Archive for wrongful termination

Whistleblower Gets Fired, Sues City

In East Lansing, Michigan, a former city water treatment employee alleges to have been fired for alerting the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality about potentially hazardous conditions at the East Lansing water treatment center.

Troy Williams was fired last year on December 31st. City officials claim he was fired due to restrictions making him unable to perform his job, while Williams contends that it was retaliation for his whistleblowing activities. Williams had been a pump mechanic specialist with the city for nearly 10 years before being fired in 2018. Manda Denieleski, the lawyer representing Williams, remarked that the case sends an important message of solitary to future whistleblowers.

According to the lawsuit, Williams is claiming protected status as a whistleblower. Williams says that he made multiple reports to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over the years about hazards at the facility. He also alleges that the city threatened to fire him when he brought his concerns to their attention.

Williams is also involved in a preexisting lawsuit from 2015 that alleges the city of East Lansing covered up a 2007 study that found asbestos in the facility and that the city mishandled a 2013 mercury spill that endangered workers. Echoing the earlier threat, several employees have come forward saying the city told them to keep quiet about the asbestos report. East Lansing has been fined twice for asbestos and mercury-related problems. The first time for violating safety standards pertaining to asbestos and mercury and the second time for failing to correct the problems outlined in the first fine.

Williams is hoping to see a financial win from the city that will recover his lost wages and non-economic damages he has sustained—including health problems he alleges are connected to asbestos exposure. He also hopes to recoup the legal fees relating to his case. His lawyer commented that such fees can become quite high in these types of cases. Williams and his lawyer have hired the services of an economics expert to help better calculate the damages.

Demetria Kalodimos Speaks Out For Herself and Women Everywhere

Demetria Kalodimos was well-loved by Nashville Tennesseans. They watched her deliver the news for over 30 years. While she’s long been a well known figure in Nashville, now she’s making national news. Demetria claims that the station that she worked for, WSMV, terminated her employment after 33 years because of her age and gender. She also claims that speaking out when she saw her fellow employees discrimated against played a part in WSMV’s decision. She is now suing WSMV.

Demetria’s Accusations

Demetria gives examples of the discrimination she witnessed. Demetria told the Tennessean

“When problems are happening right under your own nose, if you will, you can’t ignore those. Especially when they’re hurting people — and people that you know and work with. I felt not only my responsibility as a journalist but as a friend and as a woman and as an employee to make people aware of problems. And there were persistent problems.”

Demetria sites several examples of what she felt was discrimination. These include women being penalized for taking time off work and coming back, while men were welcomed back with open arms and given the exact same position, pay, and benefits they had when they left. She also says that women were talked over or simply ignored in boardroom meetings.

WSMV countered by saying “Meredith and WSMV-TV strongly disagree with these allegations. We will vigorously defend ourselves against them.”

The Circumstances That Led to Her Termination

Demetria received a letter on her desk on January first, the day after her contract expired. After 33 years with WSMV, there was no face to face conversation, no meeting, simply a letter informing her that she was no longer employed there. The station says that Demetria didn’t respond to its offer of a contract extension, while Demetria counters that a reasonable offer was never made.

What is known for sure at this moment is that Demetria was replaced by a significantly younger anchor Tracy Cornet. Regardless of how the lawsuit turns out, Demetria has shed light on a problem and opened up a discussion.



Repeated violations by Happy Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation

Happy Valley LLC, which operates out of Malvern Arkansas under the provider name Happy Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation, has repeatedly mishandled sexual harassment complaints brought forward by its female employees. Federal officials at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the company in which it alleged that Happy Valley violated federal law by firing victims that came forward with claims of sexual harassment.

Based on the details outlined in the lawsuit filed by the EEOC, employees within the Happy Valley organization were aware of the culture of victim blame and punishment, in which those who were sexually harassed and came forward were terminated, with no action taken against their accused.

These sexual allegations within the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which considers sexual harassment a form of sexual discrimination. Happy Valley further broke anti-discrimination laws which prohibit retaliation against individuals reporting discrimination, or opposing company actions they believe discriminates against individuals.

