Category Archives: Employment Law

NYU Settles Race Discrimination Lawsuit for $210,000

New York University agreed to settle a race discrimination lawsuit for $210,000.  The lawsuit was brought by an employee of the university who claimed that he was subjected to racial insults such as "monkey," "gorilla" and "do you want a banana?"  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, brought suit on behalf of the individual.  Our office routinely handles discrimination claims involving race, gender, disability and age.

Appellate Court Clarifies Employment Tort of Retaliatory Discharge

On July 21, 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court issued an opinion in the case of Michael v. Precision Alliance Group, which clarifies the tort of retaliatory discharge.  Under common law, the State of Illinois prohibits an employer for retaliating against an employee and terminating their employment if they engage in protected activity.  Generally, the courts have given a narrow view to the claim.  The classic case involves an employee who gets injured on the job and files a claim against his employer for worker's compensation.  If the employer terminates the employee for that reason, it is an illegal motive, and the employee has a civil action against the employer.  In the Michael case, three employees were employed by Precision's plant in downstate Nashville.  The company is in the agricultural supply business.  It packages soybean seeds in 50 pound and 2,000 pound bags for commercial sale.  The employees observed that the company was shipping underweight bags.  The three plaintiffs recorded information about the underweight bags and forwarded the information to another individual, Dudley, who formerly worked for the company.  Dudley, in turn, passed the information to the state.  In February, 2003, the Department of Agriculture began investigating the company.  The agency issued a stop-sale order against the company on February 20, 2003.  The trial court threw the case out, reasoning that the plaintiffs did not report the activity to the state.  The appellate court reversed, reasoning that the plaintiffs intended that the information be conveyed to the state.  The court also held that mislabeling weight under state law violated public policy, and thus, the plaintiffs' retaliatory discharge claim was actionable.

Employment Discrimination Charges at All Time High

In fiscal 2010, there have been a record number of employment discrimination charges filed with the EEOC - 99,922 to be exact.  The EEOC investigates claims of discrimination in the workplace involving age, gender, national origin, religion as well as sexual harassment and disability claims.   The EEOC will also investigate employee's complaints that they were retaliated for complaining of discrimination in the workplace.  According to a study by Business Week, the state with the most amount of merit resolutions concerning employment discrimination claims was Texas, followed by Florida, Georgia and Indiana.  Preliminary figures from the EEOC show that the number of charges filed is slightly ahead of 2010.

Female Employee Sues Chicago White Sox for Sexual Discrimination

A woman who formerly worked for the Chicago White Sox filed a lawsuit alleging that the team and Major League Baseball discriminated against her when she was passed over for promotions because of her gender.  Deborah Theobald, the 33 year old woman, claimed that her work performance was outstanding, but nonetheless, she was passed over for upper management positions.  According to her suit, the woman claimed that when she applied for the job of manager of partnerships in 2004, a less qualified male was promoted.  The woman's lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County.  Ms. Theobald, in her suit, claimed that the White Sox and the MLB promoted "the glass ceiling and intentional sexual discriminatory policies and practices."  The plaintiff quit her job in June, 2010.

Supreme Court Tosses Class Action Case

On June 20, 2011, the nation's high court reversed a federal appeals court in a widely anticipated employment decision, Wal-Mart, Inc. v. Dukes.  In the decision, the Supreme Court overturned the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certifying a class of approximately 1.5 million women across the country.  The women sued Wal-Mart, the country's largest private employer, alleging that they were discriminated against on the basis of pay, promotions and other employment practices.  Though the women lost class action status, they can still pursue their individual sexual discrimination claims individually. Speaking for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia stated that class-action claims like these are doomed without "convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy."  The President of the National Employers Asssociation, NELA, stated that "Today's judgment will make discrimination more prevalent unless Congress acts to reverse yet another misguided opinion by the Court."  

Jury Awards Woman $95 Million in Sexual Harassment Case

On June 9, 2011, a federal district court jury awarded a woman $95 million in a sexual harassment case against her former employer. In her lawsuit, the woman claimed that on October 12, 2006, she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor. According to evidence in the case, the supervisor began making inappropriate remarks to the 20 year old customer service representative, and then began pinching her. The sexual harassment escalated to groping her, and then on one occasion, coming up behind her and hitting her on the head with his penis. The woman testified that she made a complaint to a sexual harassment hotline, but an investigator never contacted her. The jury found that the supervisor assaulted and battered her, and that the employer failed to appropriately supervise him. The jury awarded the woman $15 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages. The employer vowed to appeal the jury's verdict.