere seek to monetize data, including by filing fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

Wells Fargo & Co., one of the largest banks in America, is being sued for establishing an overly aggressive environment for employees that’s led them to manipulate their customers in order to reach their monthly goals.

Wells Fargo employees allegedly opened multiple accounts at no benefit for the customer, opened credit card accounts for customers without their permission, and even forged customer signatures, according to a recent lawsuit.

The L.A. Times discovered in 2013 that employees were partaking in fraudulent practices to meet their quotas. Numerous employees have stepped forward claiming that they were taught and encouraged to perform these fraudulent acts by their managers. Likewise, branch managers were allegedly expected to produce 120 percent of the daily quotas established.

In May 2015, a lawsuit was initiated against Wells Fargo on behalf of employees in Los Angeles. The lawsuit claims that the company maintains a high-pressure sales system that forces employees to gain customers through illegal ways. How? The company reportedly focuses on “cross-selling,” which is the practice of aggressively selling multiple products to customers who are just looking to open a single bank account or credit card. The lawsuit also alleges that the illegal tactics can have a detrimental effect on customers’ credit scores.

This is not the first lawsuit filed against the corporation. In 2009, a class action case against Wells Fargo was settled for $100,000.

Wells Fargo officials said they make ethical conduct a priority and punish or fire employees who don’t serve customers properly, according to recent reports.

“I’m not aware of any overbearing sales culture,” Chief Financial Officer Timothy Sloan said in an interview.

The company recently fired about 30 Southern California workers because the bank said they cheated to hit their sales goals. Employees said other workers in the region were put on administrative leave or let go.

The company declined to comment on any additional actions.

Generally, if an employee feels intimidated, threatened, offended, disrespected, and/or scared to be at work and the employer knew or should have known of the unwelcome verbal or physical conduct in the workplace and failed to take immediate action to remedy the situation, it is considered a hostile work environment.

In order to prove a harassment claim, an employee must show that the treatment he or she endured created a hostile work environment. This is done by demonstrating that the behavior happened frequently and severely enough to alter the working environment to the point of abusive and hostile.

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A 29-year-old construction worker was killed Wednesday after a piece of heavy machinery being hoisted by a crane fell and hit him as he stood on the 37th floor of an Edgewater condo building.

According to reports, the man was working on Biscayne Beach Condos, located at 711 NE 29th St., when a piece of equipment weighing more than 2,000 pounds fell at about 4 p.m.

When rescue workers arrived, the man was dead already dead.

Miami police are investigating the accident.

Construction work is a very dangerous industry. Workers are expected to perform difficult physical labor, sometimes at great heights, and usually with heavy machinery. Any number of accidents can occur on a daily basis on construction sites. In 2012, 183,000 construction workers were injured in job-related accidents in the United States. Another 775 were killed. In fact, each and every year there are more work-related injuries in construction than in most other industries.

OSHA has four categories of construction worker injuries labeled as “the fatal four” due to the fact that they account for nearly 60 percent of construction worker deaths. These four injuries are falls, electrocutions, “struck by object,” and “caught in-between.”

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Miami-Dade County Public Schools has settled a U.S. Department of Justice claim that the school district discriminated against job applicants who are immigrants.

The country’s fourth-largest district said the allegations were a paperwork policy error, and that they did not intend to discriminate.

Miami-Dade educates students in a community where more than half of residents are foreign-born, according to Census data.

An investigation conducted by the Civil Rights Division found that the school system asked immigrants to provide specific documents to prove their employment eligibility, however, U.S. citizens were not asked to do the same, according to a statement released by the Justice Department. Earlier this month, the school system agreed to pay a $90,000 civil citation to settle the issue without admitting any wrongdoing.

The Civil Rights began investigating the district in September 2014. Miami-Dade’s practice dates back until at least September 2012, according to the settlement agreement.

In a statement, the head of the Civil Rights Division, said: “Employers must ensure that their human resources staff understand proper hiring practices. Promoting compliance is especially important to ensure that workers are not excluded due to discriminatory treatment.”

In addition to the civil penalty, which will be paid over three years, the district must establish a $125,000 fund to compensate anyone who may have lost wages because of the alleged discrimination. Anyone eligible to be paid should receive notification from the district within the next three months.

Moreover, federal officials must be allowed to conduct trainings regarding workers’ rights in local high schools and adult education centers.

