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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Arizona Immigration Law Spurs Controversy and Lawsuits

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about the recently-signed Immigration Law in Arizona.  From Columbian pop sensation Shakira and New York Times columnist Frank Rich to Colorado governor Bill Ritter and Tucson-native, Grammy-award-winning singer Linda Ronstadt, liberal-leaning folks have spoken up against the new policies, which they fear may cause discrimination, racial profiling and unfair employment practices.  Right-winged types, however, are applauding the decision of Governor Jan Brewer for finally handling the rampant illegal immigration policy.  The new law requires state and local law enforcement to question people about their personal immigration status if there is probable cause to suspect they are in the country illegally, therefore making it a state crime to be in the United States illegally.

Set to take effect this summer, the law is being challenged by a lawsuit filed by 15-year police veteran Martin Escobar, who claims the law is unconstitutional.  Escobar claims that there is no possible legal way for officers to confirm immigration status without impeding investigations and thus violating constitutional rights.  Escobar is an overnight patrol officer in a heavily Latino community in Tucson whose own parents immigrated from Mexico when he was five years old.  According to his lawsuit, the law “is the product of racial bias aimed specifically at Latinos.”  Escobar asserts that questioning people based solely on their skin color, proximity to the border and linguistic characteristics is a sure-fire way to endorse harassment and profiling.  Officer Escobar believes the state law will place Latinos in danger of losing their constitutional rights.

Governor Brewer has publicly acknowledged that racial profiling is illegal in the United States and not practiced in Arizona. She contends that the new law will not condone racial profiling.

Martin Escobar’s lawsuit, which was the first of two filed last Thursday, is thought to be the first of many involving Arizona’s new immigration laws. So it looks like we’ll be talking about Arizona for quite some time.

Related:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2011740327_azimmig30.html

California Racial Discrimination & Harassment Attorneys


    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Black Factory Workers Threatened, Harrassed at Work

    Racial slurs and images of burning crosses at the workplace in 2010? It does not seem possible. After all, we are the Obama nation and change has finally happened.

    Regrettably, this story out of East Texas proves that workplace discrimination is alive and well.

    Last week, in a press conference launched by employees and civil rights advocates, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) unveiled a horrifying tale of black factory workers who reportedly were harassed with nooses, confederate flags and death threats. White employees who refused to take part in the racist activity were fired. Terms like "coon" and "colored boy" assaulted black employees as did images of swastikas while working at Turner Industries, a pipe and industrial metal company based out of Baton Rouge, La. Some even had their lives and the lives of their families threatened.

    Based on the findings of the EEOC, current and former employees of Turner, their representatives, and company management are first required to sit down and reach a settlement; if that stalls, the agency promises the employees will have an option of filing a civil rights lawsuit. The EEOC began receiving complaints about Turner over a year ago but some claim Turner has a long history of abuse. In interviews conducted by the agency, some report incidents of racial discrimination and abuse as far back as 2006.

    Civil rights leaders claim that East Texas has been a hotbed of this kind of activity for decades. Last month, eight employees had their complaints upheld by the EEOC as their attorneys have identified harassment, discrimination and threatening behavior in other Turner locations throughout Texas. Turner management, according to the complaints, repeatedly limited blacks to low-wage positions while promoting less qualified white workers. Lawyers and representatives for the EEOC conclusively found that Turner did nothing to stop the discrimination or to protect their employees.

    Turner has issued a statement via their website to their employees that states the company does not agree with the EEOC's findings at the Paris, Texas, facility. Furthermore, Turner is quick to note that they have complied with federal laws concerning workplace diversity for many years. In a note to their clients, Turner assures their customers that the company will cooperate with the EEOC's demands.

      Thursday, April 15, 2010

      Sonic Drive-In Settles EEOC Sexual Harassment Suit

      Driving through fast-food places to satisfy our cravings for ice cream shakes and french fries, we rarely think about the work conditions people behind the counters deal with. Many of these workers are teenagers or young adults entering the professional workforce for the first time. Unfortunately, they are naïve to their rights and uncomfortable speaking up if they are treated unfairly by their employers.

      Seventeen-year-old Erin Schwarzbach of Grapevine, Texas, however, wasn’t shy about speaking up when she was sexually harassed by her former manager. In October 2006, Schwarzbach filed a sexual harassment suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. Last week, Sonic Drive-In settled in favor of Erin Schwarzbach for $31,000. Under the settlement, Sonic has agreed to mandate corrective antidiscrimination measures and enforce antisexual harassment training in addition to the monetary amount.

      Schwarzbach, a star student and academic leader at Colleyville Heritage High School, was repeatedly sexual harassed by her general manager at a local Sonic Drive-In restaurant. According to the lawsuit filed by the EEOC, restaurant manager Shawn Sadler subjected the girl to indecent comments, including puckering his lips to ask the girl for a kiss, simulating oral sex, and discussing sexual acts with the minor. Schwarzbach soon told her mother about the incidents who in turn complained to Sonic’s corporate officials. The company, according to the EEOC, failed to conduct a complete investigation and did not properly discipline Sadler even though they did acknowledge that his behavior was inappropriate.

