UPS Sued for $600,000 by Portland Man Claiming Discrimination

Does UPS (or any employer) have the right to ask a prospective employee his or her racial origin? Does asking such a question constitute discrimination? Is this action worth $600,000? These are the questions at the heart of a lawsuit filed in January in Portland’s (Oregon) Multnomah County Circuit Court by Kaon-Jabbar East El, a former UPS employee. He claims that the package deliver company violated his Islamic religious beliefs by requiring him to check a box on his employment application about his race.

What happened to prompt this court case?

Kaon-Jabbar East El claims that he was told by the UPS human resources department that he couldn’t attend the new employee orientation unless he checked a box answering the race question. East El self-identifies as a Moor, the nomadic tribe native to North and Northwest Africa. Since there wasn’t an “other” box associated with the race question on the employment form, he checked “Caucasian”, which under a federal directive is defined as people with origins from Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.

East El’s suit claims he was hired by UPS in November 2016 as an on-call truck helper. He claims he repeatedly complained about the racial identifier on the employment form to HR and UPS management, but says he was ignored. He cites his complaints about the form as the reason he was only given one shift in the 2.5 months he worked for the company. He claims he was only given that shift because he has previously told UPS management that he would be unavailable to work that day due to a death in the family. East El resigned in February 2017.

According to “Oregon Live” magazine, UPS declined to comment on the case, citing pending litigation, but a company spokesperson emphasized that the UPS workplace is free from all types of discrimination.

Do UPS’ actions constitute discrimination?

While it is up to the Multnomah County Circuit Court to decide, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers guidelines as to what does and what does not amount to discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits intentional discrimination, which is defines as “occurring when an employment decision is affected by the person’s race”. The EEOC further elaborates that data on race may be collected in the workplace for informational purposes.

Is this a ridiculous lawsuit or a legal action that is past due in coming to the courts? We’ll watch the Multnomah County Circuit Court’s decision with interest.

Lawsuit against the Detroit Foundation Hotel

Once a fire station and now one of downtown’s trendiest nightspots, the Detroit Foundation Hotel, and The Apparatus Room bar has been sanctioned with a federal lawsuit citing a variety of racist behavior, such as banning black employees from the anniversary party because they should not “mix in with our VIP guests,” are “not polished” and are “dirty.”

These racist behaviors are being enforced by upper management. The lawsuit was filed by a former human resource coordination who had an overview of these racist actions. Twana Simmons is the plaintiff who claims she repeatedly elevated racist actions faced by black employees to management, but they made excuses for the behavior, ignored the complaints or told her to stop making these judgments since, “…no one here is racist.”

Hired in 2017 when the hotel opened, Simmons was fired during the summer of 2018 for using the personally using the hotel podcast studio without permission. Simmons claims she had permission and was fired because of the complaints.

Lawsuit Specifics

The lawsuit states the following specific behavior that was witnessed by Simmons:

• January 2018 – Simmons participated in a meeting where high-level managers looked up photographs of job applicants and rejected black employees stating that “…they were way too dark.”

• January 2018 – At the same meeting, Simmons overheard the hiring manager state that she wanted a “white brunette.”

• February 2018 – In another meeting, Simmons heard on manager note that they, “…did not want the employees of the hotel to attend the party because they were ‘not polished, and they are dirty’ and did not want them to ‘mix in with our VIP guests.’”

• May 2018 – Simmons requested that black employees attend a Chicago business trip but the human resource director, “…refused to consider any black employees for the venture.”

In response to these allegations, the Detroit foundation Hotel issued the following statement:

“Management takes these accusations seriously. The Foundation Hotel is an equal opportunity employer who works to create a dynamic environment for all employees and guests. While in active litigation, we deny the allegations…”

Simmons began working for the hotel in April 2017 as a reservations agent and was eventually promoted to Human Resources Coordinator in May 2017. In the lawsuit details, it was noted that Simmons regularly complained to her boss about racist behavior and was told to keep quiet.

Actress’ Lawsuit Against Bill Cosby Will Continue Despite Her Death

Louisa Moritz was one of the first of many women to come forward and accuse actor Bill Cosby of sexual assault back in 2014. She died on January 4 in Los Angeles, but her lawsuit against the actor is set to continue despite her death, according to a statement by her lawyer, Joseph Cammarata.

Moritz may have been one of the first women to speak out about Cosby, but she was one of many women who accused the actor of sexual assault. She also later sued him for defamation when he publicly called her a liar. Moritz shared in a video with other women that Cosby had forced her to have oral sex with him when in her dressing room as they were both set to appear on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” in 1970. She said she was in the green room when Cosby didn’t knock and opened the door. He then walked into her room and closed the door behind him and undid his pants. She said the whole ordeal only went on for about five minutes, but it was the longest five minutes she experienced. During the segment, Cosby didn’t make eye contact with her and she said she later felt disgusted.

