The post on Sunday 12/18/2022 told us Kroger will pay $180K to employees fired for refusing “rainbow” logos on their uniforms. As part of settling a lawsuit by two former employees who objected to wearing a logo they believed showed support for the LGBT community, Kroger will create a religious accommodation policy and implement new training for store management. The EEOC, which filed the suit on behalf of the employees, announced the settlement which also included a monetary payment. Let’s go back a bit. the suit describes how a Kroger store required employees to wear an apron with a symbol (described in the post) on the bib. The employees believed the symbol showed support for the LGBT community. What Kroger said about the symbol is in the post. The suit alleges that one of the female employees agreed to wear the apron with the emblem covered and what the other offered to do is in the post. The suit alleges that Kroger refused to accommodate the two women, firing them for the reason noted in the post. And on what basis did the EEOC file suit? See the post.
TAKEAWAY: Remember that employers must accommodate religious beliefs of employees if possible – talk to an employment lawyer if this is an issue.
The post on Monday 12/19/2022 reminded us reasonable accommodation for Long COVID – yep, required. We now know that some people who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects (post-COVID conditions [PCC] or long COVID). And so the question is whether under the ADA employers must provide reasonable accommoda-tions to an employee with long COVID? And, not surprisingly, the answer is yes (if long COVID substantially limits one or more of the employee’s major life activities). And what are examples of major life activities? See the post. As with other illnesses, an employee with a COVID-19 infection with symptoms that resolve within a few weeks likely will not be deemed disabled under the ADA. But keep in mind that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 said that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage with the effect as noted in the post. But employers should always engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine if the employee is disabled within the laws definition and whether there is a reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee to perform essential job functions. Some of those steps are noted in the post. Employers must also keep in mind that state and local laws can be more protective than the ADA and may even have a broader definition of disability. It is important to refer to these laws in addition to the ADA for the reason noted in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Know the law that applies – and how to implement it – if disability and reasonable accommodation come into play. Get legal help too.
The post on Tuesday 12/20/2022 told us a gay, HIV-positive Latino bank teller ties firing to discrimination. Sergio Dieguez is suing East West Bank and two branch management members, alleging that he was wrongfully fired for complaining about discrimination due to his ethnicity and his sexual orientation. The allegations are broader than that, including the counts noted in the complaint. Dieguez seeks unspecified damages. So let’s look at the background. Dieguez says he was hired in October 2018 as a teller and was the only Latino at the branch where the other employees were mostly Asian, including branch manager Horace Lam and assistant manager Veronica Chiu. What did he allege the Bank did? See the post. And there’s more. Dieguez says that after he was hired, Chiu, who was always prying for information, began asking him intimate questions about his personal life including those listed in the post. Then things got worse for Dieguez after he disclosed to Chiu months later that he was gay – what she did is also in the post. A few weeks after that Lam told Dieguez that he knew about the plaintiff’s sexual preferences and that he had no problem with him being gay, the suit states. Dieguez’ reaction? See the post.
Dieguez alleges that during the next few years (years!), Lam and Chiu made several disparaging and inappropriate comments in reference to his sexuality, with Chiu thinking she could openly discuss her sexual topics with him as if he was just another “girl.” Then in mid-2020, Dieguez started missing a few days of work each month due to symptoms associated with his HIV-positive status. Why he told Chiu is in the post. Then starting in October 2021 Diequez complained to HR about the way Chiu and Lam were allegedly treating him. What did HR do? See the post.
Dieguez was fired in August 2022 after an incident with a rude customer that is detailed in the post. Dieguez suffered a panic attack because of the incident and asked if he could go home. Lam’s response? See the post. No explanation.
TAKEAWAY: The facts can be telling, but they must still be applied to applicable law.
The post on Wednesday 12/21/2022 told us a condominium HOA wants insurer to pay $11.5M in hidden storm damages suit. This is the case of Rolling Hills Condomi–nium Homeowners’ Association v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co. et al., in federal court. The condominium has 13 buildings and 141 residential units. Less than a month ago the condo association filed suit against Philadelphia Indemnity and at least 10 other insurers, alleging that they refused coverage for approximately $11.5 million in hidden water damage. The association wants the court to rule that the damage is not excluded from coverage. But the association has other counts in the suit too; they are noted in the post.
