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Employment Discrimination

Friday, October 24, 2014

Employment Discrimination Suit Against Florida International University Surprises Students
Florida International University students have expressed surprise over a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former professor against the Miami school.  Many said the school was a racially diverse and tolerant environment and said they had not observed overt discrimination.  They did not, however, doubt the possibility that discrimination could have occurred.

After Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake, engineering professor Sylvan Jolibois traveled to there as part of FIU’s “Hope for Haiti” campaign.  Jolibois wanted to return to Haiti in 2011, but FIU refused to pay him for "off-campus" activity.  They suggested that it would be disruptive and a "financial burden" to the school.

According to his lawsuit, in May 2012, he applied for a sabbatical to work in Haiti.  He was one of 29 professors under consideration for sabbatical, and the only one who was Black and Haitian.  A sabbatical committee approved his sabbatical, but FIU's Provost, along with the school's Dean and a department chairman, overruled the committee's decision, citing a history of poor job performance.  He was the only one of the 29 turned down.

According to Jolibois' counsel, the school's positions are contradictory.  In 2011, they refused to pay him to travel to Haiti because his time was too valuable as an instructor in Miami.  Then in 2012, they refused him a sabbatical because he wasn't valued highly enough.

In August 2012, Jolibois was the only engineering professor required to submit a plan for improving his job performance.  Shortly after, he filed a discrimination complaint with FIU and initiated a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  FIU subsequently reprimanded him for not handing in his job performance improvement plan, despite having been granted numerous extensions.  He was later suspended amid claims of insubordination.  In May, FIU fired Jolibois, though the termination was not effective until December 2013.

The Miami-Dade branch of NAACP has begun an online petition drive to get the professor reinstated with back pay and to get his application for a sabbatical in Haiti approved.  Meanwhile, the case heads to trial in a federal court in Southern Florida.

Employees who have experienced discriminatory treatment in the workplace often have no recourse except legal action.  If you feel your employer has treated you unfairly, blocked your advancement, or terminated you without a valid reason, an experienced labor and employment law attorney can help.  The employment litigation team at Feldman Morgado has handled all types of lawsuits and class actions involving job discrimination, wrongful termination, and other claims.  Contact us today at (888) 779-6921 for a free consultation. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sex, Lies and Employment Discrimination in Little Havana Lawsuit
A legendary Cuban restaurant in Miami is now at the center of a scandal involving accusations of sexual abuse, harassment, and discrimination, not to mention wage and hour violations.

Ayler Ayala, a former cashier at Versailles in Little Havana, claims that, in 2005, she began "extremely sordid" and abusive sexual relationship with her boss, restaurant owner Felipe Valls, Sr.

When she ended the relationship in 2008 and rebuffed his efforts to resume it, he fired her.  She claims that when she attempted to file for unemployment benefits, the restaurant denied that she had ever been an employee.

Shortly afterwards, Ms. Ayala found work at an airport concession that happened to be owned by the Valls family.  In 2012, when the Valls family discovered that she was working for them, they allegedly harassed and insulted her, driving her to have a breakdown.  Ms. Ayala claims that much of the harassment involved her Hispanic origins.

In her suit against the Valls family, Ms. Ayala is seeking back wages, compensation for lost benefits, reinstatement to her position, and damages for, among other things, severe emotional distress and mental pain and anguish.  The suit also seeks punitive damages and attorney's fees.

The Valls family denies that she had a sexual relationship with Felipe Valls, Sr. and that she was the victim of discrimination.  According to the Valls family, their businesses are mostly Hispanic-owned and 90% of their employees are Hispanic.  They describe her as a disgruntled ex-employee with a record of poor job performance.

This is not Ms. Ayala's only legal encounter with the Valls family.  She is also a plaintiff in a March 2014 Whistleblower Retaliation and Defamation Lawsuit filed by other employees against Versailles and its owner.  That suit claims the restaurant hired undocumented workers, committed wage and hour violations, and engaged in sexual-orientation harassment. 

