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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tim Tebow’s Move to New York Leads to Legal Dispute Between Nike and Reebok

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of weeks ago, Peyton Manning accepted an offer to become the starting quarterback with the Denver Broncos.  For a few days, everyone speculated as to whether the Broncos would trade the popular Tim Tebow and keep him as a back up.   Now, we know that Tim Tebow will play for the New York Jets.  Many wonder whether Tebow will challenge incumbent Mark Sanchez for the starting job as the Jets quarterback.

Few realize that a different battle erupted last week as a result of the Tebow trade.  Sports apparel giant, Nike, has taken one of its major competitors, Reebok, to court over Tebow jerseys.  After Tebow became a Jet, Reebok started producing Tebow jerseys.  This would not seem to be a big deal to the casual observer.

The problem lies in the fact that the Reebok contract with the NFL was due to expire on March 30, 2012. (News report indicated that the agreement expired March 30.  Nike, however alleges that the Reebok’s agreement with the NFL expired March 1).

Although a couple days remained on the Reebok contract, on March 28, U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel granted a temporary injunction in favor of Nike.  The effect of the injunction blocked Reebok “from manufacturing, selling or otherwise marketing New York Jets-related apparel with the name Tebow on it.”  In the lawsuit, Nike argued, among other things, that it owns the rights to Tebow’s name.

Further litigation in this case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Nike Inc. v. Reebok International Ltd., Case No. 12-cv-2275.  A copy of the Nike Complaint can be found on Scribd at this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/87127661/Nike-v-Reebok-Tebow.

I wonder if these jerseys would have any value a few years from now since Reebok sold a small handful over the last couple of weeks.

 

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Your Employer Wants Your Facebook Password

Yes, we still are the United States of America. So why is it necessary for an employer to ask interviewees to provide access to their Facebook accounts, to include providing management with the potential employee’s Facebook password.  Robert Lavigne describes a scenario as follows:

The HR manager, who legally could not ask you about your sexual orientation or religious beliefs, does the unthinkable. They ask you to hand over your Facebook account and password for further screening. Faced with the thought of continued unemployment, you agree out of fear and coercion. As they scan your friends, uploaded pictures, status updates both public and private, you sit there is complete disbelief at what is happening.

 

Lavigne further adds:

Sounds far fetched, but this is happening right now. These HR policies and corporate mindsets go against everything that is Social Business. Most job seekers unfortunately will simply accept these new terms without any resort or retort. Well, I am making it clear right here and now. I will not work for any company who would promote or allow this form of social privacy invasion and social profile hijacking.

So, what will you do if your favorite corporation asks you to provide your Facebook password to HR prior to making  a decision to hire you.  Check out Robert Lavigne’s post in its entirety at What is Your Password?

 

Employee Appreciation Leads to Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims Against the Hyatt

I would expect to read a story like this from a garage owned by a man named Joey. I find it surprising that a story like this would come from the Hyatt.

 

 

 

 

 

Two middle aged sisters worked for the Hyatt as housekeepers.  One day when they arrived at work they heard laughter from their co-workers and management.  Apparently, someone used photos of the two women and placed their faces on the bodies of slimmer cartoon women in bikinis.  The pictures appeared on an “employee appreciation” bulletin board.  Apparently, one of the sisters did not appreciate the “commendation” and took the pictures down.  The sisters felt ashamed and humiliated by the prank.  The ladies indicated that they do not own a bikini.  Believe it or not, the sisters were told to put the pictures back up on the bulletin board.  Within a month, the Hyatt fired the two women for taking too many breaks.   Let’s see the Hyatt try to get that one past the judge.

The two women have a case against the Hyatt pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Their claims involve sexual harassment and retaliation.  Thus, the ladies’ sexual harassment claim is based on denigrating them by placing their photos on sexually suggestive cartoons.  The retaliation aspect comes into play because the law is designed to protect anyone who participates in a proceeding geared towards stopping harassment or opposing a practice in the company that promotes harassment.

While the burden is on the ladies to prove their harassment and retaliation cases, it looks like this will be a difficult case for the Hyatt.

 

Did Joan Rivers Sexually Harass an Employee

I am not sure if this was a publicity stunt or idle Hollywood gossip.  Still, news of Joan Rivers “harassment” of a female employee can provide lessons for an employer.

Apparently, Joan Rivers and someone named Melissa have a reality show called “Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best.”  While the show was being filmed, Joan was captured trying on jewelry on the young woman.  The woman provides the following description of the incident :

“Putting all the jewelry on me and pulling my sweater back and touching my breasts,”

Rivers may think that the young lady’s allegations are ridiculous, but pulling the woman’s blouse open and saying, “Peek-a-boo, look at you today,” then complimenting the woman’s breasts will land most corporations in court.  With activity caught on camera, it would be difficult for Rivers to dispute her employee’s claims.

When an employer learns of allegations of harassment, the appropriate thing is to take prompt remedial action to ensure that the harassment does not repeat itself.  In this case, the company took the appropriate action by conducting mandatory harassment training for all employees.

Ms. Rivers’ response, however, could land a company in hot water because she made it no secret that she was not happy with having to attend the training. Evidence that a CEO thought harassment training was a waste of time would not be well received by a jury.

Fortunately, for Ms. Rivers and her company, the employee decided not to move forward with the complaint.  I certainly hope that Ms. Rivers’ legal team advises her not to fire this employee because then her company would be forced to defend a retaliation suit.

For questions regarding sexual harassment and/or retaliation, do not hesitate to call me, Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

As a side note, I made note of prompt remedial action above.  While this is an important defense in a harassment case, this defense may not be available in a case where a superior harasses a subordinate.