      Various Sonic franchisees have been subject to lawsuits over the last few years. In October 2009, a franchisee of Sonic in Los Lunas, New Mexico, was sued by the EEOC for sexual harassment and retaliation. Another Sonic located in New Orleans, Louisiana, was sued by the EEOC for disability discrimination.

      Now a junior at the University of Texas, Erin Schwarzbach is hoping her case inspires other young women to speak up against sexual harassment in the workplace.

        Sunday, April 11, 2010

        Brooklyn Borough President Saddled with Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

        Discrimination in the workplace is one of those unfortunate practices that can go on for years without ever being discovered. Occasionally, though, this kind of behavior is exposed and winds up on the front page of every newspaper, especially when the employer involved is an outspoken local politician like Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz. Female former staff members of Markowitz's filed a lawsuit against the elected official that paints an unsavory picture of inner-office sexism, favoritism, and abuse.

        Court documents claim that Marty Markowitz admitted to keeping a slovenly, absentee male staff member on the payroll even though he should have been fired. The claim is filled with allegations that the politician repeatedly deemed female workers incompetent, and he even referred to one former female employee as "Tinkerbell." Another complaint in the report comes from the fourth woman mentioned in the lawsuit who claims to have heard Markowitz and his former chief of staff telling lewd jokes.

        Regina Weiss, who is named as the plaintiff in the lawsuit, was the former chief of communications for Markowitz and claims that several staff members were recruited to work on Markowitz's 2005 campaign while on the city's time and payroll. Weiss and a half a dozen other staffers were allegedly asked to work on campaign press releases and were asked to assist in helping him prepare for an upcoming debate. Campaign related duties are to take place on a separate payroll and not during city hours or in city facilities.

        Markowitz has fervently denied the allegations while blasting Weiss and her claims. He did admit to calling a former employee Tinkerbell because she supposedly left her belongings scattered about the office like fairy dust. Markowitz has also admitted to keeping the male staffer with scant attendance and unprofessional appearance but out of compassion and not favoritism. Meanwhile, the New York press is having a field day with the allegations against Markowitz and are waiting to see if any more scandalous details will be brought to light.

          Thursday, April 08, 2010

          Desperate Housewives Star Alleges Assault and Wrongful Termination

          Sometimes the juiciest stories never end up on screen. Nicolette Sheridan, who played neighborhood bad girl Edie Britt on ABC’s hit show “Desperate Housewives” for five seasons, filed a lawsuit this week that claims the actress was hit in the face by show creator Marc Cherry and then fired in retaliation for complaining about him. Sheridan also alleges that she was the victim of assault and battery, gender violence, sexual discrimination, and a hostile work environment. Sheridan, whose character was killed off of the show last year, is suing for $20 million, alleging that her termination from the show caused damage to her finances and professional reputation.

          The lawsuit, filled with claims of violence and verbal abuse, reads like one of the “Desperate Housewives” scripts. Sheridan claims that Cherry directed his anger at cast and crew members after she went above his head to complain to ABC executives. Cherry even allegedly lashed out at Sheridan’s onscreen nemesis, Terri Hatcher, when he told Sheridan, "I hope Teri Hatcher gets hit by a car and dies," according to the lawsuit. ABC Studios, who produces “Desperate Housewives,” says they investigated claims alleged by Sheridan last year but found them to be without merit.

          The actress claims that she tried to discuss her issues with Cherry in a private meeting during the summer of 2008, but Cherry told Sheridan at that time he did not have any problem with her performances or quality of work. Yet that following September 24 during a rehearsal, Cherry allegedly exploded and “forcefully hit her with his hand across the face and head” after she had inquired about something that was in the script. Sheridan erupted, according to the lawsuit, allegedly yelling back at the producer, “You just hit me in the head! That is not okay! THAT is not okay!” Cherry tried to apologize to the Sheridan, but still his behavior worsened.

          In February 2009, the actress was informed that her character was going to be killed off. Lawyers for Sheridan claim that she was a victim of retaliation for complaining to ABC about the fight that occurred earlier that fall since none of the other lead housewives were to be killed off or written out of the show.

          Marc Cherry has declined to make any comments in regard to the lawsuit while former coworkers of Sheridan’s, like Eva Langoria-Parker, have stated that they are surprised and shocked by the allegations of discrimination and abuse.