The Lawsuit further states that the company had knowledge of the harassment of its female employees for a number of years, receiving reports back in May of 2016 and as recent as May of 2018. Authorities within the company, upon receiving reports, would continuously promise the victimized women that the issue would be addressed, but failed to ever do so. This inaction by management created a predatory environment in which other harassment went unchecked, with subsequent victims fearing to come forward.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the laws against discrimination and violations of employee rights, such as those committed at Happy Valley. The agency first took action to address these violations and find a resolution by trying to utilize its conciliation process to reach a pre-litigation settlement. After this proved to be unfruitful, the EEOC went on to file suit against Happy Valley in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas Hot Springs Division, Civil Action No. 6:18-cv-06089. The suit comes with an injunction against future discrimination and violations and seeks monetary relief for the victims.

From DC to Hollywood to companies across the country, sexual harassment and discrimination violations are being dragged into the light and are being further highlighted on social media through movements such as the #metoo campaign. Victims are now finding it much easier to come forward with this social support, and the EEOC is doing a good job at combating the violations reported to them.

Multiple Sclerosis Elevated Treatment Expenses Blamed on Firings

It is not unusual for people to blame something over losing their jobs. However, two Alabamians in a bizarre case are blaming the high costs of treating multiple sclerosis (MS) conditions.

The two joined Montgomery attorney Julian McPhillips to issue a press statement on August 14, 2018. McPhillips stated that these two cases are a part of a great concern about the challenges faced by people with MS who are not incapacitated in their jobs but need costly treatments.

The Alabama-Mississippi Chapter’s president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Andrew Bell, confirmed that the expenses of drugs used in the treatment of MS have increased considerably to an average of approximately $90,000 annually.

Bell further added that at least a million Americans have MS and almost 6,000 of them reside in Alabama. It was noted that most people with this condition are between ages 20 and 50 and desire to continue working.

In December 2016, Jennifer Akridge of Montgomery got fired at the age of 48 after working at Alfa Insurance for 27 years. She contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and went ahead to file a disability discrimination claim. Also, she filed a lawsuit as provided for by the constitution under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This case is still pending in the Montgomery federal court.

In 1989, Akridge started working for Alfa organization but was later diagnosed with MS in 1993 as documented in her lawsuit. She got named as the company’s employee of the year in 1995.

According to the lawsuit, her condition was known at the company, and she was entitled to an intermittent paid leave. She could do all her jobs and assignments in underwriting by partially working from home.

Since Alfa is self-insured, they were paying for her treatment that included getting MS shots at a monthly cost of $11,000. The company’s director of public relations and communications, Jeff Helms, declined to comment on the ‘pending litigation.’

Helms confirmed in a statement that Alfa does not practice, condone, or tolerate any discrimination based on age, race, gender, mental disability, color, national origin, religion, physical disability or creed.

A former manager of a Weyerhaeuser plant, Robert Doll, 50, of Conecuh County, thinks that he lost his job due to his MS condition. Robert said that he has worked for at least 28 years with nine of those being at Weyerhaeuser for two separate periods, from 2005 to 2010 and from 2013 to 2017.

Doll, who got diagnosed with MS in 2011, was re-hired by Weyerhaeuser to revamp a mill in Castleberry. The mill increased in productivity culminating at having a banner year in 2016. Doll confirmed that he told the company about his MS condition in 2015 after a fall incident during a plant tour in McComb, Mississippi.

Initially, the company accommodated him with his condition, but with the increased costs of treatment, he eventually got fired in November 2017. Doll stated in a press statement that he thinks he lost his job due to his limited mobility, the high cost of treatment; and the reluctance of his superiors to accommodate him with his condition at the workplace.

It is challenging for the disabled who lose their jobs to fight back since legal actions are expensive and they pose uncertain outcomes. Doll confirmed that he wanted to be the voice for all other individuals in the same predicament.

