Amazon Accused of Systemic Disability Discrimination by New York State Agency

Amazon Disability Discrimination

The New York State Division of Human Rights has accused Amazon of discriminating against pregnant and disabled workers at its worksites.

A complaint was filed by the Agency claiming that Amazon has policies requiring workers to take unpaid leaves of absences even if they are capable of working, instead of providing reasonable accommodations.

The complaint blames Amazon for allowing worksite managers to ignore in-house accommodation consultants who recommend providing modified schedules or job responsibilities.

As per state law, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers who request them. “Disability” under California law is defined very broadly and can include many temporary medical conditions that can cause people to need time off or changes to their work duties. This includes employees with pregnancy-related medical conditions, which can also be considered disabilities.

In the complaint, Amazon is described to have forced one pregnant worker to continue lifting 25 pounds and put her on indefinite unpaid leave after she got injured. Additionally, it describes Amazon reversing recommendations to modify work schedules for two disabled employees, after the managers resisted the change.

The complaint seeks unspecified civil fines and penalties, which can go up to $50,000 for violations, or $100,000 for willful conduct. The complaint also calls for improved training and new policies for review of requests for reasonable accommodations.

Learn More About Disability Discrimination

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LAPD Lieutenant wins $4.4 Million in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

LAPD Lieutenant Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Veteran LAPD Lieutenant, Lou Vince, has been awarded $4.37 million by a jury in a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. Vince claimed a supervisor minimized his back issues and that the department had ignored his accommodation requests for light duty to heal.

Before the incidents that lead to Vince filing against the city, Vince had no problems supervisors and had numerous accolades and promotions throughout his career.

In 2008, Vince suffered back injuries as a patrol officer, and shortly after promoting to lieutenant, he underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2015. Upon his return, Vince had medical work restrictions to allow his back to heal. Instead of accommodating Vince’s medical restrictions, his boss was not happy and insisted Vince have them lifted. Vince complied but was unable to work with his full duty belt because of ongoing back problems. Vince was never given a light-duty position as he requested.

When Vince made a disability discrimination complaint, he was then retaliated against with station transfers and job reassignments.

In April 2018, Vince filed a lawsuit alleging disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate and failure to engage in the interactive process. The City Attorney’s Office argued that the LAPD had non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons behind every action against Vince and denied he was retaliated against for complaining.

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a legally protected complaint to management, HR, or the DFEH / EEOC. Moreover, employers are required to reasonably accommodate employees with a disability or medical condition.

Learn More About Disability Discrimination

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Man Awarded $450K After Workplace Birthday Party Panic Attack Leads to Termination

Disability Discrimination News

Kevin Berling was awarded $300,000 for emotional distress and $150,000 in lost wages for a disability discrimination case in late March after a two day trial in Kenton County, Kentucky.

Berling sued his employer, Gravity Diagnostics after the company threw him a birthday party against his request that the company not celebrate his birthday because it would cause him immense stress.

Berling suffers from anxiety disorders and panic attacks. He worked at Gravity Diagnostics for approximately 10 months, when he requested that the company not celebrate his birthday as it normally does for its employees. Berling told his supervisor that a birthday celebration would be a stressful trigger of bad childhood memories surrounding his parents’ divorce. The lawsuit outlines that the office manager ends up forgetting his request and the party is still held for Berling. As a result, Berling suffers a panic attack and leaves.

The next day, Berling is called into a meeting with his bosses where he suffers another panic attack when his supervisor chastised him for “stealing his co-workers” joy and for “being a little girl.” The company then fires Berling saying that they were worried about him being angry and violent. 

As part of the lawsuit, Berling claimed the company discriminated against him based on his disability, and retaliated against him for requesting a reasonable accommodation for his disability. The jury returned the verdict after two days in trial and awarded Berling a $450,000 win. 

The company continues to deny liability and is pursuing port-trial options. The company’s founder and COO, Julie Brazil, stated that the verdict sets a dangerous precedent in which workplace violence will be tolerated unless physical violence occurs, and stated that her employees were the victims, not Berling. The jury didn’t seem to agree with Brazil once they got to meet Berling at trial and saw that the company’s claim that he posed a threat was more of an exaggeration.

Employers must accommodate their employee’s disabilities and cannot terminate someone based on a protected category such as a disability or medical condition.  Further, the law prohibits harassment of an employee based on medical condition or disability. 

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, retaliated or discriminated against based on a protected category such as a physical or mental disability, or medical condition, give us a call at 310-400-5891 for your free intake.