Whether some of Ms. Ayala's more salacious claims will be proven in court remains to be seen, but the employment abuses she says she experienced or witnessed are not uncommon in the South Florida food service industry.  If you have been the victim of insulting or harassing behavior because of your ethnicity or sexual orientation, your employer has failed to pay you minimum wage or overtime, or you have been the victim of other mistreatment during your employment, the firm of Feldman Morgado can help.  Contact us today at (888) 779-6921 for a free consultation. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Updates to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Even though discrimination based on pregnancy has been federally outlawed by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), it is still a major problem in this country.  Many women are denied jobs, not given reasonable accommodations or let go from their positions due to pregnancy.  Some men are also discriminated against based on pregnancy related issues.  Instead of getting better, it seems that pregnancy discrimination might be getting worse.  There has been an almost 50% increase in complaints of pregnancy discrimination made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 1997.

Pregnancy discrimination is not always obvious.  Although some employers make it plain that they are making a decision about employment based on a pregnancy related issued, others can disguise their discrimination as something else.  Employers have become more creative when it comes to this concealed discrimination over the years and many complaints involve these inconspicuous methods.

It has been over 30 years since the PDA was updated in any way.  Recently, the EEOC updated the guidelines to the act to clarify a number of areas.  The updates include the following points:

• Any discrimination related to pregnancy is illegal sex discrimination.
• Employers cannot force their employees to take leave due to pregnancy.
• Men and women in similar situations must be treated the same when it comes to parental leave.
• Lactation is a known medical condition associated with pregnancy.
• Discrimination based on past or future pregnancies is also illegal.

The guidelines have also been updated to reflect how the American’s with Disabilities Act may relate to pregnant women.  While some see these updates as a huge victory for victims of pregnancy discrimination, others do not think they are nearly enough because they will not completely stop this type of discrimination.

If you were pregnant or planning to become pregnant and believe you were denied work or let go for this reason, you may have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination.  You could also have a case if you were denied reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related issues.  Call the experienced employment discrimination attorneys at Feldman & Morgado at (888)822-7978 for a consultation today.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Florida Supreme Court Finds That The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 Prohibits Pregnancy Discrimination: April, 2014

Recently, in Delva v. Cont’l Group, Inc., 2014 Fla. LEXIS 1316 (Fla. Apr. 17, 2014), the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is prohibited by the provision in the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (“FCRA”), section 760.10, Florida Statutes, that makes it “an unlawful employment practice” for an employer to discriminate based on an individual’s “sex.”  § 760.10(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2011). 

Prior to the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Delva, the Third District Court of Appeal, in Delva v. Continental Group, Inc., 96 So. 3d 956 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012), held that Florida law does not prohibit pregnancy discrimination in employment practices.  The Third District’s holding was is in direct conflict with the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s holding in Carsillo v. City of Lake Worth, 995 So. 2d 1118 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008)), which held that the prohibition in the FCRA against sex discrimination in employment practices includes a prohibition on discrimination based on pregnancy.

In Delva, the Florida Supreme Court “embrace[d] the common-sense reasoning of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts that pregnancy is a natural condition unique to women and a “primary characteristic of the female sex.” Mass. Elec. Co. v. Mass. Comm’n Against Discrimination, 375 Mass. 160 (Mass. 1978).  The Florida Supreme Court went on to explain that “discrimination based on pregnancy is in fact discrimination based on sex because it is discrimination as to a natural condition unique to only one sex and that arises “because of [an] individual’s…sex.”  §760.10(1)(a), Fla. Stat.  The Court found that its holding is in line with the liberal construction of the FCRA which furthers its purpose to ensure that the women of this state are free from discrimination based on their sex.   

Monday, May 05, 2014

Florida Leads Nation in Workplace Discrimination Filings

In 2013, Florida had the second highest number of job discrimination claims in the state, trailing only Texas for the top spot. Last year, employees throughout the sunshine state filed 7,597 cases of workplace discrimination and harassment with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), making up 8.1% of the total number of cases in the United States.

A recent report released by The Network, a software provider that offers ethics and compliance solutions for businesses, offered a detailed look into the breakdown of these filings, the majority of which centered around gender and race. Retaliation claims were also prevalent throughout the state.

