Rihanna Financial Manager Sued for Race and Sex Discrimination Because of Alleged Statement that Rihanna is “Hot”

Robert Solomon, a former employee at Flynn Family Office, a New York-based financial management firm, has filed a lawsuit against the company because he opposed racist and sexist comments made by his co-workers. Solomon, who was once the company’s marketing head, also claims that he was teased by his co-workers because of his age.

According to the court papers, Solomon claims that co-workers regularly made comments about the attractiveness of women as well as their skin color. A partner at the firm, Alan Kufeld, allegedly made racist comments including one about Rihanna, one of the firm’s clients. Chuffed said she was ‘hot’, but only because she was not ‘too dark.’ He then went on to rate which Caribbean nationalities were more attractive based on their skin color. When Kufeld wasn’t making racist comments about his clients, he allegedly rated the attractiveness of his female employees with Rick Flynn, the chief operating officer of the firm. 

Flynn denies the accusations saying that “FFO has always championed the rights of women and minorities, particularly in the workplace.”

In addition to Rihanna, some of Flynn Family Office’s celebrity clients include Kelly Rippa, Katie Holmes and Tory Burch. 

Do you think these facts are severe or pervasive enough to create a case for discrimination?

*image by Flickr

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Dentist Who Killed Cecil the Lion Allegedly Sexually Harassed His Receptionist

It appears that lions aren’t the only thing Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who was made famous for killing a protected lion in Zimbabwe, preys on. In 2009, Palmer settled a sexual harassment claim against him for $127,500. Not only was the plaintiff a former patient but she was also his receptionist. 

The woman accused Palmer of touching her breasts, buttocks and genitalia as well as making verbal comments between the dates of July 1999 and January 2005. When she informed her supervisor that she wanted the harassment to stop, she was fired. Palmer then paid out the settlement without admitting guilt. In addition to paying out $127,500, Palmer was also ordered to undergo three hours of sexual harassment training. He was also required to write a letter of recommendation for the woman. 

On July 1, 2015, Palmer killed a 13 year old lion that was being tracked and studied by Oxford researchers. The two men who helped Palmer kill Cecil are being charged with poaching. Palmer might also face charges as well. 

*image by Flickr

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Home Improvement Company Sued for Pregnancy Discrimination

The CEO of Carl’s Fencing, Decking and Home Improvements and his wife are being sued by a former employee for pregnancy discrimination. Ashley Meyer, the plaintiff, claims that she was harassed by Carl and Donna DelPizzo, the defendants, when she informed them of her pregnancy. She said she was then fired after she took time off after her premature son was released from the hospital.

Meyer was hired by the DelPizzos in January 2014 as the Marketing Coordinator. According to the complaint, Meyer was asked if she had children during her interview. Under New Jersey state labor law it is against the law for a prospective employer to ask this. 

When Meyer became pregnant a few months after being hired, she said her $57,000 was cut in half. In addition to the pay cut, she began experiencing harassment in the workplace. The harassment included making comments about her hair and makeup, being rude and abrasive, and saying she had a “baby brain” when she made mistakes at work. 

When Meyer returned to work after the birth of her son, she was demoted from Marketing Coordinator to a part-time administrative sales assistant who primarily answered phones. When Meyer found out her premature son was being released from the hospital, she told the DelPizzos she would be taking six weeks of leave to be with her baby. Though Meyer is protected under the Family Leave Act (and she gave the DelPizzos 30 days notice,) they tried to convince her to continue working for the company part time. When she refused, they refused to tell Meyer whether or not she would have a job when she returned from her leave. Meyer was let go in March 2015. 

Under the Family Medical Leave Act “FMLA”, parents have 12 months from the birth of their baby to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  In addition, a company with 50 or more employees cannot fire an employee for taking unpaid leave to care for a family member or baby. 

How prevalent do you think pregnancy discrimination is in the workplace?

*image by KT Lindsay, Flickr

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Female on Female Sexual Harassment Case Filed Against the City of Sacramento

Though most sexual harassment cases involve a male superior and a female subordinate, the most recent case out of Sacramento involves two females. A utilities employee in Sacramento, Jewel Mason, recently filed a sexual harassment claim against Elsie Fong, her female supervisor and Program Manager. According to the claim, Fong created a sexually hostile environment for two years. When the plaintiff complained about the sexual harassment she was experiencing, she claims she was denied a permanent position in the department as retaliation.

Fong allegedly contributed to a sexually hostile work environment by wearing excessively provocative clothing, purposely displaying her undergarments, complimenting Mason’s appearance, asking Mason personal questions about her life, intimately hugging Mason, and repeatedly directing sexual behavior towards Mason. The plaintiff also claims that Fong told her the job benefits were contingent upon Mason submitting to sexual acts.  