Learn more about Disability Harassment / Disability Discrimination Law

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Shirazi Law Firm Announced as a Top Los Angeles Employment Law Firm by UpCity! 

Shirazi Law Firm is announced as Top Employment and Labor Law Firm in Los Angeles and Nationally according to upcity

Shirazi Law Firm is thrilled to officially announce that we have been recognized as one of the top employment and labor law firms in Los Angeles and nationally by UpCity! 

From wrongful termination to discrimination to harassment, we handle all types of employment law cases. We have helped past clients achieve significant results against some of the world’s biggest companies, ensuring that California’s workers are never taken advantage of. This is only one reason our Los Angeles-based firm has been recognized by UpCity as not only one of the best employment and labor law firms in Southern California but also nationally in the United States

UpCity is a resource that helps connect businesses to service providers they can trust. With more than 70,000 listed providers—from marketing agencies to accounting firms to HR consultants to IT specialists, and many more—2 million businesses (and counting) have visited UpCity to research and identify the best partner for their needs. 

Dan Olson, CEO of UpCity, had this to say about the Shirazi Law Firm team: 

“When it comes to labor and employment cases, you need the right attorney behind you. The Shirazi Law Firm has proven time and time again that they’re one of the best employment law firms in California and the country as a whole.” – Dan Olson, CEO, UpCity 

This recognition has been driven in large part by our perfect 5-star UpCity review rating Here are a few of our favorite pieces of feedback we’ve received from our amazing customers: 

· “I could not have hired a better pregnancy discrimination lawyer than Emanuel Shirazi and team. Mr. Shirazi’s skill, passion, heart, patience and tenacity led to me getting an amazing 7 figure result. If you are looking for an employment lawyer in Los Angeles or anywhere in Socal, he is your guy hands down 100%” – Julie Vas 

· “Emmanuel did an amazing job on my case! He was very involved and communicated throughout the entire process. He made sure I was comfortable with the decisions and negotiated the best results! I have already recommended two of my friends to him. You are making the right choice choosing Shirazi Law Firm!” 

We’d like to thank UpCity for recognizing us with this tremendous honor. It’s truly incredible to be amongst such incredible firms in the UpCity community.


Learn More About Shirazi Law Firm’s Owner and Attorney Emanuel Shirazi

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Disability and Medical Leave at Work in Los Angeles

Today I want to talk about disability and medical leaves at work. Under California law, disability is any serious medical condition and can be temporary, as long as it’s not something trivial like a cold or a sore throat.

Disability and medical leave violations are one of the most common issues we handle such as when an employer fires an employee while they’re on disability, medical or pregnancy leave because:

  • They ran out of FMLA.
  • Don’t qualify for FMLA.
  • Ask for too much time off.
  • Don’t have a set in stone return to work date.
  • The employer says they can’t meet the accommodations request.

In California this is likely illegal if they have five or more employees. A thorough discussion is also required by the employer with the employee to determine if a reasonable accommodation is possible such as time off, change in position, and change in hours. Also – you don’t have to be a hundred percent healed in order to be allowed back to work.

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NBC Allegedly Only Hiring Good Looking People

An employee who was recently fired from NBC is now claiming that she was told NBC only wanted to hire attractive people. Stephanie Belanger claims that the recruiter who initially contacted her for a job as an audio-visual coordinator wanted to see her Facebook and Instagram profile before being set up with an interview. The recruiter allegedly told Belanger that NBC was specifically asking for “good looking employees”. 

In addition, Belanger (25) claims that she experienced disability discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation. Here is what we know about the case: 

1/ Belanger claims that her supervisor, John Carleo, called her a series of inappropriate things such as a whore and the hottest coordinator in the office. In addition, he also referenced himself as her boyfriend without the benefits. 

2/ Carleo told Belanger that he had to fire her, otherwise his girlfriend would break up with him. 

3/ Belanger is epileptic and had two seizures at work. After the second one, she was demoted and her salary was cut. 

At the time, Belanger apparently complained to the network, but they didn’t take her claims seriously. 

Do you think it is illegal to only hire good looking employees?  Couldn’t this be age discrimination?

*image by Tobias Zils

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Disability Discrimination Claims On The Rise According to EEOC

New data obtained from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests that employees are filing more disability discrimination complaints. Here is what we know about the report:

  1. For example, in Texas: although disabled persons make up 17.5% of the workforce, 30% of the complaints filed with the EEOC in 2016 were those having to do with disability discrimination.
  2. In 2016, a total of 28,073 disability complaints were filed. 
  3. After the EEOC investigated those complaints, 5,680 were found to have been supported by evidence. 
  4. $131 million was collected and distributed to those who were discriminated against.