The breakdown of filings was as follows:

  • Race: 2,533
  • Sex: 2,186
  • National Origin: 1,649
  • Religion: 298
  • Color: 569
  • Retaliation (All): 3,095
  • Retaliation (Title VII): 2,564
  • Age: 1,641
  • Disability: 1,825
  • Equal Pay Act: 46
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act: 9

If you’ve been the victim of workplace discrimination, you should contact an experienced attorney who can work with you through the process of filing a discrimination charge and collecting compensatory and punitive damages. Employees who encounter discrimination are encouraged to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This can be done at any one of the EEOC's 53 field offices or by mail. Our firm can help employees obtain and prepare the necessary paperwork for a proper EEOC filing. Supporting documentation such as a letter of termination, past performance reviews, or an email thread with offensive remarks will help the agency to better assess the charge. Floridians can also file a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR). This agency has a work-sharing agreement with the EEOC so generally it is not necessary to file with both, provided you indicate that you would like to “cross-file.” Your attorney will guide you as to the best course of action based on the circumstances of your charge of discrimination and employer.

In addition to filing with the correct agency, it’s important to be aware of the statute of limitations with discrimination claims. To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the FCHR within 365 days from the date of discrimination. The EEOC, however, has different guidelines and to preserve your claim under federal law, you will need to file your claim within 300 days from the date you feel you suffered discrimination.

Following the investigation, the EEOC or the FCHR will make a determination on the merits of the charge. This determination will pave the way for the next step in the recovery process for damages. The attorneys of Feldman Morgado routinely represent employees who have experienced workplace discrimination in Tampa and throughout Florida. If you have experienced inequality in your place of work, contact our offices for a free consultation. We will help you through the filing process and vigorously pursue your claims of discrimination until you receive full reimbursement.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tampa Senator Introduces Bill Calling for Pregnancy to Be Added to List of Protected Conditions

The Florida Senate unanimously passed a bill to include pregnancy as a protected condition from employer discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act. This happened on the heels of a Florida State Supreme Court ruling in mid-April that it's illegal for employers to discriminate against pregnant women, as per the Act. But, wasn't this always the case? Apparently not.

According to The Florida Current, this issue arose as a conflict between two lower appeals courts: the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami had ruled that pregnancy was not covered by the Florida Civil Rights Act, while in a separate but similar case, the Fourth District Court in West Palm Beach ruled the statute did apply.

The conflicting rulings regarding whether the Act includes pregnancy as a forbidden basis for discrimination illustrates the need for a more clearly explained state stance on employment bias of this kind.

The bill's creator, Florida State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, supports the ruling, but her bill pushes to officially include pregnancy  in the Florida Civil Rights Act, which currently states that discrimination is forbidden on grounds of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status." No mention of pregnancy, per se.

While the Senate unanimously passed the bill (SB 220) to include pregnancy in the list of protected conditions, the bill, which is co-sponsored by Joyner, is still pending in the House (HB 105).

Sen. Joyner, along with co-sponsor Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D- Orlando, are prepared to aggressively push for the bill's passing.

“The law needs to be unequivocally clear,” Joyner said, as quoted in the Florida Current. “It needs to be codified because this could be litigated again in other areas. We need to make clear that pregnant women can’t be discriminated against.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed sex discrimination and was amended to include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. The act sought to prevent the unfair treatment of women in the workplace due to pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave.

The experienced pregnancy discrimination attorneys of Feldman Morgado, P.A. in Tampa, Florida represent female employees who were somehow discriminated against at work for being pregnant. Give us at call at 888-779-6921 for assistance with your specific case.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Court Awards $26 Million in Age Discrimination Case

Hard-working employees throughout the state of Florida, whether they are in Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa or beyond, are protected under the Fair labor Standards Act (FSLA) when it comes to filing a claim regarding their employer's unfair practices. The law protects workers from being penalized for blowing the whistle on a company's perceived violations of the law, whether the employee cites unlawful hour and wage policies, discrimination or other issues.

This protection from retaliation was demonstrated through a recent case out of Los Angeles in which the LA Superior Court awarded former Staples worker Bobby Nickel $3.2 million in compensatory damages and more than $22.8 million in punitive damages, as the jury found that the plaintiff was a victim of age discrimination, the LA Daily News reports.

The 66-year-old alleged that a manager prompted him to resign from his job as a facilities manager at Staples (which acquired Corporate Express in 2008, six years after Nickel began his job there) since the managers were trying to discharge of the older employees originally employed by Corporate Express who made more money than the workers Staples hired. He also claimed that co-workers often made jokes at his expense, referring to Nickel as "old coot" and "old goat."

Following his refusal to resign, co-workers and managers began to falsely accuse him of wrongdoing and continued the harassment. In addition, one of the company's receptionists confided in Nickel that management demanded she provide a false statement about Nickel's conduct- she refused.