In March of 2014, Mason made a complaint to Fong’s superiors. Though the harassment improved for a few weeks, the plaintiff claims Fong took away two of her paid vacation days around this time. Fong was also overhead admitting as well as bragging about the harassment allegations. In October 2014, Mason made a formal discrimination claim against Fong with the EEOC. Though Fong was moved from the city’s utilities department, Mike Malone, another manager, retaliated against the plaintiff. Not only did Malone also harass Mason, but he also reduced her job responsibilities. The plaintiff believes that she was denied a permanent position as well as a parking spot because of her complaint to the EEOC. 

This is the third sexual harassment claim the city has seen in the last few months. The first was a claim against Mayor Kevin Johnson that was thrown out in May. The second claim comes from a former staff member of city councilman Alan Warren. Warren was allegedly using his authority to coerce subordinates into sexual acts. When the staff member refused to continue the sexual relationship, he fired her. 

Do you think these women are actually being sexual harassed or do you think it is an example of following the trend?

*image by Unsplash.com

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County of Los Angeles Votes for Minimum Wage Increase SImilar to City of LA’s $15 per Hour by 2020

UPDATE: (July 22, 2015) The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors just voted to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in unincorporated areas of the county over the next five years.

Following in the footsteps of Seattle and San Francisco, the city of Los Angeles recently voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2020 and then indexed to inflation thereafter. To put the increase in perspective, an average minimum-wage full-time worker will now receive an extra $3,000 per year.  

The first increase will be to $10.50 an hour starting July 1, 2016.  Then increased each year until July 2020, when the minimum wage will be $15 an hour. Two years later, increases will be pegged to the Consumer Price Index.  Businesses with less than 25 employees get an additional year before having their minimum wage hiked.

Like most laws, this will have winners and losers.  This is seemingly great news for minimum-wage workers, but consider the affect the increase will have on small businesses or entrepreneurs. In order to avoid a loss of profits, some businesses will be forced to move their companies to a neighboring city, raise prices, decrease their total number of employees, reduce the quality of their services, or close all together. The question is how many businesses.

This will likely hit the restaurant industry the hardest.  Restaurants fought hard to get the City Council to include tips in this new minimum wage calculation, but failed.  According to Forbes.com, after the city of Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, they saw an increase of restaurant closures. Some people are saying up to 25% of all restaurants in the City of LA may close or move to neighboring cities.  Restaurants may also get creative by eliminating tipping and instead raising menu prices significantly and adding a service charge.  

While supporters of the minimum-wage increase believe this will lift the families of full-time workers out of poverty, the critics are not so sure. Instead, they believe the wage increase will have an inflationary affect, driving rents and other prices up. 

Do you think a large jump in the minimum wage for an individual city is a good idea? Consider the affect these increases have on things such as small business profits, unemployment, exodus of employers to neighboring cities.  How easy would it be for most small business to move to neighboring cities like Santa Monica, Culver City, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills etc.? 

*image by Flickr

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Wife of NFL Player Suing Employer for Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Philippa Okoye, wife of NFL player Lawrence Okoye, is suing her former boss and employer for sexually harassing her, openly mocking her interracial marriage, and demoting her when she complained. When Okaye was hired as a senior investment adviser in 2013, she was the only woman working in the Manhattan division of deVere Group, the world’s largest group of international financial advisers. 

Okaye alleges that a senior area manager for deVere was the one that primarily led the harassment. Okaye alleges that the senior manager openly expressed that he wanted the office to have the same drug and sex fueled escapades seen in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Boiler Room

Okaye, the only female employee amongst 21 male-coworkers, allegedly faced sexist antics daily. In addition to making inappropriate comments, her co-workers would also allegedly rate visiting women on whether or not they were worth “f*cking”. Some of the inappropriate things said to Okaye by her coworkers during her time of employment include:

1. Don’t change your surname if you marry Lawrence, because people will think you’re black, and that’s not good for business.

2. How many cheerleaders has your boyfriend f*cked today? He’s probably f*cked the whole cheerleading squad by now.

3. So can you handle the banter or are you going to be a woman about it and be sensitive? 

4. I think it’s disgusting when white women go out with black guys. 

When Okaye complained to the senior area manager about the sexist and racist comments directed towards her, he allegedly replied, “this is why I didn’t want women in the office.” She alleges she was then demoted and eventually fired in retaliation for her complaint. 

deVere Group claims that the allegations are “false and incredulous” and that Okaye is just a disgruntled employee. 