Since 2015, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault and he has denied all the allegations. He has called the women liars and said the acts that happened between them were consensual. Moritz and seven other women also sued him for defamation and he countersued those women. Even when she was sick, she still went to Washington to meet with her lawyer managing the defamation suit. In the statement, it says the claim against the actor will continue and the team handling it looks forward to a solution and to show that she was telling the truth so her legacy is not tarnished. Cosby is presently serving time in Pennsylvania after he was convicted of sexually assaulting and drugging Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago. He was sentenced to three years in prison for this incident.

Moritz had been sick for about a year when she died at the age of 72. She had been in hospice care after getting an injury in Washington after a fall. She later was moved back to her home when she died.

Lawsuit for Smoking-Related Death of Lakeland War Vet Finally Goes to Trial

After a nine-year wait, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company get the chance to seek compensation for the smoking-related death of Robert McCain Sr. McCain, a resident of Lakelend, Florida, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992 and died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2007 at age 67. McCain’s family attribute his lifelong addiction and death to cigarette companies that allegedly concealed the dangers of smoking.

On January 10, Attorney William Wichmann of Fort Lauderdale gave opening statements for the plaintiffs in a Polk County courthouse overseen by Circuit Judge Catherine Combee. McCain had his first cigarette in the 1950s at age 15 and favored popular brands, such as Camels, Pall Malls, and Kools. According to Wichmann, the Marine and Vietnam veteran smoked about two to three packs a day for five decades. McCain quit smoking for five months in the early 1990s, but resumed the habit until his death.

The McCain case stems from a 1994 class action suit filed by pediatrician Howard Engle, who wanted to hold cigarette makers accountable for using nicotine despite having reports of its negative health effects for decades. Although a jury sided with the plaintiffs and awarded $145 million, the Florida Supreme Court later decertified the class action suit in 2006. Thousands of plaintiffs had to refile their claims as individual lawsuits, and the resulting cases are known as “Engle progeny.” McCain’s son-in-law, Gary Russell, reached a settlement in a similar suit against Philip Morris tobacco company in 2015.

But defense lawyer Jose Isasi questions whether the plaintiffs can prove the cigarette company is at fault. McCain was cancer-free after successful lung surgery and knew about the effects of smoking long before he died, as the mandatory surgeon general’s warning has appeared on cigarettes since 1965. As Isasi points out, McCain chose to resume smoking and could have quit again anytime.

The defense also suggested that McCain’s daughter had the Lakeland man’s death certificate modified to include lung cancer, so his family could profit from the lawsuit. The original certificate attributed his death to complications from COPD and pneumonia. According to Isasi, the family filed the lawsuit eight days after McCain’s daughter saw advertisements about potential claims against tobacco companies. Wichmann claims the certificate was altered in relation to McCain’s VA benefits.

Lawsuits against tobacco companies aren’t black and white, which is why Engle progeny litigation was created. While cigarette makers are sometimes found liable, there are some cases where smokers have ample knowledge and opportunity to make personal decisions about smoking. The burden rests on the plaintiffs to prove the cigarette company behaved negligently and caused lasting damage to their health.

Lawsuit against Alphabet, Inc. Alleges Sexual Misconduct

Alphabet, Inc., parent company of Google, is facing a lawsuit over allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Shareholders decided to sue directors of the company after Andy Rubin (the creator of Android and former Google employee) was granted a $90 million severance payment.

The investors who are part of the suit claim that Alphabet’s board of directors not only allowed harassment to occur, but also took measures to keep it private.

Claims that Rubin sexually harassed employees were found to be credible, and shareholders are targeting some of the top executives who tried to keep Rubin’s behavior quiet; these executives include Larry Page, Sergey Brin, John Doerr, Ram Shriram, and David Drummond.

In light of Rubin’s actions and the subsequent coverup, thousands of employees at Google protested via a walkout. This action by employees did cause the management to change some of its policies, including those regarding sexual misconduct in the workplace.

A statement from one of the employees who was an integral part of the walkout reveals that Google employees support the shareholders and their lawsuit. The employee also stated “Anyone who enables abuse, harassment and discrimination must be held accountable, and those with the most power have the most to account for.”

There is also speculation that another former Google employee, Amit Singhal, sexually harassed others in the workplace. Like Rubin, he quietly left the company with a large severance package.

