University of Texas Professor Wins $3M Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit

Professor Pregnancy Discrimination News

University of Texas at Austin engineering professor, Evdokia Nikolova, has been awarded $3 million by a jury for being discriminated against based on sex and pregnancy when she applied for tenure. 

Nikolova had worked for nearly five years at UT-Austin and two years at Texas A&M University, when she applied for tenure for the 2018-2019 academic year. Despite being unanimously approved for tenure by the School of Engineering, UT-Austin dean of engineering school Sharon Wood denied her tenure stating that Nikolova did not have the seven requisite years of teaching, which professors typically have when requesting tenure.

Wood argued that Nikolova was making the request too early because she had taken a “probationary extension” and ”modified instructional duty” for pregnancy and childbirth during 2015-2016 and therefore had not yet met the seven years.

Under various state laws like California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, employees cannot be punished for taking pregnancy or medical/disability leave.  

Nikolova filed the lawsuit against UT-Austin in 2019. The lawsuit showed how there continues to be discrimination against women and mothers in the workplace. Evidence showed that since Nikolova’s first university interview, nine male professors had received tenure while both women who applied for tenure during the same period were denied. The lawsuit also highlighted the importance of pointing out discrimination in influential institutions like UT-Austin, as it deters other institutions from thinking that discrimination can go unchecked.

The University denied any unfair treatment of Nikolova, but stated it will look to improve processes and implement steps to comply with the verdict.

Learn more about Medical Leave / Disability Law

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

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

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

National Origin & Race Discrimination – Case Example

A recently handled national origin and racial discrimination case

Lisa is a young woman of Chinese descent. Lisa was subjected to harassment and discrimination at work based on her national origin and race.

Lisa’s boss would make racist comments such as “fucking Chinese people”, constantly saying that there are too many Chinese employees and saying that they needed to stop hiring Chinese people. Lisa’s employer additionally instructed Lisa not to hire certain types of people, such as “blacks.” Lisa protested and complained about the racist comments to her employer.

Instead of trying to cure the discrimination and harassment as required by law, Lisa’s employer retaliated against her and terminated her employment because she protested her boss’ discrimination and harassment.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits an employer, including any supervisor, from harassing or discriminating an employee based on national origin or race. We helped Lisa get justice for the racial harassment and retaliation she endured. We were able to get her a favorable settlement.

If you have been harasseddiscriminated, or retaliated against based on a protected category such as race or national origin, give us a call at 310-400-5891 for your free intake.

Learn more about National Origin / Race Discrimination Law

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

Whistleblowing – Case Example

Whistleblower Employment Lawyer

Patty was a wonderful professional who performed her job exceptionally. Patty had complained to her Employer about fraud that was being committed by her boss in violation of the USA Patriot Act. Instead of taking action to address the fraud, the company let the fraud continue unabated. Moreover, management retaliated against Patty by bullying and intimidating her and telling her to look the other way on financial crimes. 

When Patty had to take a medical leave of absence due to a serious medical condition affecting her day-to-day life, management retaliated by not accommodating and instead terminating her employment before she was fully released to work by her doctor. 

Patty’s employer discriminated against her by terminating her employment because of her disability and in retaliation for exercising her rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and California Labor Code. 

If you suspect that you have been retaliated against or wrongfully terminated for making complaints of illegal activity, or because of your disability or medical condition, give us a call at 310-400-5891 for your free intake.

Learn more about Whistleblowing Law / Disability & Medical Leave Law in California

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

Pregnancy & Disability Leave – Case Example

Pregnancy / Disability Leave

Dalia is a young woman who had consistently performed well at her job. Dalia became pregnant and took a pregnancy leave because of her medical condition. She regularly kept in contact with her employer at all times. She provided doctor’s notes to her employer that she was disabled because she suffered from post-partum depression.

But, out of nowhere, Dalia was suddenly and callously fired the day before her one year work anniversary.  Her employer thought that by terminating her before her 1 year work anniversary, they would be home free to terminate her because California’s Family Rights Act would not apply.  But, they failed to realize that she was protected from their discrimination by other California laws, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act.  

Dalia’s employer unlawfully used her pregnancy and medical condition against her, and terminated her employment to avoid dealing with her medical and parental needs.

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated based on a protected category such as pregnancy, disability, or a medical condition, or been denied medical leave, give us a call at 310-400-5891 for your free confidential consultation.  

Learn more about Medical Leave / Disability Law

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

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

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

Actor Charlie Sheen Sued by Former Employee for Breach of Employment Contract and Unpaid Wages in Los Angeles

Charlie Sheen is being sued by Keith Fitzgerald (a former employee) for over $1 million in damages. The causes of action in the complaint include breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, quantum merit, failure to pay wages and overtime in violation of the California labor code, and waiting time penalties. The lawsuit was filed in April 2015 in Federal Court in Los Angeles and the company “9th Step Productions, Inc.” is also named as a Defendant.

Upon hire in 2013, Fitzgerald alleges his employment agreement was for $300,000 a year and that he would receive a 20% incentive bonus and medical benefits. Though his contract was for 3 years—Fitzgerald was fired (with no explanation) after only 5 months of working for Sheen. Fitzgerald claims he was not paid at all for any of the services he performed within that five month time period (though he failed to specify exactly what services he provided for Sheen.) Basically, Fitzgerald is suing for the value of the 3 year contract, overtime, and some Labor Code penalties.

