RSS

Monthly Archives: December 2012

Retaliation Lawsuit Filed Against Janitorial Company

Cynthia Williams, an African American woman, worked for a company called Paramount Janitorial Services.  Paramount Janitorial Services is a Virginia based “full-service” janitorial company.  Williams complained to the owner of the company stating that her supervisor made racial slurs and threats, including calling her the “N” word and threatening to beat her with his “n***** stick.”

At first blush, it appears that Ms. Williams followed the steps to protect herself from further harassment.  In the response, the owner could have taken prompt remedial action by counseling the supervisor, separating Ms. Williams from her supervisor, and/or firing the supervisor.  At this stage, the actions of the owner are unknown.   If Ms. Williams’ version of the events is true, Paramount Janitorial Services failed to take prompt remedial action.  Two days after complaining to the owner, the supervisor fired Ms. Williams.

After efforts to settle the matter failed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a retaliation lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Williams.   To prevail, Ms. Williams must show that she engaged in activity protected by discrimination law, that she suffered an adverse employment action, and that the adverse action was causally related to the protected activity.  The EEOC is seeking to recover back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in this case.

Unfortunately, cases like these occur more often than we are ready to admit.  The actions that the owner should have taken to avoid suit are spelled out above.  If you have questions about retaliation or other employment law issues, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

3 Mistakes Employees Make in Sexual Harassment Cases

I have practiced employment law for a few years and having handled a number of sexual harassment cases, there are many mistakes that are common to employees bringing suit.  Although these mistakes may not be show stoppers, individually or collectively, they can reduce an employee’s damages in a harassment case.

1.            Failing to Report Harassment to Management.   In many harassment cases, the employee may be uncomfortable and she will keep the offense to herself.  She never reports the harassment and eventually quits and then hires an attorney to sue her former employer.  In harassment cases, employers are able to assert as a defense that it has a policy against harassment and the employee failed to avail herself of that policy.  As soon as the harassment occurs, the employee needs to alert management and give management an opportunity to correct the problem.

2.            Failing to Document the Harassment.   When faced with harassment, an employee may be overwhelmed by the atmosphere created at work.  If she later hires an attorney, she may have a hard time remembering the specifics of her case.   Also, the employee should document her complaints to management.  While management should do a good job of keeping records, this does not happen all the time.  An employee will have a much stronger harassment case if she is able to show each complaint made to management and management’s failure to take action on her complaints.

3.            Quitting Too Soon.    In this situation, an employee may witness a co-worker looking at pornography or observe a co-worker telling off color jokes.  Without informing management, she may be disgusted by her co-worker’s behavior and abruptly quit.  She may also share her experience with a friend or neighbor, who sympathizes with her circumstances.  There may be a good chance that she will not have a case because by quitting too soon, she failed to give management an opportunity to correct the offending behavior.  She may argue that the harassment amounted to a constructive discharge, but a court would disagree if it finds that the harassment did not rise to a level to become intolerable.  The more prudent course of action for an employee in this situation is to consult with counsel prior to quitting.  The exception to this is when the co-worker is repeatedly putting his hands on the employee and management fails to correct what is happening.

Sexual harassment involves unwelcome verbal or physical conduct in the workplace.  Employees should understand that sporadic or isolated incidents generally do not rise to the level of harassment.   Employees should be familiar with their company’s anti-harassment policies to understand the actions they should take when experiencing harassment.  Before deciding to quit, an employee should consult with a labor and employment attorney to determine whether the company’s actions or inactions constitute a violation of the law.

If you have any questions regarding harassment law or employment law, feel free to call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Tampa EEOC Settles Retaliation Suit with OfficeMax for $85,000

A Florida OfficeMax recently settled retaliation claims filed by the EEOC on behalf of an employee for $85,000.  In this case, an OfficeMax store manager fired an employee, who later complained that the manager fired him because he is Hispanic.  The company required the manager to rehire the employee.  According to the lawsuit, the manager, however, made life difficult for the employee by creating reasons to terminate him and trying to force him to resign.  The employee went to the EEOC who investigated his claims against OfficeMax.   After the parties failed to reach a pre-suit resolution, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in Tampa federal court on behalf of the employee.

Besides reaching a monetary settlement, the EEOC also obtained injunctive relief.  OfficeMax agreed that over the next four years it will seek to reach more Hispanic and African American applicants in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.  It also agreed to provide training for its managers and human resources personnel on racial harassment and retaliation.

OfficeMax2

Although Florida is an at-will employment state – i.e., an employer can fire you for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all – both federal and state laws protect employees against discrimination and retaliation.  Because an employee’s economic livelihood depends on his/her employment, the law prohibits employers from disciplining or discharging employees for attempting to enforce their rights under the law.

Rich Bradford at Bradford & Bradford is available to answer any questions that you may have concerning retaliation or employment law in general.   Call us at (813) 413-2402.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

County Property Appraiser Settles Sexual Harassment Case for $135,000

Last spring, the office of the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser was rocked by the sexual harassment claims of Carolyn Filippone.  Although the case had been pending for nearly two years, it did not make front page news until Property Appraiser, Rob Turner, fired his paramour, Carolyn Filippone.

Turner made a huge mistake by firing her as her attorneys were contemplating whether to move forward with a lawsuit.  Prior to the termination decision, Filippone’s claims were limited to sexual harassment.  Thus, the question was whether she could advance a meritorious sexual harassment case against her boss although she had an affair with him.  At this stage, this case had strengths and weaknesses for both parties.   After the EEOC dismissed her case, Filippone had 3 months to decide whether to file a lawsuit.  The decision became a lot easier when Turner fired Filippone before the expiration of the 90 days.  Now Filippone was able to add a retaliation claim to her sexual harassment case.  See Tampa Woman Considers Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Claims Against County Official; Retaliation Lawsuit Filed in Federal Court in Property Appraiser Case; Filippone complaint.

After a few short months, the Property Appraiser’s office decided that settlement was the prudent course of action.  According to the Tampa Bay Times, the parties attended a mediation conference and settled for $135,000.

Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, to another employee, against his or her wishes.  Retaliation occurs when an employer takes some form of adverse action against an employee for asserting his rights under harassment or discrimination law.

If you have questions about sexual harassment or retaliation, you may call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

Bradford & Bradford’s practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law.

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,