After the allegations against Rubin were found to be credible, a shareholder filed a complaint with Google’s audit and compensation committees. Among others on these committees were Page and Brin.

Rubin’s lawyer, Ellen Winick Stross, made a statement saying that the claims against Rubin are sensationalized and that he does not admit to any sexual misconduct.

While shareholders are suing Google for the mishandling of the sexual misconduct, Google admitted to releasing 48 people due to sexual harassment without offering any severance packages.

Because the lawsuit is being filed by Google shareholders, any money won will go back to Google. The point of the lawsuit is to force a change in the company at the corporate level. The name of the case is Martin v. Page, 19-cv-00164, California Superior Court, San Mateo County (Redwood City).

Alleged Construction Injury at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Leads to Lawsuit

A lawsuit has been filed in Orange Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida by a construction worker and his wife. The worker, who was not employed by Disney at the time of the alleged incident, Robert Howard, claims that he incurred an injury while working on the premises of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2016. The lawsuit names as defendants Disney, MLC Theming and Total Demolition Services.

According to the lawsuit filed, Robert Howard says he was digging a ditch that was to be used to lay a foundation for new animal enclosures in Animal Kingdom. At some point, the ditch allegedly collapsed on him. An attorney for the plaintiff, Michael Damaso, stated in court documents, “Robert W. Howard was injured as a result of a dangerous condition on the premises, to wit: an unsafe worksite.” Interestingly, no record of injuries at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by Disney, Total Demolition Services or MLC, according to a publicly accessible federal database on or around the date that the incident allegedly occurred, May 11, 2016. However, according to Stephanie Bornstein, a University of Florida associate law professor, only work-related injuries that result in hospitalization or fatality are required to be reported to OSHA. She states, “That’s what is surprising to most people. OSHA is really important in what it does, but it has limited resources and limited scope in the law.”

The lawsuit seeks restitution of more than $15,000. It’s unclear what the injuries were, as the lawsuit does not go into details about the alleged injuries. The plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Damaso, stated the lawsuit was filed in an effort to determine what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of those who visit and work at our resort. We will respond to the allegations, as appropriate, in court,” said a spokesperson for Disney when reached for comment. Neither MLC Theming nor Total Demolition Services were able to be reached for comment. Total Demolition Services has been listed as an inactive business since 2017 on Sunbiz, Florida’s business registration department. OSHA representatives also did not comment when asked about the injury.

Harassed Teacher Fights Back with Lawsuit

Most people would agree that society is continuing to make efforts to take steps forward when it comes to acceptance and equal rights. However, there continue to be new stories on a regular basis that come out that make it very clear that racism still exists and creates very challenging situations for a lot of people. One story of apparent racism recently came out of a school district in New York.

A current black teacher at the Commack School District in New York is suing the district over claims that she was victimized by racism, discrimination, and harassment from students at the school and teachers. The teacher, Andrea Bryan, concluded that the district continued to allow an environment that allowed for harassment and intimidation.

Bryan, who is of Caribbean descent, has continued to claim that she has filed a wide range of grievances with the district and no action was taken. Her lawsuit, which is not for a specified amount at this point, also pointed out that there has been minimal hiring of minorities. In fact, no other black teachers have been hired in the past 17 years, which shows that there are discriminatory practices in place when it comes to hiring and promoting teachers.

Some of the allegations in the lawsuit were very hurtful and showed that Bryan was not widely accepted by her coworkers and peers. This included the treatment that she received in 2007. That year, Bryan was involved in a serious car accident and did not receive any of the compassion that she would have expected. Instead, she continued to be treated with hostility. During the annual holiday party, she was given a bottle of hand sanitizer as a gift from her Secret Santa. Even though the gift expectation was expected to be around $50, the initial thought was that the opinion that she was “dirty” led to the hurtful gift.

While the harassment from teachers was bad, she received equal treatment from students. In many cases, she was the recipient of a variety of racist comments while other students would laugh in her face at the stereotypical jokes. Bryan stated that several complaints were filed to management of the district, but no action was taken.

Lawsuit Claims Selective Prosecution of Store Owners Based on Their Nationality

Law enforcement authorities called it “Operation Candy Crush.” It was a crackdown on Nashville-area stores selling candy that investigators said contained marijuana. Police seized products, closed the shops, and padlocked the doors.

During a press conference, Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said stores were taking candy products such as gummy worms. “They take them out of the package. They spray them with this illegal substance,” Fitzhugh said according to the lawsuit. “And then they repackage them…They’ve taken gummy worms and infused them with the illegal substance. And then they repackage them in a different package.”