          Sometimes the juiciest stories never end up on screen. Nicolette Sheridan, who played neighborhood bad girl Edie Britt on ABC’s hit show “Desperate Housewives” for five seasons, filed a lawsuit this week that claims the actress was hit in the face by show creator Marc Cherry and then fired in retaliation for complaining about him. Sheridan also alleges that she was the victim of assault and battery, gender violence, sexual discrimination, and a hostile work environment. Sheridan, whose character was killed off of the show last year, is suing for $20 million, alleging that her termination from the show caused damage to her finances and professional reputation.

          The lawsuit, filled with claims of violence and verbal abuse, reads like one of the “Desperate Housewives” scripts. Sheridan claims that Cherry directed his anger at cast and crew members after she went above his head to complain to ABC executives. Cherry even allegedly lashed out at Sheridan’s onscreen nemesis, Terri Hatcher, when he told Sheridan, "I hope Teri Hatcher gets hit by a car and dies," according to the lawsuit. ABC Studios, who produces “Desperate Housewives,” says they investigated claims alleged by Sheridan last year but found them to be without merit.

          The actress claims that she tried to discuss her issues with Cherry in a private meeting during the summer of 2008, but Cherry told Sheridan at that time he did not have any problem with her performances or quality of work. Yet that following September 24 during a rehearsal, Cherry allegedly exploded and “forcefully hit her with his hand across the face and head” after she had inquired about something that was in the script. Sheridan erupted, according to the lawsuit, allegedly yelling back at the producer, “You just hit me in the head! That is not okay! THAT is not okay!” Cherry tried to apologize to the Sheridan, but still his behavior worsened.

          In February 2009, the actress was informed that her character was going to be killed off. Lawyers for Sheridan claim that she was a victim of retaliation for complaining to ABC about the fight that occurred earlier that fall since none of the other lead housewives were to be killed off or written out of the show.

          Marc Cherry has declined to make any comments in regard to the lawsuit while former coworkers of Sheridan’s, like Eva Langoria-Parker, have stated that they are surprised and shocked by the allegations of discrimination and abuse.

            Monday, April 05, 2010

            Sexual Harassment Claims on the Rise among Men

            The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, while acknowledging that women continue to file the majority of sexual harassment claims, says there has been an increase in sexual harassment claims made by men. The EEOC released a report earlier this month that shows the number of harassment claims filed by men doubled between 1990 and 2009, a jump from 8 percent to 16 percent. The report also notes that most of the men who have filed complaints have experienced harassment by other men.

            According to the EEOC, men are often targets of harassment because they are “gay, perceived as being gay or not masculine enough for the work setting.” The precedent for protection against discrimination from members of the same sex was set when the Supreme Court recognized male-on-male harassment in its Title VII ruling.

            Many sexual harassment cases involving men in recent years have made the news: Just last year, the EEOC’s Phoenix office filed a suit against popular restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory after six male employees said they had been groped and sexually harassed by male coworkers. As a result, The Cheesecake Factory was ordered to pay over $300,000 in damages. Another case was filed the same year against Cintas Corporation, a Cincinnati-based company that manufactures professional uniforms. According to the lawsuit, two former male employees alleged that a coworker at the company’s Pennsylvania location groped them and made unwanted sexual advances. Perhaps the highest profile allegations of male-on-male harassment recently came out of Washington D.C. Just last month, New York congressman Eric Massa announced his retirement amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former male member of his staff.

            Notorious headline-garnering cases aside, the EEOC is quick to note that number of men reporting sexual harassment has grown but is still not as large as the number filed by women. In fact, the numbers of harassment cases filed by women has also grown since 1990.

              Thursday, March 25, 2010

              Kmart Shells Out over $100k in Age Discrimination Settlement

              Imagine working years for a company, dedicating your life to your profession, and then being repeatedly told by your supervisor that your age and experience were actually a disservice to that company. This is exactly what happened to a 7O-year-old woman in Hawaii.

              On Wednesday, it was announced that Kmart Corp. will pay $120,000 to settle an alleged age discrimination case involving one of its pharmacists in Honolulu. The lawsuit, filed last year by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claimed that the woman was subjected to harassment, humiliation, and retaliation over a four-year period. According to the suit, a pharmacy manager at the Honolulu store repeatedly told a 70-year-old female pharmacist that she was "too old," "should just retire," and was "greedy" because she was still working.

              In a notebook expressly used for pharmacy department communication, the manager allegedly wrote about the woman: "The pharmacy is no longer your forte," and, "You need to retire from pharmacy work now." The same manager scheduled her to work on Sundays even though it was common knowledge she attended church and regularly encouraged the woman to quit. But the woman continued to work, eventually complaining to a district manager, a general manager, and also a human resources manager. Sadly, she was offered no support or help from any of those she contacted while the abuse and discrimination continued to take place. The woman soon quit Kmart, filing a suit with the EEOC last June.

              In addition to paying $120,000 in damages, Kmart has agreed to hire an EEOC trainer to review the company's current polices on anti discrimination, provide training on anti discrimination to its employees, and enforce mandatory disciplinary actions on management who violate the polices.