Articles Posted in Employment Law

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Fox news has recently come under fire for yet another sexual harassment lawsuit involving a political contributor who alleges she was forced into a sexual relationship with Charles Payne, a Fox Business anchor.

The lawsuit, filed by Scottie Nell Hughes, alleges she repeatedly refused Payne by telling him “stop” and “no,” but he allegedly disregarded her protests and forced her to stay in a sexual relationship with him for an extended period of time. Hughes alleges she received extra appearances on both Fox Business and Fox News while she remained in the relationship with Payne, but that when she cut things off, she was allegedly “blacklisted” by the media giant.

In addition, Hughes alleges that, after she brought her concerns over the sexual assault to Fox in confidence, the media company allegedly leaked her name to the press, along with a “statement” in which Payne apologized for the affair. Hughes and her attorney object to both the manner in which Fox handled the situation and Payne’s use of the term, “affair,” which implies she consented.

Payne was suspended from the network, pending an internal investigation into Hughes’s allegations, but has since returned to work.

Hughes has said that the complaint her attorney recently filed speaks for itself, and that she is pursuing litigation so that no other woman will have to suffer through the hell she says she is now experiencing. Continue reading

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At least one Trump supporter is, not only well aware of the issues that face minorities in this country, but is actively fighting to support those minorities.

His target? Fox News.

Because Fox News has been such a strong supporter of Trump, you’d think an attorney who donated $40,000 to Trump’s campaign and voted for him in both the primary and general elections would also support Fox News, but that’s not the case for attorney Douglas Wigdor.

Wigdor started filing lawsuits against Fox News late last year after a reporter for Fox 5, Lidija Ujkic, sought him out after having heard about a case he had settled in which he had argued on behalf of a woman who claimed her pregnancy had led to her demotion at Goldman Sachs. Ujkic’s claims against Fox were similar.

Wigdor took Ujkic’s case, and a few months later, took on another, this time alleging racial bias. Eleven new plaintiffs ended up joining that case in the following month, including Kelly Wright, the only black man to work as a news anchor on the conservative news channel.

That apparently opened the floodgates, as Wigdor followed it up by suing the media giant two more times that month, three times the following month, once in July, once in August and again in September. Continue reading

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The world of big-money executive bonuses is one that most of us can only dream of, but it was the subject of a recent opinion by the Illinois Appellate Court. The First District held that under the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, ABN Amro Inc. could not deny a former executive a $2-million bonus simply because he had no written compensation agreement. (Robert D. Schultze v. ABN Amro, Inc., 2017 IL App (1st) 162140)

Robert S. had held various executive positions with ABN subsidiary LaSalle Bank since 1983. He earned his salary and bonuses under an oral employment agreement. If Robert and his team met certain performance goals, he could expect to receive a multiple of his salary as a bonus.

In 2007, ABN promoted Robert to managing director and chief operating officer of Global Markets North America Division. He was then asked to manage the $21-billion sale of LaSalle to Bank of America and the $93-billion sale of ABN to Royal Bank of Scotland and two other banks, as executive lead of the ABN North America Transition Leadership Team.

Based on the bonuses paid to his predecessors in the COO job combined with his significant added responsibilities, he expected a bonus of $2-$5 million for 2008. When he learned in March 2009 that his 2008 bonus was only $200,000, he objected as the amount was not in proportion to the responsibilities he had assumed, and was much lower than his recent annual bonuses. Continue reading

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State and federal civil rights laws prohibit employment discrimination and discrimination in places of public accommodation for reasons of race, color, national origin/ancestry, sex/gender, religion/creed and disability (physical and mental). For such reasons, businesses have a responsibility to treat all customers equally under the law and are better served when they do so.

For instance, it was in a Nail Salon that a discrimination or miscommunication became a dispute which almost could have become a lawsuit had an apology not been issued.  A person with disability who uses a wheelchair felt as though she had been discriminated against. The Vietnamese-Americans who worked at the Nail Lounge say a language barrier contributed to the dispute.

