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Entries in Discrimination (10)

Sunday
Feb032013

Bakery Denies Same-Sex Couple Wedding Cake

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- Sweet Cakes, an Oregon-based bakery, says on its website they make “cakes for any occasion.”

But that isn’t the case, according to one customer, who says she was denied a cake for her same-sex wedding.

The bride-to-be filed a complaint on Jan. 28 with the Oregon Department of Justice, which is looking into the allegation.

Aaron Klein, who owns the bakery with his wife, Melissa, told ABC News affiliate KATU-TV,  he was living in accordance with his religious beliefs when he declined to make the brides a wedding cake.

“I honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn’t  mean to make anybody upset, [it's] just something I believe in very strongly,” he said.

The Oregon Equality Act was enacted in 2007 and prohibits public accommodations, including businesses, from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Klein, however, said he believes his actions are protected by his Constitutional right to practice his religion as he sees fit.

According to KATU, there isn’t an exception under the anti-discrimination law for religious beliefs, so the case would be left for a judge to decide.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

Walmart Worker Says She Was Fired for Praying with Customer

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former pharmacist at a Walmart in California said she was fired by the retail giant because of her Christian beliefs.  Now, she is suing for religious discrimination, saying the store claimed to have caught her praying with a customer on camera, and cited that as the reason for termination.

In January 2006, Anhue Doan of Bakersfield, Calif., about 125 miles northeast of Santa Barbara, became a retail pharmacist at a Walmart store in her city.

Darren Harris, the attorney representing Doan from the law firm Spray, Gould & Bowers LLP, said she does not deny praying with customers when they requested to do so.

"She does however deny that she was praying when she was allegedly caught on video," he told ABC News.  "She was simply touching a patient and talking with her, which Walmart interpreted as praying with her."

Her termination letter does not mention praying and instead cites "misconduct," which Doan believes was in reference to allegedly praying with patients, according to Harris.

Walmart declined to comment about the surveillance tape or discuss the reasons for termination.

Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, said the company "has a zero tolerance policy with respect to harassment or discrimination, including religious discrimination."

"We make reasonable accommodations for religious reasons," he said in a statement.  "We have not had an opportunity to review the lawsuit.  We will thoroughly investigate the allegations that are being raised once we receive the complaint."

Walmart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the largest employer in the U.S. with over 4,500 retail facilities and 1.4 million employees in the U.S. alone.

It was in June 2011, when Doan, now 59, was "written up specifically for stating that she would pray for customers and stating to customers, 'be healed'," according to her complaint.  Her employer said she "could no longer pray for customers, and stated that she would be terminated if she continued doing so," according to the lawsuit she filed in a California Superior Court in Kern County.

Her attorney believes Doan was labeled as a "troublemaker" after she sent an email to her managers noting "several compliance issues with other employees," such as bringing drinks into the pharmacy, pharmacists not following Drug Enforcement Administration requirements for controlled substances, using cellphones in the pharmacy and other prohibited actions.

Doan also claims that she believes Walmart assigned her duties "to other workers who were not religious," which she said constitutes illegal discrimination.

The lawsuit alleges that when her employer "learned" of her religion, her supervisors "surreptitiously resolved to replace [her] and terminate her employment, rather than afford her reasonable accommodations to which she was entitled under the law."

In Dec. 2011, Doan says, her district manager brought her into his office and showed her a surveillance tape without sound that showed Doan "touching a customer's hand, as well as the customer crying."  Doan recalls that he then told her the video showed that she "was praying and that they were going to terminate her," despite lacking "good cause" to do so.  She was fired on Dec. 8.

Harris said his client had hoped to work for Walmart until she retired.  She was just shy of her six-year anniversary and had earned over $170,000 plus benefits last year, he said. She is currently unemployed despite "diligent efforts" to find comparable employment, according to Harris and the complaint.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug242012

Maryland Man Sues Firing Range for 'Reverse Sexism'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(UPPER MARLBORO, Md.) -- One Monday last October, Derrick Hunter decided to go shooting at the Maryland Small Arms Range in Upper Marlboro, his local firing range. He paid the $15 entry fee, and went inside.

And that's when the metaphorical bullets started to fly.

According to Hunter, 34, a special police officer, two women walked in behind him. Since it was "Ladies' Day," a longtime staple at the club, a manager told them they didn't have to pay.

Hunter heard the exchange, and asked if he could use the range for free too. "He said, 'It's Ladies' Day and you don't meet that criteria,'" he told ABC News. He accuses the firing range of "reverse sexism."