When it comes to anti-discrimination laws, protections against discrimination are available not only to current employees, but to job applicants as well. Just like an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of her gender, that same employer cannot discriminate against a job applicant on account of his or her gender, or other prohibited reasons, as well. Employers can violate anti-discrimination laws during the hiring process by asking improper questions, including:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you married or single?
  • Are you a member of a minority group?
  • Where were you born?
  • What religious holidays will you be taking off?
  • Do you have any handicaps?
  • Do you plan to have children?

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The owner and chief executive of Prime Healthcare Services Inc., a fast-growing Ontario-based hospital chain, has found himself in the middle of a sex scandal that has resulted in management changes at an Encino hospital and a $1-million wrongful-termination verdict.

A Los Angeles jury awarded the money Wednesday to the former chief nursing officer of Encino Hospital Medical Center after concluding that she was laid off in 2012 because she had complained about an affair between the hospital’s chief medical officer and a female supervisor.

Prime Healthcare maintains the nursing officer was let go because of poor performance and said it intends to appeal.

However, testimony during the Los Angeles County Superior Court trial in Van Nuys paints a rather controversial picture.

The dispute began in 2011, when the nursing officer complained that the hospital’s director of respiratory services bragged to co-workers that she was having an affair the chief medical officer. She told them she had the power to get them fired, according to the lawsuit filed in 2013.

The nursing officer said she complained to about the comments but they did not stop. So she and other nurses took their concerns to the hospital’s chief executive.

According to a transcript of the chief executive’s testimony reviewed by The Times, the man said that he cautioned the hospital’s director of respiratory services about the inappropriate comments and what he said was her unprofessional work attire, which included low-cut tops, short skirts and 6- to 8-inch heels.

In a hospital, the chief executive and chief medical officer oversee different functions and typically are at parallel levels of management.

The chief executive claims that the chief medical officer repeatedly advised him to fire the nursing officer, which he refused to do.

The chief executive said he eventually notified Prime Healthcare executives of the situation, suggesting that both the hospital’s director of respiratory service and chief medical officer needed to be counseled about their conduct.

But instead of disciplining, Prime Healthcare promoted the hospital’s director of respiratory service to corporate director of respiratory services at all of its hospitals, a position she holds today at the company’s corporate offices in Ontario.

The chief medical officer left his position at the Encino hospital in June 2012, and now has privileges to practice pulmonary medicine at several hospitals, both inside and outside of Prime Healthcare’s network.

Shortly after moving the hospital’s director of respiratory service to corporate director of respiratory services, Prime Healthcare fired the chief executive in the summer of 2012. He did not sue Prime Healthcare, and testified that he collected his full salary for about six months after leaving the job.

In September 2012, the company terminated the nursing officer during a round of layoffs.

The former nursing officer, 72, who had worked at the hospital since 2007, earned about $175,000 in salary, bonuses and benefits annually. The jury based the award on the woman’s lost earnings and past emotional distress.

Prime Healthcare is one of the largest hospital companies in the country, with 38 hospitals in 11 states.

Sometimes people are terminated from their place of employment because they are not qualified for the job or just cannot effectively perform the required duties. Being fired for those reasons is not illegal. However, there are numerous circumstances when a terminated employee can seek compensation under the law as a result of a wrongful termination.

Obviously, not many employers will admit that an employee was fired due to wrongful termination. That is why proving wrongful termination claims can be very difficult. These types of cases require an experienced Florida Employment Lawyer at Whittel & Melton who can review the facts of your case, gather information, and help you determine how to best proceed.

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An Ocala man has filed a religious discrimination complaint against Denny’s after he alleges he was not allowed to wear an Islamic head covering while working as a restaurant server.

In his complaint, the man told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a manager at a franchise-owned Denny’s restaurant in Ocala told him he was prohibited from working day shifts because he wore a kufi.

The man says that he also received a letter threatening him with termination for violating the restaurant’s dress code policy at a later date. He was subsequently fired.

The man says that he was the restaurant’s only Muslim, and the only server denied working day shifts.

Denny’s corporate office released a statement stating that they are reviewing the allegations.

Sadly, religious prejudices do exist in this country and religious harassment has become one of the most common types of discrimination throughout the United States. Devout Muslims especially have become targets of shameless workplace discrimination.