*image by Esteban Chiner, Flickr

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Five Female Police Officers Suing for Sexual Harassment

Five female police officers in Bridgeton, New Jersey have filed a lawsuit against the city of Bridgeton as well as two Bridgeton police officers (twins Angel and Luis Santiago.) The women allege that Angel Santiago, a fellow officer, sexually harassed and discriminated against them for five years. 

Angel Santiago, the officer being accused of over 70 sexually explicit actions, allegedly made inappropriate comments towards the women as well as kissing them forcibly, smacking their butts, and preventing entry to the women’s bathroom without a kiss. In addition, Santiago also allegedly rubbed his clothed genitals on the women, grabbed their breasts and shared inappropriate cell phone images.

When the women filed a formal complaint, they said that Angel Santiago’s twin brother, Sgt. Luis Santiago retaliated against them. In the suit, Luis Santiago is accused of having a condescending attitude towards the women, insulting them, and making false complaints against them following their complaint. The women are also suing the city of Bridgeton for ignoring their complaint.

The lawsuit seeks back pay, lost wages and benefits, punitive damages, interest, attorney’s fees and costs, and reinstatement to the office jobs they held prior to the alleged retaliation of Luis Santiago.  Read about a similar officer sexual harassment case here.

Do you think sexual harassment is more likely to be covered up in male-dominated professions?

image by Flickr

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High End Fashion Designer Sued for Sexual Harassment

Elie Tahari, a popular fashion designer whose clothes are a staple at high end retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue, is being sued by a former consultant for sexual harassment. The fashion consultant, Marcy Castelgrande, worked for the designer for 5 years before being laid off and is currently seeking $12 million in damages. 

Castelgrande is alleging that Tahari groped her private parts while she was modeling a skirt in front of a crowd of people, including her colleagues and supervisors. When Castelgrande, who was embarrassed and shocked by the incident, told Tahari to stop touching her, he yelled for her to leave. Castelgrande immediately filed a sexual harassment complaint with HR and was fired a mere two hours later. Tahari was overheard saying that he cannot work with Castelgrande because she was too sensitive and that since he had past lawsuits he could not deal with another one. Well firing someone two hours after their complaining of sexual harassment is inviting a lawsuit that includes retaliation and wrongful termination as well.  

The lawsuit also alleges that Tahari created a “sexually charged environment” at work months prior to the skirt incident. 

This is Tahari’s second lawsuit this year. The first suit was filed in April by fashion designer and former business partner, Catherine Malandrino. She is suing him for ruining her clothing line and cutting her out of a $7 million sale. 

*image by Unspash

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Outrage that Students Have to Perform Nude In Order to Pass Visual Arts Class at UC-San Diego

If studying for finals wasn’t nerve wracking enough, a University of California-San Diego Visual Arts professor requires students to perform naked in order to pass the class. A mother of one of the students is outraged. 

The class entitled “Performing for the Selffocuses on the history of body art and performance art in relation to the question of the self or subjectivity and is composed of a series of gestures that students must complete. For the final gesture (appropriately named “Erotic Self”), the professor and the students must get naked in a candlelit room. Associate Professor Ricardo Dominguez has been teaching the class at the university for 11 years. 

Dominguez claims that all his students know what is expected of them prior to taking the class. If a student is uncomfortable with the final gesture however, Dominguez does provide an alternative—to be figuratively or emotionally naked instead. The outraged mother (who has chosen to remain anonymous) claims that her daughter was not given this alternative. 

A representative of the university claims that “removing your clothes is not required in this class.” In addition, “the course is not required for graduation.” If students are uncomfortable with being nude, they can choose to bare their fragile or vulnerable self instead. They can “perform nudity” while still remaining fully covered.

Do you think Professor Dominguez is taking advantage of his students by forcing them to get naked in order to pass his class? Is this non workplace sexual harassment? Or do you think Anonymous Mother is blowing things out of proportion? 

image by Flickr

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Garth Brooks Sued for Unpaid Wages

Garth Brooks’ former business partner is suing him for unpaid wages and bonuses.  Lisa Sanderson is seeking $425,000 from the famed country music artist whom she worked with for almost 20 years.  Sanderson is a television and movie producer who claims she was hired by Brooks to start his acting career. Sanderson claims she is owed wages for getting Brooks movie roles which he declined.  Brooks allegedly declined roles in Saving Private Ryan and Twister because he “wanted to be the star” and was not willing to take a backseat to Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, or a tornado.

Sanderson also alleges Brooks turned down other deals she arranged for him including Fox and Disney.  Sanderson’s suit states that she never got the 50 percent of producers fees she was promised.

What do you think of a business partner–as opposed to an employee–suing for unpaid “wages”?

Please post your comments at:  www.ShiraziLawFirm.com/blog

For a little more juicy unpaid wages/salary misclassified case see my article re Lady Gaga being sued here.

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