"Any time you get any kind of discrimination it does hit home to a certain extent," he said. "I have children. If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything. Sooner or later you have to stand up for your rights."

Hunter complained to the Human Relations Commission of Prince George's County, which reviews cases of discrimination. In August, it concluded that the case had merit. Last week, Hunter filed a $200,000 lawsuit against the firing range.

Carl Roy, president of the gun range, said he doesn't think he is doing anything illegal by letting in women for free.

"It's a governmental micro-managing society," he said. "If you read the county ordinance, they are narrowly construing discrimination to mean if you give a discount to somebody, then you got to give it to everyone. But no one is saying anything about age discrimination. They're not saying anything about occupational discrimination, or JC Penney giving free haircuts to children for the month of August."

Hunter's lawyer, Jimmy A. Bell, sees it differently. "If someone said because you were Jewish you'd have to pay more money, what would you think about that?" he said. "People don't look at it like that. People think a man should have to take it. And that's not how the law works."

As it happens, attorney Bell is no stranger to discrimination suits. In 2010 he sued a nail salon after he shelled out $4 more for a manicure/pedicure than women were charged.

He eventually settled with the salon for an undisclosed amount. But last year, he sued another nail salon, Nail First, on Hunter's behalf. Hunter didn't win any money, but the court issued a permanent injunction against the salon.

This time that would not be enough, said Bell.

"It's obvious that an injunction doesn't work," he said. "You've got to look at a person's dignity. When someone tells you that based on who you are, your physical characteristics, that you have less value to them than someone else, that stings a lot of people. It's illegal in our state. And it's been illegal since 1986."

"The special court of appeals outlawed gender discrimination and ladies' night activities in 1986," he said. "You can't offer one benefit to one group and not to the other group based on sex."

Brian Heller, a partner at Schwartz and Perry, an employment discrimination law firm in New York City, said the case is an interesting one. "On the one hand, the question is, are they treating men worse? Or are they treating women preferably?" said Heller. "And if they are treating women preferably, is there a legitimate business reason to do so?

"It's ultimately going to have to come down to a jury looking at the facts and making a decision as to what the intent was," he said. "The range could argue that there's a good reason to attract women members, and that they're not treating men badly but that they're encouraging women to sign up."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May172012

Fired Las Vegas Hotel Worker Sues for Pregnancy Discrimination, Wages

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- Melodee Megia, a former employee at The Cosmopolitan Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, claims she was told she was fired from her job for saying "bye bye" on the telephone instead of "goodbye" while eight-months pregnant.

She has filed a lawsuit against the hotel for pregnancy discrimination and a class-action suit for workers' wages, saying employees were not paid for the time they had to wait for and change into their uniforms on a daily basis.

Megia worked at the hotel from November 2010 until September 2011, when she said she was fired "based on her pregnancy," according to court papers filed with the Clark County District Court in Nevada last week.

Megia was a "room service sales" employee answering the telephone when hotel guests called for room service, and occasionally assisting in room delivery, her lawyers said.

She is represented by labor attorneys Mark Thierman and Jason Kuller.

Thierman said "she was denigrated verbally and was mistreated because of her pregnancy," while having a "behind-the-scenes" job at the hotel.

Amy Rossetti, public relations director of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, said in a statement, "As a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation."

In March 2011, according to the lawsuit, Megia was asked to deliver a "pleasure packet" of condoms to a hotel customer, when Megia's supervisor said, "Isn't it too late for that?  You should have thought about it before getting knocked up."

"From that point forward, the director of room service frequently gave [Megia] dirty looks or shook his head disapprovingly," the suit said.

On Sept. 16, 2011, when she was eight months pregnant, the "stated reason for [her] termination was that she said 'bye bye' instead of 'good bye' on the telephone to a room service customer," according to the suit.

"In fact, this was merely a pretext as [Megia] had been subject to harassing conduct and other pretextual discipline leading up to her termination since the time her pregnancy was learned by [the hotel]," the suit added.

In the same filing to sue the hotel for unspecified damages for pregnancy discrimination, Megia also made class-action allegations for unpaid wages on behalf of the hotel's employees.

Workers were not permitted to wear their uniforms outside work and had to pick up and drop off their uniforms before and after their shifts, often leading to additional overtime for which they were not paid, the suit claimed.