The U.S. legal system does not tolerate discrimination against employees based on their faith or observance. If you have been singled out in the workplace because of your religious beliefs, or if you have been discouraged from practicing your faith in the workplace, you may have legal options. A Florida Discrimination Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you understand if what you have experienced qualifies as discrimination under the law.

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A suburban Chicago woman is accusing Office Depot of religious discrimination, claiming employees told her that making copies of an anti-abortion prayer violated company policy.

The woman is Roman Catholic. Last month, she apparently asked the Office Depot in Schaumburg to make 500 copies of “A Prayer for Planned Parenthood.”

The company spokeswoman said that Office Depot prohibits the copying of material that advocates “the persecution of certain groups of people,” among other criteria. She also stated that the flier “contained material that advocates the persecution of people who support abortion rights.”

The woman said the handout is part of a weeklong prayer and fasting campaign that aims to change opinions on abortion, according to reports.

Office Depot is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

Religious discrimination is illegal in any part of the workplace, from hiring practices to termination of employment. Religious discrimination is prohibited when it has a negative effect on someone obtaining or keeping a job as well as the conditions of employment while that person is employed.

The most common ways religious discrimination can occur, include the following:

  • Job Advertisements
  • Recruiting
  • Application Processes and Applicant Screening
  • Interviews
  • Pre-employment Inquires
  • Job Referrals
  • Job Assignments and Promotions
  • Compensation, including pay and benefits
  • Performance Evaluations and Raises
  • Disciplinary Practices
  • Terminations and Layoffs
  • Harassment
  • Refusing a Reasonable Accommodation
  • Forced Participation in Religious Practices

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A dozen Florida Highway Patrol troopers from Tallahassee to Miami were fired, forced to retire or otherwise disciplined after an in-house investigation accusing them of billing the agency for hours they spent working from home, eating at restaurants and visiting girlfriends and relatives.

The disciplinary action came after a probe into the agency’s Statewide Overtime Action Response program, which is designed to beef up traffic enforcement in high-priority areas, including Interstate 10 in Leon County. Troopers, who are paid time and a half to patrol the areas, are expected to aggressively enforce traffic laws when working SOAR.

Last fall, the executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, asked the agency’s Office of Inspector General to review the SOAR program to identify potential waste, fraud and abuse. In June, lawmakers included $5.1 million in the state budget for SOAR overtime. Over the past five fiscal years, they gave more than $25 million for SOAR OT.

The OIG reviewed the activity of 36 troopers and officers who turned in the most SOAR hours among the FHP’s 12 troops across the state. A total of 13 were alleged to have violated policies.

However, attorneys representing the troopers believe they are being unfairly punished for following longstanding, unwritten rules of the Highway Patrol. They say that troopers and officers alike have been paid for years for working at home or eating meals at restaurants, though they were expected to leap into action when they got calls.

Of the dozen who were investigated, three were fired, four either retired during the investigation or were forced to retire, three were suspended, one was reprimanded and another is facing termination, according to records. Several of the troopers were longtime veterans of the agency, with 30-plus years of service.

The OIG allegedly found the following:

  • Troopers reported SOAR overtime while visiting their parents, wives or girlfriends at their homes and workplaces.
  • Troopers claimed regular and overtime hours while they were at home and restaurants.
  • Troopers failed to radio in that they were going off or back on duty while taking meal breaks at restaurants.
  • Troopers failed to activate their Automatic Vehicle Locators, designed to track their movements, and in some cases deactivated them.

The overtime rights of employees in the State of Florida are governed by the federal overtime law, widely known as the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under the FLSA, employers in Florida must pay all eligible employees time-and-half for their overtime hours worked.  “Overtime” refers to any time worked over 40 hours in a single workweek.

Employers in Florida must pay overtime wages to any and all eligible employees.  Employees “eligible” for overtime in Florida include all hourly employees, as well as salaried employees who are not employed in a strictly managerial position, who are not  responsible for administration of the employer’s business, or who are not business professionals like a doctor or lawyer. For these salaried positions, the eligibility for overtime does not depend on an employee’s title. Instead, the employee’s right to obtain overtime depends on the actual duties performed by the employee.

Recently there has been an uprise in employment law cases where actual employees are classified as independent contractors. This is important to note because many workers labeled by their Florida employers as “independent contractors” are eligible for overtime if, in reality, they should be classified as employees.

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