Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Former Parking Employee Brings Discrimination Claims Against USF

Constantine “Gus” Mellon worked for USF for over a year as a Parking Enforcement Specialist. His initial supervisor, Frank Wassenberg, gave him a very favorable evaluation. After Mr. Wassenberg moved to a different department, Mr. Mellon’s new supervisor, Manuel Bermudez made life difficult for him. Ultimately, USF terminated Mr. Mellon for not writing enough citations. Mr. Mellon is claiming wrongful termination and has filed a grievance with the University. More recently, Mr. Mellon has filed a Charge of Discrimination for age and disability discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Details regarding Mr. Mellon’s case can be found in the following article published in the USF Oracle:

A former USF parking enforcement specialist who issued 30 to 40 citations per day for the Division of Public Safety may have gotten fired earlier this year because the department wanted him to give out more.

Constantine Mellon said he filed a grievance against the University shortly after he was terminated in June for non-productivity.

Last week, Mellon filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

He said he was terminated for not issuing enough parking citations even though there is no existing quota that specialists have to reach.

Mellon, who had worked for Public Safety since January 2009, hired Richard Bradford, a lawyer of Bradford and Bradford law firms, to argue his case.

"From the very beginning, his supervisor had singled him out and made life difficult for him," Bradford said. "For one reason or another, (Bermudez) didn't like (Mellon)."

He said the charge of discrimination filed with EEOC could take up to six month to a year to be processed before the case could go to court.

"The discrimination claim is pending," Bradford said. "The EEOC doesn't move very fast. Things can get resolved before that. The EEOC may ask the party to go to mediation, and I would encourage Mr. Mellon to pursue that option if USF agrees."
Bradford & Bradford's practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law. Please call us at (813) 413-2402 for a consultation.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Social Media Creates New Issues for Employment Attorneys

Labor and employment attorneys are blazing new trails when considering the affect that social media is having on the workplace. Both employees and employers are wondering whether posts on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace can result in someone getting fired. Employers are wondering whether they may review these sites when an employee’s posts could raise questions of loyalty. Employees, on the other hand, wonder whether they have a right to privacy in their posts.

An example of such case involved a woman who was formerly employed as a server at a pizza restaurant. She waited on a party for approximately 3 hours. After they left, she was not happy with the five dollar tip. She then went home and complained to her friends on her Facebook page. Management at the restaurant found out about her Facebook rants and they fired her.

Does she have a case? It depends on the jurisdiction. These facts or very similar facts have arisen many times throughout the country. If this woman were in New Jersey, there are probably a number of attorneys who are willing to take her case.

In New Jersey, a group of employees, also with a restaurant, set up a Myspace page for the specific purpose of complaining about their employer during their off duty time. See Pietrylo v. Hillstone Rest. Group, (D. N.J.Sep. 25, 2009). To enter the Myspace page, each participant required a password. Management approached one of the employees about the site and that employee provided management with a username and password. Management logged onto the site several times and eventually terminated the employees who created the site for damaging morale.

The New Jersey District Court held a jury trial to determine whether the employees 1) violated the federal or state Stored Communications Act; 2) invaded the employee’s right to privacy; and/or 3) wrongfully terminated the employees in violation of public policy. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the employees awarding compensatory and punitive damages. The Court rejected the employer’s request to overturn the jury verdict.

This case reveals that employers must proceed with caution before deciding to review an employee’s Facebook, Twitter, or Myspace page. Absent an express invitation from the employee, the employer should not access an employee’s page.

Still, each case is different and a court’s ruling in New Jersey is not binding on other jurisdictions. This is an area of the law that is constantly evolving. Specific concerns regarding these issues should be discussed with a labor and employment attorney. I can be reached at (813) 413-2402.

Friday, April 16, 2010

We Are Making Improvements to Our Website

We are having work done to our website at www.bradfordfirm.com. If you would like any information about Bradford & Bradford, please feel free to call us at (813) 413-2402.

Age Discrimination Lawsuit Filed in Manatee County

I filed an age discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a classroom teacher who was forced to resign from the Manatee County School Board. Within a week, I was contacted by a reporter who wanted me to discuss the age discrimination law and how it applies to my client’s case. I am normally open to talk on the telephone, but I was in the middle of an important project, and told the reporter I had to wait for a day or two to talk. The reporter could not wait (probably he wanted to get the story printed before the competition) and indicated that he would state that he talked to me and I said “no comment.” Below are excerpts and links to the stories that appeared in the Sarasota and Bradenton papers.

Teacher says she was forced to resign

MANATEE COUNTY - A former Anna MariaElementary School teacher says in an age-discrimination lawsuit that the principal forced her to resign and replaced her with a much younger, lower-paid teacher.

Catherine Boesen, 59, says that principal Thomas Levengood decided to remove her as a classroom teacher in 2008, and tried to convince parents and other school employees that she was incompetent at her job.

Levengood put her on a 90-day probation, then told her to resign or risk the revocation of her teacher's certification, according to the lawsuit filed this month.

"Against her will, plaintiff submitted her letter of resignation" in June 2008, the lawsuit states. . . .

See: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20100414/ARTICLE/4141088/-1/NEWSSITEMAP.

Former Manatee teacher sues school board, principal

BRADENTON — A former Anna Maria Elementary School teacher is suing the Manatee County School board for reportedly forcing her to retire, then replacing her with a much younger teacher.