According to the complaint, the association discovered the damage hidden from view in its exterior walls after conducting a thorough review of the properties. Then it made a claim to the insurer. What then happened is in the post. The association alleges that the insurer failed to provide a reasonable explanation of the policy language it says supports the denial.
TAKEAWAY: Make sure your condo or homeowners association has the coverage it should have, not just coverage. Review the policy with a community association lawyer.
In the post on Thursday 12/22/2022 we read: ‘I lost my temper’: Neighbor allegedly murdered elderly HOA President and her husband after laundry room dispute. The arrest affidavit says that a laundry room dispute escalated to deadly violence. Defendant Hugh Hootman, 75, was arrested for murdering Ginger Wallace and Henry Wallace, both 81. Hootman lived in the condo above the Wallaces. The Wallaces were retired. According to the arrest affidavit, police received several 911 calls about the shooting.
Hootman’s wife said he shot the downstairs neighbors. Why? See the post. Police arrived to find two people dead on the walkway outside apartment 4. Hootman, the slain couple’s upstairs neighbor, was taken into custody without incident. The post contains a description of the scene by the police. After being read his rights, Hootman said that several days before Henry Wallace had come to his (Hootman’s) apartment and confronted his wife Susan Hootman. What Henry Wallace was upset about is in the post. Hootman said that Henry Wallace cussed and yelled at his wife which made her very upset.
Then a few days later Hootman checked his mail at the community mailbox. He ran into Henry Wallace. What Hootman requested, and Wallace refused, is in the post. So Hootman lost his temper. What Hootman stated he did next is detailed in the post. Ginger Wallace then left her home “yelling and screaming,” Hootman said. Hootman did not know what she was yelling. What he said she did is in the post. Then he raised his pistol again with both hands and fired two more shots at Ginger Wallace. Hootman said that after that he returned to his apartment and acted as described in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Strange things happen in all parts of the world – but it is good for any condominium or homeowners’ association to have in place a response plan for many different disaster scenarios.
The post on Friday 12/23/2022 was about a United Furniture employee: Company-wide termination ‘tore me apart’. She was looking forward to a big family Thanksgiving when Toria Neal got a text that upended her life: the mother of four was losing her job, along with everyone else in her company.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Neal, 36, told The Post. “The text said we were all being terminated and all our benefits including our health insurance were being terminated effective immediately. I had a really bad breakdown right there on the spot. I thought, what am I going to do?”
Neal and other workers at United Furniture Industries were shocked this week when the company laid off all 2700 of them at once, sending a text message just after midnight Tuesday. Neal worked as a traffic coordinator at the Mississippi branch of United Furniture. And what about notification to other employees? See the post.
“I thought it was a joke,” said Javier Monroy, 58, who worked as a purchasing manager in the company’s California plant, about receiving the termination text message. And how and when did they realize it wasn’t a joke? See the post. Monroy said. “I worry about my friends at the company. One of them is a single mother and the other just started chemotherapy treatment for cancer last week. They won’t be able to afford a second one with our health insurance cut off.”
The company violated federal law, Neal and Monroy are charging in a lawsuit.
Monroy said United Furniture owed a lot of money to outside vendors. How much? See the post (per Monroy whose job entailed an awareness of the company’s finances). Monroy is also concerned about safety at the California plant. He said he still has keys to the entire facility where everything from forklifts to staple guns have been left up for grabs — and so do other employees. He told one of the managers’ the response is noted in the post.
“We are all pissed off,” United Furniture employee Isaac Darkwah told the station. “We were working hard for them and then they treat us this way?” Frelinda Isbell, who works with Darkwah, also sounded off about the mass layoffs. “If I start another job I have to wait 90 days to get insurance. They texted me in the middle of the night. I lost all my benefits and I’m a good employee. All my benefits are gone and I can’t go to the doctor. I don’t feel this is right. It is very wrong. It’s in the middle of the holiday. I have light bills, water bills and kids.”
Neal’s was the first class action suit filed against the company. Several more have been filed since. The lawsuits are based on the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, the provisions of which are noted in the post.