Though Sheen is no stranger to the courtroom, do you think Sheen made and broke this contract or do you think this is another example of someone taking advantage of a celebrity’s wealth and status?

For more celebrity wage lawsuits read more here: Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks, LeAnn Rimes, Sharon Stone, Alanis Morissette.

Important terms:

Breach of employment contract:  Most employees are at-will employees and don’t have any contract of employment for any specific time period.  But, some employees are given employment contracts for specific periods of time in which they cannot be fired without cause.  If such employment contracts are breached by the employer, it is responsible for paying the employee up to the whole amount due under the duration of the contract.

Overtime:  Under California law, most non-exempt employees must be paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week and over 8 hours in any day.  Overtime is paid at 1.5 times an employee’s regular rate of pay.

Waiting time penalties:  California’s Labor Code provides penalties against employers who do not timely pay their employees all their wages.  This penalty can be for up to 6 weeks (30 work days) of pay.

*image by David Zellaby, Flickr  

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

Former NBA Great Isiah Thomas–Who Lost Sexual Harassment Case–is Now President of WNBA Team

Last week, Isiah Thomas was hired as the president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Thomas is a 12-time NBA All-Star and one of the fifty greatest players in NBA history.  But, in 2007 he was found guilty of sexually harassing a fellow New York Knicks executive, Anucha Browne Sanders. After Thomas and the New York Knicks lost the civil sexual harassment lawsuit, Sanders received $11.5 million.  The New York Knicks also own the Women’s NBA Liberty and their principal owner James Dolan remains the same from the time of the alleged harassment.

Upon the announcement of Thomas’ hiring, Sanders issued a statement through her lawyer, “those who do not learn from the past will be condemned to repeat it.” Sanders isn’t the only one who objects to Thomas’ hiring, women’s sports advocates and fans are also displeased. They believe that this decision sends a message to young girls and women everywhere; that sexual harassment is not only excusable but also rewardable. 

The incident is being compared to the Donald Sterling case. Critics claim that Sterling’s racial remarks were condemned yet Thomas’ sexual harassment history seems to have no affect on his career. Instead, Thomas was given the prospect of becoming part owner of the Liberty with Dolan.

What do you think about someone who was found guilty of sexual harassing a woman running an women’s basketball team? Should Thomas be given a second chance?

*image by Kevin Coles, Flickr

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

Muslim Correctional Officer Claims Racial and Religious Harassment Against California Prison

Elsiddig Elhindi, a 56-year-old correctional officer at California State Prison-Sacramento recently filed a harassment lawsuit against CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Elhindi claims that co-workers would frequently harass him because of his national origin (Sudan) and his religion (Islam).

In addition to making derogatory comments about Elhindi’s accent and religion, his coworkers would allegedly refer to Elhindi as a terrorist.

According to the lawsuit, Elhindi started being harassed severely by his co-workers from the start of his employment in 2006. Elhinidi says that when he filed complaints with his supervisor and the union, the harassment only got worse. His coworkers began to refer to him as a “rat” or “snitch”. He said the harassment continued up until the day he left the facility in 2014.

Harassment of an employee based on their religion or national origin is illegal. A hostile work environment can arise when a co-worker, supervisor, or client engages in unwelcome and inappropriate racial based behavior, making the workplace atmosphere intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Harassment does include racial or religious based comments, as is the case here.

How frequent do you think racial bias is in the workplace? How frequent do you think harassment of middle-eastern or Muslim employees is? 

*image by Michal Svec, Flickr

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter

Viacom Settles Intern Lawsuit for $7.21 Million

Last month, Viacom, Inc. (the world’s sixth largest mass media company) settled a class-action lawsuit with 12,500 former interns. Viacom, the owner of Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, will have to pay out $7.21 million to interns who claimed they were paid less than minimum wage or not paid at all. By not paying interns for doing similar work as paid employees, Viacom violated both federal and state labor laws.

The law on unpaid internships has been clarified in recent years.  Employers can only do unpaid internships if the real benefit of the internship is almost only to the intern.  Otherwise, making them work for free for the employers benefit violates state and federal minimum wage laws.       

While the initial suit was filed by an ex-MTV intern Casey Ojeda on August 2013, the deal will include all interns who worked in the company’s NYC offices from 2007-2013 as well as those who worked in their California offices from 2010-2013.

Though other companies such as NBCUniversal, Saturday Night Live, and Condé Nast have had similar suits filed against them, this intern settlement case marks one of the largest in the media industry.

What do you think the effect of this will be on company’s hiring unpaid interns? Will they continue to hire interns, but pay them minimum wage?

*image by Tom Magliery, Flickr

Email or Call Shirazi Law Firm for a consultation: 310-400-5891. Join us on the following networks for the latest legal news:

Shirazi law firm employment law newsletter


Get In Touch:

We get a lot of spam submissions - this question helps us find your message more efficiently. You can find the answer in the address adjacent to this form.
This form does NOT create an attorney-client relationship.

Shirazi Law Firm Logo

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