Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tinder Co-Founder’s Sex Harassment Suit

Popular dating-app Tinder (and its parent company IAC) has settled a sex harassment suit filed by its sole female co-founder. The allegations are against the other two co-founders, Sean Rad and Justin Mateen.

The female co-founder is Whitney Wolfe. On June 30, she filed a lawsuit accusing her fellow co-founders (both men) of subjecting her to “horrendously sexist, racist and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages.” The conduct was said to have occurred over an 18-month period. Ms. Wolfe did have a romantic relationship with Mr. Mateen that ended shortly before her termination. Ultimately, Ms. Wolfe was stripped of her co-founder status and allegedly terminated because she was a 24-year old woman. She was told that having a “girl founder” devalued the company. Ms. Wolfe stated that Mr. Mateen was purportedly suspended following Ms. Wolfe’s legal claims that he had called her a “whore” and “gold digger” in front of Mr. Rad. Apparently, the complaint contained screen shots of some of the offensive text messages. The suit alleges that Tinder’s executives fit into the stereotypical misogynistic and alpha males that are associated with technology start-ups.

The lawsuit was quickly settled for the usual undisclosed amount.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Honest Belief Enough To Sustain FMLA Termination

Bridget Dalpiaz was a benefits administrator for Carbon County in Utah. She went on leave following a car accident. During her leave, her employer repeatedly requested that she obtain certification from her physician. After two months, Ms. Dalpiaz finally submitted her doctor’s certification. When Ms. Dalpiaz returned to work following her leave, she was limited to modified duty. She worked two hours a day, two days a week.

During the time of Ms. Dalpiaz’ leave and modified schedule upon return, several co-workers and community members let her employer know that she was engaging in activities that did not seem consistent with her injuries and subsequent limitations. Examples of these activities were: playing football with her children, working in her yard, and assisting her children with costume changes and other tasks at lengthy dance rehearsals and recitals. Written statements reflecting these observations were submitted. The employer asked Ms. Dalpiaz to undergo an independent medical examination to confirm her entitlement to FMLA leave. Despite repeated requests for this IME, Ms. Dalpiaz claimed that she could not schedule it because she needed a doctor’s referral. She was terminated.

In the subsequent suit for FMLA interference, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Ms. Dalpiaz. The Court concluded that the link between FMLA and Ms. Dalpiaz’ termination was secondary. Although the paperwork and IME were about FMLA, it was the plaintiff’s failures to comply with her employer’s requests that were the basis for the termination. Even if the witness statements about her activities were untrue, the employer had an honest and sincere belief that she had abused her sick leave. The sincerity of this belief was uncontroverted at trial.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dallas Cowboys’ Owner Sued For Sexual Harassment

Jerry Jones, the longtime owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The plaintiff is 27-year-old Jana Weckerly, a former stripper. She claims that Mr. Jones assaulted her in a local Dallas hotel. Specifically, she alleges that he fondled her genitals, forced her to touch or rub his penis, and required her to watch while the 66-year-old Jones received oral sex from another woman. The plaintiff has photos that she took of Mr. Jones and two other women in sexually seductive poses. She has also asserted that Mr. Jones and the Cowboy organization made threats against her to make sure she did not report the incident. Ms. Weckerly is seeking over a million dollars in damages, claiming that she suffered from severe depression as a result of the incidents and ensuing threats.

Mr. Jones has issued a blanket denial of the allegations, accusing Ms. Weckerly of extortion. He has not specifically answered questions about the incident alleged. The encounter took place several years ago in 2009.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wellness Programs: EEOC Brings Its First Challenge

For the first time, the EEOC has filed suit against a company to protest its wellness program as a violation of the ADA.

Orion Energy Systems is the company. Its voluntary wellness program required employees to complete a health risk assessment. This assessment included questions pertaining to the employee’s medical history and blood work. Former employee Wendy Schobert claimed that she refused to complete the wellness program and then complained about it to management. In response to her refusal, the company insisted that she pay the full premium on her employee only health coverage election. Ms. Schobert lost her job shortly thereafter.

The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that Orion’s wellness program was not job-related or consistent with business necessity. It is the EEOC’s contention that the assessment portion of the wellness program was tantamount to a medical examination. The ADA allows for employer medical examinations only when it can be shown that it is related to the employee’s job position and “consistent with business necessity.” The ADA provides an exception for a voluntary wellness program. “Voluntary” is the key word. The EEOC argues that the financial penalties imposed for Ms. Schobert’s refusal were so substantial that the program was not truly voluntary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

That “Like” On Facebook is Protected Activity Says the NLRB

Wading deeper into the issues created by social media, the NLRB has ruled that a discussion on Facebook constituted concerted activity protected by the NLRA.

The employer in question was Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille. Several employees learned that they owed more taxes to the state because of their employer’s withholding mistakes. A former employee posted on her Facebook page the following: “Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money…Wtf.!!!” One current employee responded, “I owe too. Such an asshole.” A second current employee “Liked” the status update without comment. The former employee had also made another comment implying that the owner had pocketed their money. Both current employees were terminated for disloyalty when the employer found out about their participation.

The NLRB considered the employer’s argument that the two employees lost the protection of the NLRA because they had adopted the defamatory and disparaging comments on the Facebook page. It concluded that the employees comment and “Like” did not reflect agreement with the defamatory statement about theft but only expressed agreement with tax-withholding practices. Thus, the employees were engaged in protected activity.