“At the instruction of the board of directors … we regret to inform you that due to unforeseen business circumstances, the company has been forced to make the difficult decision to terminate the employment of all its employees, effective immediately, on Nov. 21,” the company said in messages to employees. “With the exception of over-the-road drivers that are out on delivery. Your layoff from the company is expected to be permanent and all benefits will be terminated immediately without provision of COBRA.”
No one has yet explained why the 20 year old company dissolved its operations so suddenly, but the post might have an idea.
TAKEAWAY: If you are going to take adverse action against employees, no matter what it is, make sure you comply with all applicable laws. Get advice from an employment lawyer.
Finally, in the post yesterday 12/24/2022, we saw Ex-Vancouver Canucks employee Rachel Doerrie alleges discrimination, wrongful dismissal. Doerrie was a who alleges that she was discriminated against by assistant GM Emilie Castonguay. The complaint alleges that the discrimi-nation was based on “a flimsy pretext to orchestrate and mask the real reasons” for Doerrie’s termination” after she spoke to members of the media about an August 2022 promotion. What Doerrie further alleges about Castonguay is in the post. At one point, Castonguay allegedly told Doerrie “you’re not important enough to be cared about,” the complaint alleges.
Castonguay and the Canucks refuted the allegations. What Castonguay said is in the post. The Canucks, meanwhile, said they provided Doerrie with all the support systems needed (and more as noted in the post). The post has a snapshot of Doerrie’s soc media post about the termination and suit.
And now some background. Doerrie, 26, was hired by the Canucks in January 2022 as an analyst. What she says she told them pre-hire is noted in the post. Doerrie was required to wear a heart monitor. She told the Canucks that she was considering employment with multiple NHL teams and something else she needed from her future employer – which is in the post. In the interview process, President of Hockey Operations and then-Interim GM Jim Rutherford assured her the Canucks were on board (the actual alleged language is in the post) and made sure colleagues and supervisors were made aware. Four days after Doerrie was hired, the club announced the hiring of Castonguay as one of the assistant general managers who reported to new general manager Patrik Allvin.
Eight months into her employment, in August 2022, Doerrie was promoted to the coaching staff as an analyst and assistant to the video coach. Talks of the promotion had started in May 2022 and Castonguay gave Doerrie the new employment contract in late July 2022. The timing on that is noted in the post. However, Doerrie alleges that Castonguay did not seem pleased with the promotion (based on the things noted in the post). Then on Sept. 19, 2022, a reporter and long-time friend of Doerrie’s texted her statements Boudreau made public at an assembled media event at a golf tournament. The statement s are in the post. Doerrie responded with humor (as in the post) and the friend’s story was later posted online and Doerrie shared it on her Instagram account – see the post. Doerrie also alleges that it was common practice for Canucks’ staff to repost published articles on their own social media accounts “without any adverse employment consequences.” Well …
The complaint alleges that on Sept. 20, 2022, Castonguay called Doerrie into her office expressing concern that the story was shared on social media and that she was speaking to the media. Doerrie’s response is in the post. Then Castonguay allegedly said “you’re not important enough to be cared about” and “no one in the media is your friend” and more as noted in the post. At the end of the conversation, Doerrie asked Castonguay on how she could improve, Castonguay “responded bluntly that this was an HR issue now,” the complaint says. And how did Doerrie frame it as a legal issue? See the post.
A day after Castonguay and Doerrie’s meeting, the Canucks’ training camp began; they were both there as well as Allvin. How Doerrie says Castonguay treated her and how that made her feel is in the post. After that, Doerrie suffered multiple cardiac episodes and anxiety attacks over the next few days and received medical treatment as noted in the post. Then on Sept. 27th, Doerrie met with the Canucks’ HR department. What she told HR, and its response, are both in the post. Hours later, Allvin terminated Doerrie’s employment based on the information Castonguay provided to him, the complaint alleges. The complaint then connected it all and how there were legal violations – see the post for the details.
TAKEAWAY: Remember that the ADA has 3 prongs: actual disability, a record of having a disability, and being regarded as having a disability. Know the law.