While defense attorneys argued that Staples wasn't in the wrong, the court obviously made a decision in favor of Nickel in what represents the largest verdict of its kind in LA county history, according to Nickel's attorney Carney Shegerian.

The lawyer said his client's stellar work history helped win the case. According to the LA Daily News article, Shegerian said: "He has a long history of being a hard working, ethical professional who had held his position of employment for almost a decade prior to his wrongful termination. This verdict and the justice served will hopefully put employers on notice that they cannot discriminate against employees based on age."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Alleged Pregnancy Discrimination Case Makes Headlines After Nearly a Decade

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has been under fire in the news this week for blaming the company's 401K benefit cuts on the medical treatment costs of two workers' "distressed babies", for which he claims the company paid $2 million total. He has since reversed the decision, and restored the company's previous 401K contributions.

The former Google vice president of national sales allegedly has a history of calling attention to traumatic situations his employees experience. Back in 2005, Google sales director Christine Elwell sued her then-boss, Armstrong, alleging that he demoted then fired her during a particularly difficult pregnancy.

Pregnancy Still Cited As Reason for Workplace Discrimination 35 Years After the Pregnancy Discrimination Act 

Elwell, who was pregnant with quadruplets at the time, was under doctors' orders not get on an airplane for the duration of her pregnancy. According to Elwell, Armstrong demoted her shortly after she announced her temporary limitations and then fired her on the phone one month later. The suit alleges that Elwell discussed her demotion with her fellow workers, leading Armstrong to call her "an HR nightmare." As per Elwell's employment agreement, the lawsuit against Armstrong was moved into settlement, the outcome of which is private.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed sex discrimination and was amended to include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. The act sought to prevent the unfair treatment of women in the workplace because of a pregnancy, childbirth or maternity leave.

Contact a Tampa Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer

It's unfortunate that this 35-year-old law is still relevant in today's world. The experienced pregnancy discrimination attorneys of Feldman Morgado, P.A. in Tampa, Florida represent female employees who were somehow discriminated against at work for being pregnant. If you are facing a difficult situation at work for personal reasons surrounding your pregnancy, we can inform you of your rights through a free consultation. We will seek the appropriate legal remedies for your unique situation, and fight for the outcome most favorable to you. Give us at call at 888-779-6921 for personalized attention and some quick answers.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Florida Women Protected by Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

With the recent appointment of accomplished executive and mother-to-be Marissa Mayer as Yahoo!'s new CEO making headlines about the relationship between pregnancy and career, all working women should review the law that protects them from discrimination based on their pregnancy or childbirth.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to the Civil Rights Act that protects women from workplace discrimination arising from a pregnancy or childbirth and any related conditions. It bars employers from discriminating against a woman because she is pregnant in any decisions regarding hiring, firing, promotion, job assignment, layoff, fringe benefit or training.

The law requires employers to grant disability leave or leave without pay for pregnant women if they offer similar leave to other disabled employees. Additionally, pregnant women must be permitted to work as long as they are able to perform their essential work duties, allowing for reasonable accommodation. Light duty and alternative assignments must be offered to pregnant women if these options are available to other disabled workers.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also protects pregnant women from being overlooked for wage increases, seniority considerations and vacation time. Employers cannot omit women from these decisions based on their pregnancies, just as they cannot omit other temporarily disabled employees.

More Protections: The Family and Medical Leave Act & Health Insurance

In addition to the protections granted by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, parents are also protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act. This law allows parents - biological, foster and adoptive - to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for their new child. Employers may offer paid or unpaid leave and parents are only eligible if they worked for their employer for 12 months prior to start of the leave.

Laws also exist to protect the health insurance rights of pregnant employees. Companies must provide health insurance that covers pregnancy-related conditions if it provides coverage for other medical conditions. Employers must extend these rights to the wives of male employees as they do health benefits to the husbands of female employees.

Pregnant workers are protected from employer discrimination based on their conditions. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of a pregnancy or birth, please contact an experienced employment lawyer.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Florida Man Fired for High Medicals Costs for Daughter’s Cancer Treatments

A Florida man has sued his employer for wrongful termination, claiming that he was fired, not for falsifying time sheet records, as the company claims, but because of his daughter's high medical costs. The case shows employees that it is possible to hold employers responsible for wrongful termination.