The raids were made after indictments were handed down against store owners that they were selling illegal substances. Charges had to be dropped, however, when authorities were unable to prove definitively that the candy actually contained any illegal substances. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s labs did the testing but could not prove whether the products contained THC or marijuana derivatives. According to WTVF-TV, the products at the stores in the Rutherford County raid were found to be CBD-based products which are legal in the state of Tennessee.

Store owners feel they were targeted unfairly because of their nationality and have filed suit against the County Sheriff, Police Chief, the District Attorney, and others prosecuting the case. Among other charges, the lawsuit claims store owners were targeted because of their nationality. 12 of 17 store owners targeted in the raids are of Egyptian descent, according to WTVF.

The suit alleges violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs point out that large commercial operations, such as Wal-Mart of Amazon, sold the same or similar products, yet were not targeted for prosecution. This selective prosecution against the small shop owners, the suit alleges, took place because they expected the owners to take a plea deal and pay a fine in order to re-open their business.

“Defendants selectively enforced the law, as they misunderstood it, against Plaintiffs, because Plaintiffs were small business owners, with a perceived lack of resources to defeat the unsupportable claims and criminal charges,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit also claims a violation of the defendant’s civil rights because Rutherford County and the Town of Smyrna failed to adequately train its officers on differences between industrial hemp and marijuana.

Grieving Man Sues Father for Violent Crime

Any type of violent crime is a tragedy that needs to be properly handled by the court of law. This can be even more devastating when one family member harms another, which then causes an untimely death. A few years ago, a story in Texas made national news when a man was arrested for killing his wife after a fight.

On December 19, 2016 Johnny Oliphant returned home from an evening at a local bar and was immediately involved in an argument with his wife, Gina Oliphant. The argument quickly got very heated, and Johnny Oliphant ended up shooting and killing his wife. After shooting his wife, Johnny Oliphant ended up drinking more alcohol and took a lot of pills in an apparent attempt to take his own life. However, he ended up surviving and called 911. When authorities arrived on the scene, he was arrested and charged with murder. Oliphant was initially released on $100,000 bond but is still facing federal felony murder charges with a trial forthcoming.

While Johnny Oliphant is facing serious charges as a result of the murder, his legal troubles do not appear to be ending there. More than two years after the initial charges, the couple’s son, Dylan, has decided to file a lawsuit against his father citing wrongful death. The new lawsuit was filed under Dylan’s new last name, Riccio, which he changed shortly after the murder took place, which led to national news.

In the lawsuit that was recently filed, Riccio claimed that his parents had been fighting a lot in the year leading up to the incident. He stated that the couple had contemplated divorce several times, but never fully went through with it. During this time, Riccio also frequently suggested that his mother leave his father out of concern for her emotional wellbeing and overall personal safety.

While his mother never did leave his father, Riccio clearly continued to have a great relationship with his mother during this difficult time. Riccio considered his mother to be his best friend and cited a significant amount of emotional damage ever since the incident took place. Through the loss of his mother, Riccio no longer has the emotional support that he used to receive.

Family Mistakenly Received Ashes for The Wrong Person

When a loved one passes away, it can be a very stressful and challenging situation. At the same time, there are many very important decisions that need to be made. One of the most important decisions that will need to be made is what to do with the remains of the deceased. One common option that many people pursue is the decision to have their loved one cremated. The advantage to this, is that you can then place their ashes in an urn, which can be held on display for centuries to come.

Those that choose to have their loved ones cremated have the general belief that they will receive the remains of their loved one, and not those of someone else. However, one Atlanta family recently learned that they had mistakenly received the remains of a complete stranger instead of their own family member.

In a very strange story, the family of Paulette Patricia Bradley decided to have her remains cremated when she passed away on September 26, 2018. Mrs. Bradly passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s at the age of 69. The family then ended up holding a service for Mrs. Bradley on September 29 and later displayed her remains in a home of the family. About two weeks later, they received a call that was very startling.

The hospital that cared for Mrs. Bradley claimed that the Bradley family was holding the ashes of the wrong person. Apparently, there was confusion between the hospital, funeral home, and cremation service that led to the mistake. The owner of the funeral home was the first to notice this mistake and tried to correct the error by replacing the ashes with the correct ones and refunding all of the money they charged for the service.

However, the Bradley family has declined this offer. Instead, they are suing the funeral home, the hospital, and the cremation service. The Bradley family is very frustrated by the situation and is partially suing to figure out exactly which party is at fault and to prevent this from happening again. At this point, none of the service providers are taking responsibility for the situation and the legal proceedings should help to clear this up.