Articles Posted in Wrongful Termination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Whittel & Melton secured an $80,000 settlement for a female bartender who was sexually harassed at an Italian restaurant in Orlando for over two years before being fired after complaining to the restaurant’s owner.

The bartender was regularly asked to go on dates, described to restaurant patrons as single and available to date them, subjected to sexual innuendo, and told to dress “sexy” and “date-ready,” among other things.

Under the settlement, the restaurant must conduct mandatory anti-harassment training for all employees and operate a telephone hotline for employees to report incidents of discrimination and harassment.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can affect both men and women, and may include some of the following actions:

  • Touching an employee or coworker inappropriately
  • Promising a raise or promotion in exchange for sexual or romantic activities
  • Engaging in uninvited “x-rated” conversations
  • Unwarranted provocative gestures

Sexual harassment can be a traumatic experience that not everyone is comfortable talking about. However, if you are experiencing such illegal behavior at work, you do not need to suffer in silence. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know that coming forward with a sexual harassment complaint is not easy. That is why we will be there for you and guide you through the legal process, so that the wrongdoer is held accountable for their unlawful behavior.

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Eliza Dushku was written off CBS’ “Bull” after she confronted the series star Michael Weatherly about his behavior, according to a new report in The New York Times.

CBS confirms it paid a secret $9.5 million settlement to an actress this year after she accused the star of the hit show “Bull” of harassment.

The Times said when Dushku appeared on “Bull” last year, there were “well-developed plans” to make her a full-time cast member, but those plans allegedly ended after she came forward with allegations against the show’s star.

Dushku played a lawyer alongside Weatherly for just three episodes in season one. Dushku was written off the show within days of confronting Weatherly about behavior that made her uncomfortable. Among the allegations: he told “a rape joke” and said in “front of the cast and crew” he “would bend her over his leg and spank her.”

In another alleged incident on set, Dushku held up three fingers during a scene. She allegedly told investigators, Weatherly suggested she wanted a threesome with him and another male cast member.

The network agreed this year to pay Dushku a confidential settlement of $9.5 million, roughly the amount she would have earned as a series regular. Eight months later, when CBS investigators approached her, she allegedly told them: “My story is true and it’s really affected me.”

In a statement, CBS said: “The allegations in Ms. Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done.”

Celebrities and normal everyday people can be victims of sexual harassment at work. If you have or believe you have become the victim of sexual harassment in a Florida workplace, you do not have to simply ignore it and move on. Sexual harassment by coworkers, managers, or employers is illegal and you have legal recourse to right these wrongs.

Sometimes, sexual harassment cases involve inappropriate comments or gestures. Other times, the harassment can be much more serious. It may involve someone being fired for illegitimate reasons or worse, sexual assault and battery. Our Florida Sexual Harassment Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have successfully handled all of these and we know how each Florida statute applies to particular sets of circumstances that arise in these cases. We know how to build you the strongest possible case.

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An Orange County woman is suing a vacation business, alleging discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.

The woman filed a complaint Oct. 17 in Orange County Circuit Court against Wyndham Vacation Ownership Inc., alleging violation of the Orange County Civil Rights Ordinance and the Family Medical Leave Act.

According to the complaint, in February the woman requested leave due to complications with her pregnancy. Prior to returning to work on or around March 7, the suit says, she was terminated for alleged poor performance.

The woman says she has suffered lost wages and benefits, emotional pain and suffering, humiliation, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.

She alleges Wyndham Vacation Ownership subjected her to pregnancy-based discrimination and harassment and retaliated against her by terminating her employment for exercising her rights.

In regards to pregnancy, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a woman because she is with child. State and federal laws protect women against this form of discrimination in all aspects of employment, including interviewing, hiring, firing and promoting.

Pregnant employees may suffer from a variety of medical conditions during pregnancy and after childbirth. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against these employees. Some examples of medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth include:

  • Back pain
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Any conditions that require bed rest
  • Lactation issues

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An Orange County driver is suing UPS, alleging racial discrimination and wrongful termination.

The man filed a complaint Oct. 4 in Orange County Circuit Court against UPS Ground Freight Inc., alleging violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992.

According to the complaint, the man’s employment with UPS Freight was steady for 17 years until the promotion of two other men.

After their promotion, the suit says, the man and other minority employees began to experience a pattern of harassment as he is Hispanic male of Puerto Rican descent and the two supervisors are white. Furthermore, the man alleges he was terminated for refusing to engage in an illegal activity.

He claims that UPS Ground Freight, despite receiving pleas for help from employees, failed to stop the harassment and allowed the discrimination and harassment to continue in the workplace.

The man seeks trial by jury, judgment for lost compensation, back pay, front pay, benefits with interest, attorney fees, costs and all other just and proper relief.

Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure equality of employment opportunities. Now, more than half a century later, racial  discrimination in the workplace remains all too prevalent. Our Florida Discrimination Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are deeply committed to achieving the promise of the Civil Rights Act by aggressively fighting race discrimination in the workplace.

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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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A deaf woman won $775,000 in damages after a Broward County jury agreed with her claim that her disability led to her unjust termination from her job as a stocker at the Pompano Beach Costco wholesale club.

The woman worked at the company for 24 years before her termination in October 2013, according to the suit, which was filed in September 2015 in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.

After she was written up for being too loud, the woman sent a letter to Costco’s CEO complaining about the treatment, the suit says. Shortly after, she was suspended for a week, and eight days after she was told about the suspension, the woman was terminated, the suit says.

The woman sought damages under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, claiming actions by Costco managers were “intentional, willful, malicious and with gross disregard for [her] rights.”

In its response, the wholesale club denied the woman’s discrimination claims, as well as her assertion that she “never had any performance problems, and was never warned, counseled or disciplined at any time during her tenure” at Costco.

Costco responded that the woman was disciplined “on numerous occasions throughout her employment for serious misconduct and insubordination.”

The jury disagreed in a trial that began May 29, awarding $750,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish caused by the denial of reasonable accommodations after Dec. 9, 2012, and $25,000 as punitive damages for Costco’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations.

Being deaf or hard of hearing is considered a disability in Florida and across the country. Employers are required to provide adjustments or certain training protocols that enable persons with disabilities to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Employers are also required to make sure they communicate effectively with deaf employees. This can include having qualified sign language interpreters, including ASL interpreters, for important job-related communications.

Sadly, many employers do not try and meet these standards, and as a result, poor communication and confusion ensues. This often leads to unwarranted disciplinary action, discrimination and even wrongful termination of workers who are deaf or hard of hearing, as this case clearly shows.

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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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