Posts Tagged ‘severance’

A recent jury verdict against Xerox for almost $800,000 shows the repercussions an employer, such as Xerox, may suffer for retaliating against an employee who complains of discrimination in the workplace. Remember that most state and federal laws prohibit not only the discrimination itself, but also retaliation against any complaints of discrimination.

Hope Bailey-Rhodeman, an African-American female, claimed she had suffered retaliation when she had made an internal complaint of race and gender discrimination. Since she filed the claim, she was demoted to a sales position, but at the time of her complaint, she was a sales manager for Xerox and had a successful career spanning nearly 20 years. She had been promoted to sales manager, leading a team of 10 sales representatives who specialized in selling equipment and services to customer in state and local government.

Bailey-Rhodeman was consistently the highest ranked sales manager in her section, and was frequently one of the most highly ranked sales managers for the country. But all this changed in the summer of 2006, when Bailey-Rhodeman made an internal complaint to Xerox Human Resources, complaining that other managers were bullying her because she was an African-American female.

Her immediate supervisor learned of the complaint, and told Bailey-Rhodeman that he was angry at her for making him look bad, telling her “now you did it.” He then launched a retaliatory investigation of Bailey-Rhodeman. Without being interviewed, or even being told the specifics of the accusations against her, Bailey-Rhodeman was suspended, being accused of committing an unspecified “policy violation.” Three weeks later she was told she was being fired, but Xerox offered to pay her 12 weeks severance, if she would agree to quit. She refused, and threatened to sue the company.

In response, Bailey-Rhodeman was told that she was being removed from her sales manager job, but could accept instead a reassignment to a sales position where she would be stripped of all supervisory responsibilities. Otherwise, she would be fired. The reassignment was a demotion, which would result in a significant loss in pay. Nonetheless, without any job prospects, Bailey-Rhodeman took the reassignment, but continued to challenge the demotion.

After being demoted to the sales position, Bailey-Rhodeman lost approximately $100,000 per year in sales commissions. Her territory was split between two white males. At trial, Bailey-Rhodeman challenged her demotion as being in retaliation for her complaints of discrimination. The jury found in Bailey-Rhodeman’s favor on her retaliation claim, and awarded Bailey-Rhodeman $488,088 in lost past income, and $316,126 in lost future income.

Should you believe you have been the subject of discrimination in the workplace or retaliation, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss available legal options to you.

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Under Florida law, the general rule is that an employee who quits their job is not entitled to receive unemployment benefits. However, there is an exception to this general rule where the employee left with good cause attributable to the employer.

Dennis Martinez was a full time car salesman for Ford Midway Mall. Martinez was originally hired on a commission basis, but some time into his employment, his position was changed to where he received a draw against his commissions. When business declined and he was earning no commissions, based upon the employer draw, he would owe the employer money each week. As of the date of his resignation, Martinez owed over $2,000 to his employer due to these draws. Martinez expressed his dissatisfaction with this arrangement to his employer and resigned.

The unemployment referee determined that Martinez voluntarily quit without good cause of the employer. He further decided that because Martinez agreed originally to this draw policy, that he could not contest it a year later.

The Third District Court of Appeal reversed the determination of unemployment. The Court held that the unemployment laws “provides that an individual is not disqualified for unemployment benefits where the individual has “voluntarily left work with good cause attributable” to the employer. § 443.101(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009). “Good cause” includes cause attributable to the employer, which “as contemplated by the unemployment compensation law, describes that which would drive an average, able-bodied worker to quit his or her job.”

The Court held that the auto dealer was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Florida Minimum Wage Act because Martinez was not getting paid the minimum hourly wage for the hours he was working for his employer. The Court held that the draw agreement used by the employer was in violation of the FLSA and Florida Minimum Wage Act. Moreover, the Court held that merely allowing them to pay under the draw policy, for a period of time did not result in a waiver of his legal rights under the FLSA.

The Court held that due to the employer’s violations of the FLSA and Florida Minimum Wage Act, Martinez had left his employment due to good cause attributable to the employer. The Court reversed the decision of unemployment and awarded Martinez his benefits.

The Opinion of the Third District Court of Appeal is here.

If you have questions about your right to receive unemployment benefits, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm to discuss your legal rights.

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Many of you man know that if you your employer has at least 50 employees and you have been a full time employee of the employer for 12 months that you may be entitled to Family Medical Leave Act leave in the event of your serious health condition or that of one of your relatives. A new Federal Court opinion has indicated that an employee may not only take that FMLA leave, but should not be pestered about when they will return to work.

A U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas opinion dismissed Howard Memorial Hospital’s motion for summary judgment and concluded that a jury should be presented with the Family and Medical Leave Act interference claim made by a hospital employee who said she felt pressured to return to work during her medical leave.

In the case, Regina Terwilliger, a former Howard Memorial Hospital housekeeper, claims that her supervisor contacted her on a weekly basis to ask when she would return to work after undergoing back surgery. One pivotal phone conversation revolved around Terwilliger’s work status, with the housekeeper asking if she was at risk of losing her job while she was at home recovering. During that conversation, Terwilliger’s supervisor responded to her questions by saying that she should return to work “as soon as possible.” Terwilliger decided to cut her medical leave short and returned to work a week early. A few weeks after returning to work, the hospital fired Terwilliger, alleging she stole from another hospital employee. Terwilliger says she was fired for taking FMLA leave and asserts that the hospital deprived her of the act’s full benefits by pressuring her to return to work early.

“Interference includes discouraging an employee from using FMLA leave,” the district court wrote.

If you have questions about your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA, call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm.

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