The suit said employees also had to change into their uniforms on-site in an area away from where they clocked in and out for the day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec212011

Countrywide Fine Is Largest in History for Loan Discrimination

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Bank of America, which now owns Countrywide Financial, agreed to pay more than $300 million -- the largest fine ever of its kind -- to settle allegations of discrimination against African-American and Hispanic borrowers, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

An investigation looked at 2.5 million loans made during the height of the housing boom in 2004 through 2007 and found, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, "widespread violations of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and resulted in African-American and Hispanic borrowers being charged higher rates for mortgage loans solely because of their race or origin."

Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez says black and Latino borrowers who qualified for prime loans were steered toward risky subprime mortgages.

"As a result of these policies and practices, the odds of an African-American or Latino borrower receiving a subprime loan instead of a prime loan were more than twice as high as those for similarly situated non-Hispanic white borrowers," Perez said Wednesday.

The Justice Department said Wednesday what Countrywide did was not criminal, rather a violation of federal civil rights law.  But many disagree and find it difficult to understand how loans ripe with fraud, applications forged and applicants lied to can not result in one elite person at Countrywide being prosecuted. This is the fifth time Countrywide has been targeted for fraud.

The $300 million settlement against the now defunct Countrywide Bank, once the largest home mortgage company in America, means at most the 200,000 discrimination victims in 41 states will get no more than a couple of thousand each in restitution.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct062011

Texas Roadhouse Sued for Age Discrimination

IM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Texas Roadhouse restaurants reportedly rejected applicants for jobs as waiters and bartenders by telling them things like, "We think you are a little too old to work here."

It needed greeters, it said, but only "young, hot ones who are 'chipper'." Comments like these, documented in a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, have prompted a lawsuit charging age discrimination.

"It's a nationwide pattern of age discrimination," EEOC senior trial attorney Markus Penzel tells ABC News. The commission's suit, he says, rests on "anecdotal evidence -- people who said and heard things," on the company's own documents, including in-house training videos, and on statistical analysis.

According to the EEOC, only 1.9 percent of so-called 'front of the house' employees, meaning greeters, waiters, bartenders, etc., at Texas Roadhouse are aged 40 or older. By federal law, persons in that age group constitute are a class protected from age discrimination.

The percentage, says the EEOC, is "well below" the percentage in the general population at the restaurants' locations and well below the percentage in the pool of applicants seeking jobs from Texas Roadhouse.

Roadhouse spokesman Travis Doster, responding to the lawsuit, told ABC News: "Texas Roadhouse is an equal opportunity employer. We deny the allegations and will defend against these claims in court."
Penzel says his agency has witnessed an increase in age discrimination complaints during the current economic downturn. Older workers have suffered "the longest spell of high unemployment" seen in the past 60 years.

New Jersey attorney Glenn Savits, of Green, Savits & Lorenzo in Morristown, specializes in age discrimination suits. He views the Roadhouse case as "disturbing," especially at a time when finding jobs is getting tougher and tougher. "It's pure age discrimination," he says.

Youth is not a bona fide requirement for waiting tables or greeting, Savits says. He rejects the notion that older workers are more costly -- that being more experienced, they must always command higher wages, and thus be less attractive to employers:

The Roadhouse case hardly stands alone. Other recent, high-profile cases alleging age discrimination include a class action suit brought against Quest Diagnostics by Savits, and a suit against Google brought on behalf of a fired 54-year old computer executive by California attorney Barry Bunshoft of Duane Morris LLP in San Francisco.

Bunshoft, referring to the Texas Roadhouse suit, says, "If your policy is to hire only people under 40 for the front of the house, that's against the law. Period. If you're qualified to do the work, you should have a serious shot at it, regardless of age."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun272011

Walmart Case Going to Congress

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will hold a hearing on Wednesday to explore the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions.

Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in Dukes v. Walmart, is expected to testify about the court’s decision to block the largest employment discrimination class-action suit from going forward. Nearly 1.5 million current and former Walmart employees sought to band together and sue the company for sex discrimination.

A conservative majority of the court said the women did not have enough in common to pursue their class action.

The hearing begins at 10:30 a.m.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun212011

Workplace Discrimination: Transparency Key in Fight for Equality

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Walmart case, women across the country are re-examining the weapons they have in the fight against discrimination in the workplace. According to a new study, transparency is one of the best ways to battle inequality.

"More transparency almost always helps in fighting sex discrimination and other forms of discrimination because it exposes what the employer is doing," said Suzanne Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. "Increased transparency is almost always a good thing because when hiring and promotion processes are more open there is less room for discrimination to flourish."