What caused the increase in disability discrimination complaints?

Though it’s possible that there has been an increase in overall discrimination, it’s more likely that the increase has to do with the fact that those being discriminated against feel more confident to report their claims. Good news, considering many disabled individuals probably already feel like the process of getting interviews and then getting hired is hard enough. Discrimination such as harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and being refused promotions may go underreported if the individual fears losing their job and starting the hiring process over again.

More importantly, many temporarily disabled employees are wrongfully terminated when they request some time off or other reasonable accommodation.  Many employers will fire a disabled employee because they have exhausted their FMLA leave or don’t qualify for FMLA leave.  This is illegal in most situations.   

As a disabled worker, it’s important to remember that you are entitled to certain accommodations. If you feel that you are being discriminated against by your employer, don’t suffer quietly alone. Instead, consider contacting an employment attorney to assist you with building a factual case against your employer.

*image by Marc Fulgar

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Colorado Supreme Court Rules That Employers Can Fire Employees for Off-Duty Medical Marijuana Use

Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic, was fired from his job at Dish Network after failing a random drug test in 2010.  Coats was a customer service representative for Dish and consumed pot off-duty (with a medical marijuana card) to control his muscle spasms.  

The Colorado Supreme Court recently ruled in a 6-0 decision that an employers’ zero-tolerance drug policy is superior to Colorado’s medical marijuana laws. Because the use of medical marijuana is not lawful under federal law (only state), employees who engage in medical marijuana usage are not protected. Employers have the freedom to set their own drug policies in the state of Colorado. 

Up until now, this has been a particularly gray area of the law in states that allow medical marijuana usage. Colorado is the first to shine some light on the subject. 

After the ruling, Dish Network released this statement: “We are pleased with the outcome of the court’s decision today. As a national employer, Dish remains committed to a drug-free workplace and compliance with federal law.” Not everyone, including Coats (who is currently unemployed) is happy with the outcome of the five year battle. 

According to the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 Substance meaning that marijuana has “no medical accepted use, a high risk of abuse, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” 

Do you think that the Colorado Supreme Court made the right decision? Do you think this could have been a disability discrimination claim if no drug test was failed?

image by Flickr

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Employer Fires Employee Seeking Time Off for Cancer Treatment

Rosebud Restaurant, a Chicago chain, recently fired 19 year old Jonathan Larson after he requested 6 weeks off for a cancer treatment. 

When Larson, a delivery driver at the restaurant, asked his manager for time off for radiation treatment of his brain cancer, the manager told him that by the time he got back, he’d already have another driver hired. He then told Jonathan to leave because he had to make some phone calls. 

Jonathan Larson was diagnosed with cancer of the brain and spine. The six weeks off would allow him to undergo surgery and recover. 

When news of the firing broke out, the Chicago restaurant received plenty of backlash on their Facebook page. After seeing the negative response from community members, the restaurant posted this statement “we want you to know that we’re listening and since learning of the incident have acted swiftly to better understand what transpired.” The restaurant spoke with Jonathan Larson and reassured him that his job would be waiting for him upon his return. 

Mr. Larson would not be the first person to be fired for needing cancer treatment. In September, a physician’s assistant in Pennsylvania was fired — by mail — after getting diagnosed with cancer.

Some of the federal laws that protect employees from being fired for similar situations include the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  Under California’s disabilities laws, most employers with 5 or more employees must reasonably accommodate their employees’ disabilities. 

Even if Mr. Larson did not qualify for FMLA leave or the restaurant did not fall into the purview of the ADA–what do you think of the employer’s quick firing and backtracking once the media got involved?  For a similar media backlash case, read this article. 

*image by YoChicago, Flickr

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Oprah Winfrey’s TV Network Sued for Employment Discrimination & Wrongful Termination in Los Angeles

Oprah Winfrey’s TV network OWN is one of the latest celebrity owned companies sued for wrongful termination and discrimination.  Former employee and Senior Director Carolyn Hommel filed suit against OWN in Los Angeles Superior Court.  Hommel alleges she was replaced by a temporary employee after going on pregnancy leave.

A month after giving birth, Hommel alleges that OWN “laid her off” after she had already been demoted and given an undeserved bad review.

Under California law, most employers are not allowed to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for taking pregnancy or disability leave.  The question is did OWN fire Hommel for other reasons.

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Shirazi Law Firm, PC

Shirazi Law Firm, PC

1875 Century Park East,
Suite 1025,
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Phone: 310 400 5891
Fax: 888 908 7359