Man Asserts He Was Fired Due to Daughter's High Medical Expenses

The Palm Beach County man was fired at his job at a bank on the pretext that he falsified his timesheet. However, the man believes the real reason he was let go was the high cost of his late daughter's cancer treatments. He is suing for damages of $15,000, the lowest amount needed for the lawsuit to be taken up by the circuit court in Florida.

Before the man was fired, his daughter's treatments required him to work at multiple locations and often work less than full-time. However, he was allowed to work remotely and his compassionate coworkers would fill in the time he missed. However, the bank's corporate office was less accommodating and began calling the man and his wife to inquire about his daughter's treatments, long-term care and associated costs.

Three days before the man's daughter was scheduled for surgery, he was fired for purportedly faking information on his timesheet. Company policy requires a supervisor's approval of workers' timesheets, compliance with which was difficult since the man worked remotely and at several different locations. He asserts that the timesheet in question was approved by his supervisor and he was given no opportunity to explain his side of the story before being fired.

After he was terminated, the hospital canceled his daughter's treatment due to lack of health insurance. Fortunately, the community rallied behind him and a charity funded the surgery. In his lawsuit, the man also asserts that his employer failed to provide him information on how to extend his life insurance and health insurance coverage after his termination, as required by law. Doing so would have allowed the surgery to go ahead without billing complications.

How Employees Can Fight a Wrongful Termination

Generally, employers cannot make hiring, firing, promotion, pay, benefits and other decisions based on an employee's race, gender, age, disability, religion, national origin or genetic information. Doing so constitutes employment discrimination. Included in these prohibitions are employment decisions based on an employee's association with a person with a disabling condition. This would include the Florida man's terminally-ill daughter. The man asserts that his employer's pretext for firing him covered up the real reason it wanted to terminate his employment - his daughter's rising medical costs, a claim the company denies.

If an employee suspects he or she was fired due to disability, race, gender, religion, age, national origin or genetic information, he or she should enlist the help of an experienced employment law attorney. A lawyer can help employees understand their rights under federal and state law and recover appropriate damages.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Florida hospital faces discrimination suit

A Miami-based hospital system faces a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws, on behalf of a doctor working at its Doctor's Hospital in Coral Gables. The suit alleges that the hospital discriminated against the doctor in refusing to accommodate her disability.

Lawsuit alleges disability discrimination

The EEOC's suit states that when the doctor was applying for a position as a general medical practitioner at Doctor's Hospital's Gamma Knife Center, run by Baptist Health South Florida, she informed the doctor who interviewed her that she had epilepsy, which meant that she could not work more than eight hours per day. The interviewing doctor agreed that this request was reasonable. The doctor received a position at Doctor's Hospital after interviewing with other hospital staff members.

Almost immediately after she began working, the hospital scheduled her for shifts exceeding eight hours. After experiencing deteriorating health, the doctor renewed her request that she not work more than eight hours in a day. The hospital refused to accommodate her, and the doctor lost her job a few days after the decision.

The doctor reported the hospital to the EEOC, and the EEOC attempted to mediate an agreement between the doctor and the hospital. After mediation failed, the EEOC filed suit alleging that the hospital's refusal to offer the doctor a reasonable accommodation by modifying her work schedule violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Laws preventing disability discrimination

The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified employees with disabilities or perceived disabilities in hiring, terminating, promoting, assigning job duties, pay or any other aspect of employment. Employers may not ask screening questions during interviews or on job applications to try to eliminate candidates with disabilities.

The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities so employees can perform the essential functions of their jobs, as long as such accommodations do not make the employer incur significant expense or cause undue hardship to the business. Some examples of accommodations include wheelchair access, TTYs for telephones or training materials in Braille.

In order to qualify for ADA protections, the employee must have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as sight, hearing, walking or speaking. The condition must have lasted for six months or more, or the employee must have a history of having the condition.

Talk to a lawyer

Despite the fact that laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities, disability discrimination still occurs with distressing frequency. If you have experienced employment discrimination because of a disability, speak with a skilled employment discrimination attorney who can help you recover damages for the violation of your rights.

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The attorneys at Feldman Morgado PA assist employees involved in overtime and wage and hour disputes as well as employment discrimination matters in Tampa, Miami, Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, Saint Petersburg, Clearwater and throughout Florida.

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