Weyerhaeuser’s director of government affairs, Nancy Thompson, stated that the company avoids making public comments about potential legal matters or personnel decisions.

According to McPhillips, it is challenging to get any relief via the court system in a reasonable time even with the stringent federal laws meant to protect the disabled workers. The reason for this occurrence is partly due to the defendant companies having the capabilities to slow down the court process.

McPhillips believes that it is an uneven field and he plans to seek an audience with state legislators and members of Congress about probable alterations to the law.


Former Employee Files Lawsuit Against Rio Arriba County School Official for Assaulting a 12-Year-Old Girl

Deana Gallegos, a former employee of a small school in Espanola, New Mexico, is accusing an education official of Rio Arriba County for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. The alleged incident happened last August, and she claims that she was fired because they wanted to retaliate against her for making the complaint. Vernon Jaramillo has been working with the County for a long time, and he’s one of the school’s top administrators. Jaramillo serves as the chancellor for the Carinos Charter School, and he was the superintendent of the Mesa Vista School District. He has also denied the allegations that have been made against him.

The lawsuit was filed last week, making him and Principal Bernice Life the defendants. The eighth-grade girl told Gallegos that he made sexual advances toward her last August. Her teacher reported it to the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department as well as the local police department. Aside from making sexual comments, she claims that Jaramillo hugged and kissed her (along with grabbing her buttocks) and that she was meeting with him in his office alone.

A complaint was also filed with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, and the spokeswoman for the Education Department confirmed that an email was sent to the agency regarding the complaint. A detective for the Espanola Police Department “decided not to pursue the case or send it to the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.” He stated that the alleged victim didn’t give a consistent account of what happened, but the allegations came in the middle of some management changes that resulted in some confusion at the police department. Jaramillo claims that he has not been placed on leave. But according to the suit, he hasn’t been working at the school for a couple of weeks.

The detective who decided not to pursue the investigation was fired in March by the mayor who had just been elected, and it was because of a series of lawsuits that had been filed under his watch – one of which was the case in question. It claims that Romero tried to stop the investigation, and there was a video that showed evidence of misconduct by other officers. The principal and the other administrators at the school became hostile toward Gallegos after she made the complaint, and they started giving her more job responsibilities. She received a termination letter from the school last September. She’s looking for lost wages, attorney’s fees, court costs, and punitive damages.

Purdue University Sued for Wrongful Termination by Disabled Employee

Wheelchair-bound Rebecca Haynes-Bordas is suing Purdue for wrongful termination due to her disability. She had been working with the community around West Lafayette, Indiana at Purdue’s extension offices when she needed surgery for her abdominal region. The procedure resulted in her becoming completely paralyzed from the waist down. After that, she was approved by Purdue for leave for up to 2 years (May ’13 – May ’15), but she wasn’t actually able to receive this benefit because she was fired in May of 2014.

purdue-wrongful-terminationHaynes-Bordas did keep in contact with her employers throughout her recovery, and tried to make arrangements for how she would manage to return to work. She had asked for a modified bathroom to make it easier for her to maneuver with her wheelchair, and states she was told by the building manager that it would be an easy fix. She believes this request may have caused her termination. Haynes had been teaching low-income families in the area how best to handle their money, and had been on an award-winning team recognized for their effectiveness in helping develop community skills.

Purdue has not commented on this particular piece of litigation, however Hayne-Bordas stated that she had every intent to come back to work nearly a full year before her total disability leave time ran out. She said she told her boss that she would need about a month to return in May of 2014 when her boss told her that he needed a more concrete date due to her extended absence. Immediately after that conversation, she says she got a letter informing her of her termination. The official reasons were because she had no more paid or unpaid leave available. Her lawsuit filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is contesting that her disability leave lasted until the following year.

After 25 years of employment, Haynes-Bordas is certainly shocked and disillusioned with her employer. Character references from friends and colleagues state that she had earned a stellar reputation for her work, and shouldn’t have been treated this way due to a medical condition that was outside of her control.