When the disparate treatment was felt, the customer immediately proceeded to make a Facebook post indicating that a salon refused to provide a full pedicure service because she was in a wheelchair.  The customer told staff she would seek business elsewhere and voiced her opinion sensing that it was her wheelchair presence that was the problem and they did not want to deal with it.  The salon technician asserted that accommodation for wheelchairs had been made in the past and the Business was an ‘open space’ for such reasons.  The service was not intended to disrespect but arose out of a lack of proper communication.  Not having perfect English was part of the reason and is said to have contributed to the incident. No ill intention was in place, as such.  Nonetheless, the lady in the wheelchair said she was ignored by the technician and brought along a friend to help with lifting her out of her wheelchair.   The technician instead asked if the pedicure could be given while she sat in her wheelchair. In doing so, the business wanted to avoid any potential liability that could result from moving from her wheelchair into a pedicure chair and make the situation comfortable.  See this article. Better use of tact could have avoided this situation and not every business is perfect or prepared. Raising awareness such as this is what happened as a result,no ill was intended.  Continue reading

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When it comes to running a business, legal compliance is essential. Federal and state regulations govern numerous aspects of business, and labor and employment. The state often follows the same regulations, and can have variances which is why it is important to keep abreast with both.  Often enough, compliance for larger corporations is easier to manage when one can hire dedicated professionals and keep attorneys on retainer to help the business stay up-to-date and in compliance with labor laws. Having said that,  a lack of resources doesn’t excuse small businesses from dealing with these important legal issues.

For instance, more recently, the owners of a family-owned business in Sauk City, Wisconsin, are receiving backlash for allowing their children to help inside their bakery. The state is now auditing the business for potentially breaking child labor laws. Generally speaking, the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum age requirements do not apply to minors employed by their parents, or by a person acting as their guardian. An exception to this occurs in mining, manufacturing and occupations where the minimum age requirement of 18 years old applies.  However, there is federal law that restricts the employment and abuse of child workers which are designed to protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health and safety. Continue reading

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Our Chicago non-compete agreement attorneys have defended high level executives in covenant not to compete and trade secret lawsuits. A case in which our firm defended a former Motorola executive was covered in Crain’s Chicago business. You can view that article by clicking here.

DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle a firm of Chicago business dispute lawyers handles litigation over non-compete clauses for individuals and businesses of all sizes, including small or closely held businesses for whom competition from an ex-employee can be a serious threat. Our Chicago business lawyers with offices near Oak Lawn, Arlington Heights, Oak Brook and Chicago have substantial experience in restrictive covenant and breach of contract cases, and we are proud of our record of strong results. We have successfully represented a number of doctors in non-compete, partnership and other business disputes.  We understand the complexities of physician partnership and non-compete agreements.

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The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is pretty clear on the definition of overtime and what employers are required to provide for their workers who spend more than eight hours a day or forty hours a week working. All hourly, nonexempt employees are entitled to one and one-half times their normal hourly rate for all overtime worked.

But according to a recent wage and hour class action lawsuit against Bed Bath & Beyond (BBB), the retail chain allegedly miscalculated the overtime wages earned by its managers and customer service representatives in several of its New Jersey locations. In doing so, BBB allegedly violated both the FLSA and New Jersey Wage and Hour Law.

The named plaintiffs were each paid an annual salary ranging from $63,000 to $70,000. Rather than figure an hourly rate based on their annual salary, BBB allegedly took its employee’s weekly base salary, divided it by the number of hours the employee worked that week, divided the solution in half, then multiplied that number by the number of hours the employee spent working after 40 that particular week. In addition to allegations that the formula violated the FLSA, the wage and hour complaint further alleges that it resulted in the class members receiving less than minimum wage for all the hours they spent working.