The study, from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, uncovered that secrecy is the norm in the private sector. Sixty percent of private sector employees are discouraged or forbidden from discussing their pay, reveals the study. This may be one of the reasons the pay gap between men and women is 23 percent in the private sector, while in the federal government, where transparency is mandated, the gap is only 11 percent.

Although the Walmart case struck a blow against class-action lawsuits, Goldberg says it just means that going forward cases will need to be more focused to succeed.

"This is not doomsday for sex discrimination class action. It does mean discrimination suits will be brought on a smaller scale, either on a per store or per unit basis, but sex discrimination suits will continue and will continue to force change in workplaces," Goldberg told ABC News. "I expect sex discrimination lawsuits to continue for as long as sex discrimination continues in workplaces, which unfortunately will be for the foreseeable future."

Goldberg said one of the most important things women can do is know what resources are available to them.

"It can be a very challenging process to bring a discrimination suit, which is why there are so few suits relative to the amount of discrimination in the workplace," she told ABC News. "The best first step for an employee that cannot afford a lawyer is to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency that enforces Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination law. Or to go to a state or local human rights commission that enforces state and local law because those agencies can sometimes provide lawyers to aid in bringing cases."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

High Court Sides With Wal-Mart in Gender-Bias Lawsuit

Spencer Platt / Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stopped one of the largest employment discrimination cases in history from going forward. The case was brought by six female Wal-Mart employees who said they had been paid less than men in comparable positions despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority.

The case had blossomed into a class action lawsuit involving hundreds of thousands of female employees. The court was unanimous in saying that the case should not have been certified by the lower courts because it failed to meet the certification requirements for seeking damages of monetary relief.

However, the court's five conservative justices went further. They found that the women also failed to demonstrate that there were questions of law common to the entire class of nearly 1.5 million female employees.

"The court rejects the notion that Wal-Mart had a policy of discrimination that could form any kind of fair basis for a civil-rights class-action case," the ruling stated.

The plaintiffs had claimed they could prove Wal-Mart discriminated against all women employees by statistics, by alleging that the company's corporate culture was suffused with gender stereotypes, and by pointing to the company's practice of allowing local managers wide discretion in hiring and promoting, which supposedly allowed those stereotypes to impact the lives of women employees.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summed up the argument: "Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware. The risk of discrimination is heightened when those managers are predominantly of one sex, and are steeped in a corporate culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes."

Scalia laughed this argument out of court, essentially. He called it "unbelievable," "worlds away from significant proof" of discrimination, and declared the court could "safely disregard" everything the plaintiffs' key expert had to say.

"In a company of Wal-Mart's size and scope," Scalia wrote, "it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common *direction.*" (emphasis added) "Merely showing that Wal-Mart's policy of discretion has produced an overall sex-based disparity does not suffice."

This is strongly pro-business ruling. It will make it harder for plaintiffs' lawyers to construct class actions in many fields, since what the court does here is tighten the law's demand that members of a class have suffered a truly, provably "common" wrong.

Walmart said the class action could include "every woman employed for any period of time over the past decade in any of Walmart's approximately 3,400 stores….the millions of class members collectively seek billions of dollars in monetary relief."

The action stems from a sexual discrimination suit filed by six women who worked in 13 stores who alleged they had been paid less than men in comparable positions, despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority.

In court papers, lawyers for the women said that the case needed to proceed as a class action because Walmart exercised a strong centralized corporate culture, and that class litigation "may be the only means of obtaining the broad injunctive relief necessary to address the allegedly discriminatory policies challenged."

The women were seeking injunctive relief, back pay and punitive damages.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep232010

Maryland Nail Salon Charges Men More Than Women

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(UPPER MARLBORO, Md.) -- A Maryland man who was charged $4 more than his female companion at a nail salon filed a lawsuit Monday claiming "gender-based price discrimination."  Jimmy Bell of Upper Marlboro said he was shocked when he noticed that Rich's Nail Salon in Landover, Md. had charged him extra.  "I went to go pay and the person was going over the bill and I noticed that when he said the price for [my date's] manicure and pedicure, it was different than mine," Bell said of the Nov. 7, 2009, incident.  "At that point I asked, 'Why do I have to pay more than her,' and he said, 'Because you're a man.'  They're saying that men have to pay more for the exact same service and it's wrong, it's illegal."  An employee at the salon had no comment but confirmed that the cost of a woman's pedicure is $20, compared with $22 for men.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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