Catherine Boesen, 59, in an age discrimination suit filed this week at the Manatee County courthouse, claims that during the 2007-08 school year, Principal Tom Levengood decided he would remove her from her second-grade teaching position in an effort to fulfill budget cuts.


Bradford & Bradford's practice areas include, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Employment Law, and Family Law. Please call us at (813) 413-2402 for a consultation.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More Men are Filing Complaints of Sexual Harassment

The Tampa Tribune recently reported that there has been an increase in the number of harassment complaints that men have filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The article notes that while the majority of harassment complaints have been filed by women, in recent years the number of complaints filed by men has doubled.

The article acknowledged that there are cases in which the harassment comes from female supervisors or co-workers. Most of these cases, however, involve men harassing men. This arises from the harasser: 1) making unwelcome romantic advances; 2) picking on a gay employee; 3) perceiving that an employee is gay; or 4) targeting a man who is not considered masculine.

The article identified a couple of cases brought by men resulting in costly settlements:

· In November, 2009, the Cheesecake Factory agreed to pay $345,000 to male employees who claimed that they were sexually assaulted by co-workers.

· In 2009, the Regal Entertainment Group (which operates a chain of movie theaters) agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a lawsuit by a male employee who said a female co-worker repeatedly grabbed his crotch.

The article also highlighted a pending case in which a food runner at Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Win Bar in Arizona was sexually harassed more than a dozen times by his male supervisor. The employee complained and the harassment continued. After the last incident of harassment, the employee lost his composure and yelled at a chef, creating a scene. The restaurant fired the employee for misconduct. The employee is now suing for harassment and retaliation.

Given the alleged retaliatory conduct at Flemings, a jury will not show sympathy towards the decision made by management. A huge settlement in this case would not be surprising.

The lessons for employers are loud and clear. Owners and executives need to be aware of the environment at the lower levels of their businesses. All claims of harassment must be addressed swiftly and geared towards improving the atmosphere of the workplace. Owners must also dismiss the “boys will be boys” attitude. Complaints of harassment raised by men must also be handled as swiftly and thoroughly as complaints raised by women. Failure to do so will leave a business vulnerable to the same fate experienced by the Cheesecake Factory.

Employees who have experienced harassment or retaliation at work, should not delay in contacting legal counsel. I am available to discuss the specifics of your case and recommend the best course of action. Do not hesitate to call me at (813) 413-2402.

See More Men File Sexual Harassment Claims

Monday, March 1, 2010

Owner Says You Cannot be Pregnant and Work as a Bartender

A woman in Long Island has brought a discrimination claim against her former employer alleging that she was fired because she was pregnant. The woman worked as a bartender at a "gentlemen's club." Among other things, the owner told her that he did not think customers are coming to see "sexy bartenders that are pregnant and bulging out." Of course, there are two sides to every story, but based on these facts, I doubt this young lady will have a hard time proving liability. The question is, how much will it cost this bar to resolve the case. The following details are provided by ABC News:

Bartender in Topless Bar Says She Was Discriminated Against for Being Pregnant

When Jennifer Paviglianiti, 29, of Centereach, N.Y., discovered she was pregnant, she hoped to wait until the three-month mark to tell her boss, John Doxey. But workplace gossip got to him first.

Once Doxey heard the news, Paviglianiti says, he immediately showed he had doubts about her work status.

Now, Paviglianiti says, she has been unfairly let go from her bartending job at the Cafe Royale gentlemen's club. She has filed charges of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The charges, which were received by the EEOC on February 2, say the "cause of discrimination" is based on "sex, retaliation, perceived disability, and pregnancy." In the charges, Paviglianiti says she "encountered continual blatant discrimination," and that Doxey told her customers are "not coming in to see sexy bartenders that are pregnant and bulging out."

Long Island Bar Fires Pregnant Bartender

Edit: 3/5/2010 In posting this article I was not taking a position on whether the complainant made a good choice in choosing her place of employment. Indeed, if this case goes before a jury, the jury should not consider whether her decision to work in this particular bar involved an exercise of good judgment. My purpose in posting this article was to use an interesting case to highlight the issues involved in pregnancy discrimination.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Former USF Head Football Coach Jim Leavitt Seeks Reinstatement

You know we are in a bad economy when a football coach will hire employment attorneys after losing his job.

Last week, the University of South Florida fired its head football coach, Jim Leavitt. The University concluded that Coach Leavitt grabbed one of his players by the throat and slapped him in the face during halftime of USF’s game against Louisville.

Coach Leavitt denied any wrongdoing and now he is seeking reinstatement. This afternoon, Coach Leavitt held a press conference with his attorneys. One of his attorneys said that USF is wrong – legally, contractually, and procedurally. His attorneys also stated that USF was contractually obligated to provide him with a pre-termination meeting, so he could legally confront the evidence. His attorneys questioned the school’s decision to waive this meeting based on emergency circumstances.

Coach Leavitt is not the only one seeking legal counsel. The young man who was allegedly slapped has retained an attorney as well.

At the time of his termination, Coach Leavitt was under a seven-year 12.6 million dollar contract. This case will be interesting to follow and discuss in the coming months.

Edit (1/12/2010): It is hard to say which direction this case will go. There are good attorneys representing all of the parties involved. From Coach Leavitt's perspective, something tells me that his attorneys will focus on more than the simple denial of a pre-termination hearing. A cause of action for breach of contract immediately comes to mind. Notwithstanding, when I heard that he was fired last Friday, something told me that a lawsuit would soon follow.

(See: Baynews9 and St. Petersburg Times)