Certain employees can be held exempt from the FLSA’s overtime requirement, but only if they are paid a salary of at least $23,600 and meet very specific conditions. These qualifications include providing administrative assistance directly to an executive, spending more than half their time at work managing other employees (including weighing in on the hiring and firing of employees), or exercising a particular set of skills or level of education in the course of performing their jobs. Any employee who does not meet all the necessary requirements for one of the categories of overtime exemption is entitled to the premium overtime compensation for all the time they spend working after eight hours a day or forty hours a week. Continue reading

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Selling franchise rights is tricky. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity for both parties to expand and grow their businesses in a mutually beneficial way. On the other hand, because they’re both operating under the same brand, they both bear some responsibility for the way the business under the franchise is run. This is why franchisors include training in their franchise agreements: to make sure the franchisee runs the business in ways that are consistent with the brand.

After a recent decision by a California federal judge, companies may want to include education on employment laws and regulations in the training they provide for their franchisees.

The lawsuit involved a class of employees who worked at five different McDonald’s locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. The plaintiffs allege they were denied the proper compensation when they worked overtime, the wages they did receive did not include all the hours they spent working, and they were not compensated for the time and money they spent on maintaining the uniforms they were required to wear to work. They also alleged they were denied meal and rest breaks, both of which are required by California labor law, but the judge dismissed those charges.

The McDonald’s locations in question were owned and operated by The Edward J. Smith and Valerie S. Smith Family Limited Partnership and that company settled with the class of plaintiffs for $700,000. Continue reading

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The District of Columbia federal appeals court ruled that DirecTV Inc. committed an unfair labor practice when it had contractor technicians fired for complaining about a pay dispute with the company on a TV news program. (DirecTV Inc. v. Nat’l Labor Relations Board, No. 11-1273 (D.C. Cir. 2016)).

DirecTV contracts with MasTec to install satellite television receivers in customers’ homes. The MasTec employees, based in Orlando, Florida, claimed they were pressured to convince customers to connect satellite service through a phone line in order to track viewing habits and increase pay-per-view business. The workers claimed management told them to do “whatever it took” to get customers to agree, including lying and installing phone lines without their knowledge. In 2006, under financial pressure from DirecTV, MasTec began docking the pay of technicians who didn’t meet quotas for phone line hookups.

After technicians complained to management, MasTec and DirecTV refused to change their policies. When a protest outside MasTec also failed to settle the matter, a group of MasTec technicians contacted a local TV news station, which interviewed them wearing their DirecTV uniforms. The report addressed the technicians’ grievances concerning the pay policy and their belief that they were being told to lie to customers; it also suggested that these phone connections could cost consumers more money.

DirecTV told MasTec it did not want the technicians in the broadcast representing DirecTV in customers’ homes, and MasTec then fired nearly all the technicians who participated.

Under the National Labor Relations Board’s interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act, “Employee communications to third parties in an effort to obtain their support are protected where (i) the communication indicate[s] it is related to an ongoing dispute and (ii) it is not so disloyal, reckless or maliciously untrue as to lose the Act’s protection.” Continue reading

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It’s often more cost effective for companies to hire independent contractors to perform certain jobs, rather than hiring employees. Even for part-time employees, companies are responsible for paying things like employment taxes and Social Security, none of which they have to worry about with independent contractors. There are benefits to working as a true independent contractor, but because independent contractors are not protected by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers have to meet very specific requirements in order to legally be considered independent contractors.

Under the FLSA, workers classified as independent contractors must be able to negotiate their own rates, have control over their own schedule, the environment they work in, and have a certain level of discretion as to how they perform their duties, among other things. Any and all workers who do not meet all of the necessary qualifications for independent contractors must be classified and compensated as employees, including benefits (such as health insurance) for full-time employees.

Many employers have been illegally classifying drivers as independent contractors and FedEx is just one of several companies to have recently faced multiple class action wage and hour lawsuits from drivers alleging they should have been classified as employees.

Current and former FedEx drivers from approximately 40 different states have been filing wage and hour lawsuits against the giant shipping company for more than ten years now. Many of those lawsuits were consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) and then certified as class actions so that drivers from all across the country could combine their claims against FedEx. Continue reading