 

Sexual Harassment: Managing the Mess Created by Paul Deen’s “Bubba”

Who is Paula Deen?  Recently, this lady has been everywhere.  Maybe I was hiding under a rock somewhere, but about four months ago, I had no idea who she was. Correction.  Two months ago, I had no idea who she was.  Now, she is all over the news.

After looking her up, I found out that she is famous for cooking. From out of nowhere this woman from Georgia has become a cooking celebrity.  She probably should thank Oprah Winfrey for her recent fame.

Paula’s fame, however, is shifting towards infamy.  Last week, the media reported that a former manager with one of Deen’s restaurants is suing Ms. Deen, and her brother, Bubba, for sexual harassment, infliction of emotional distress, and other legal claims.

Deen’s newly acquired empire could take a major tumble as a result of this lawsuit.  The complaint indicates that Deen discussed African Americans in a demeaning matter.  Specifically, the complaint accused Deen of dropping the “N-Bomb” and I am not talking about “nutritious.”   One of the most troubling allegations, attributes to Deen the following quote:

“Well what I would really like is a bunch of little n—–s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.”

Last time I checked,America has not been too friendly towards racist celebrities.  The momentum that recently made Deen a superstar is about to die and I anticipate that by this time next year no one will be talking about Deen.

According to the reports, the manager complained to Deen about her brother’s alleged sexual harassment and Deen failed to do anything to stop the harassment.  After spending 5 years of putting up with Deen’s brother, the manager decided to leave the restaurant.  Of course, the lawsuit soon followed.

Regarding the alleged racists statements made by Deen and her brother, I do not expect that the manager will get very far in advancing these claims.  Based on the news reports, there is no indication that the manager was penalized for complaining about racist behavior.  The manager is Caucasian and I do not think that the court will find these defendants liable for race discrimination against this manager.  Still, the allegations of racist comments are damaging.

Deen’s failure to take action on the harassment allegations has the potential of creating significant liability for Deen’s restaurant.  Deen’s brother had supervisory authority over the manager.  He allegedly created a hostile environment for the manager.  When the manager complained, neither Deen nor her brother did anything to stop his conduct.  Under these facts, the manager should be able to advance a strong sexual harassment complaint against Deen’s restaurant.

Assuming the manager’s sexual harassment allegations are true, I wonder why Deen allowed this to happen.  She probably spent a good portion of her life near her brother.  Certainly, Deen knew that her brother had the propensity of committing acts of harassment.  The first time that the manager complained, Deen should have had a heart to heart discussion with her brother, with the prospect of dissolving their business relationship being placed on the table.  Business owners cannot afford to allow managers who are prone to engage in harassing conduct to remain on their leadership team.  If Deen removed her brother or successfully persuaded him to change his behavior, no one in the media would be talking about his case.  Given Deen’s failure to act, everyone is talking about this case, to include Deen’s use of the “N” word . . . allegedly.

For questions on dealing with discrimination and/or harassment, feel free to call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

More Problems With Americans With Disabilities Act for Starbucks

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Tomorrow I have a meeting with a friend of mine at Starbucks.  From the things that I have recently seen in the news, I wonder whether we should meet at a different location.  For the second time in the last year, Starbucks is in the news for discriminating against a potential employee, allegedly, based on discrimination.  Last summer, Starbucks settled a case against a dwarf who filed a lawsuit against Starbucks for discriminating against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The lady told Starbucks that she could perform the duties of a barista by standing on a stool, but after a day or two of work, Starbucks released her from employment.  Starbucks settled this case for $75,000.

Today, I read the story of a new case filed against Starbucks by a man who has only one arm.  He argued that he only needs one arm to perform the barista duties.  After a Starbucks employee made some jokes about the one arm, Starbucks decided not to hire the man.  Like the dwarf case, I anticipate that Starbucks will settle.  Under the ADA, employers have an obligation to engage in an interactive process with employees or potential employees to determine whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodations.  Instead of engaging in the interactive process, Starbucks summarily dismissed the thought of employing this man, and now they are looking at a costly lawsuit.

I certainly am not a Starbucks addict, but I am the last person whom you would expect to protest an organization.  So, I will keep my Starbucks appointment for tomorrow, as well as continue to meet with friends and business associates at their stores.  Who knows, I may run in to a disabled job seeker in need of an attorney.  For questions regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act or discrimination law in general, do not hesitate to call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

For an excellent discussion of the Starbucks cases, be sure to check out:  Starbucks Served Venti-Sized Discrimination Lawsuit

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What are the chances of Starbucks hiring the Graske?

 

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Child Support Problems in the State of Florida

Today, the Tampa Tribune reported that the there are problems with delays in child support payments for many recipients in the State ofFlorida.  This problem is affecting both those who are waiting for the payments, usually the mother, and those making the payments, usually the father.  For example, a father may have made $1000 payments in child support within the last month or so. The mother, however, may have received only $25.00 from the State. This harms both parties because the father in this situation looks like a deadbeat dad and the mother will experience difficulty paying her bills.  The Tampa Tribune story reads as follows:

Bonnie Step hadn’t received a child-support payment for months.

But she wasn’t angry at her ex-husband over the $2,300 she was owed. Instead, she blamed the state ofFlorida, which is collecting $684 from him every month.

The Florida Department of Revenue has heard similar complaints from others since the child-support disbursement unit began revamping its computer system, which keeps track of more than $1 billion in payments and payouts.

Department officials say the complaints represent less than 1 percent of the child-support cases it handles. But that means little to those who aren’t getting their payments even though ex-spouses are holding up their ends of the court-ordered agreements.

(Story Continued Here)

For answers to your child support or family law questions, please call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

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