Last Friday, March 22nd, a federal court jury in San Diego awarded over $4,646,252 to Denise Steffens. Ms. Steffens (represented at trial by Cindy Panuco and Dan Stormer of HSRR and Susan Guinn) was employed as a building manager by the office rental company Regus Group PLC, but was fired in July of 2007 after reporting wage-and-hour violations. The verdict is especially monumental since it comes out of the usually conservative San Diego area. "This is a great victory," said Cindy Panuco. "It shows that jurors will not accept hollow excuses for abusing workers." In October 2006, Steffens complained that Regus' staffing plan didn't allow her to give her staff legally required lunch and rest breaks. Immediately after this, the regional vice president of the company gave the order to "Get rid of her," according to testimony from her former supervisor. Her 11 years of prior employment records were unblemished, but in April 2007 she was put on a performance improvement plan intended to result in her termination, including impossible sales goals and supposed weaknesses in performance which her supervisor testified had been copied almost directly from an improvement plan previously given to another Regus employee. In July of 2007, Steffens was terminated. Regus, however, argued that Steffens was fired because of her declining attitude toward her work. After four days of trial, the jury found Regus liable for wrongful termination in violation of public policy - a tort claim which prohibits retaliation for whistleblowing. The jury returned a verdict for $4,646,252, including $3.5 million in punitive damages after finding that Regus acted with fraud, oppression, or malice when it terminated Ms. Steffens.
Employees who feel that they have been wrongfully fired or let go from their position have the right to legal recourse. This is especially true when the reason for their termination is retaliatory. In many cases, employees who speak up about unfair or illegal practices are fired shortly afterward. By pursuing a wrongful termination suit against their employer, such employees are not only standing up for their own rights, their court victories also make a strong statement that such acts will not be tolerated by the California courts.
Gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits have been fairly rare in the venture capital realm, which has been populated predominantly by males for quite some time. Recently, however, several sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed against venture capital firms. The most recent was brought in a California court against CMEA by three executive assistants. All three allege that one of its partners made inappropriate sexual comments toward the women. It further claims that other partners were often present when this occurred, and yet did nothing to address the harassment.
Actress Sharon Stone is making headlines across California, but not for a role in a new hit movie. The star is being sued for wrongful termination and retaliation by a household employee. The case, which was recently filed, is likely to become contentious, as the actress has already issued statements to the press relaying her belief that the claims against her are 'ridiculous' and 'bizarre.'
Since early February, most of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been on a hunger strike in protest of deteriorating conditions that harken back to Bush era policies. In addition to the already harsh security measures they regularly endure, detainees are reporting prison interpreters have been "searching the men's Qur'ans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs," and that their personal items like mail legal documents and photos are being confiscated without cause.
When a California worker accepts a position, he or she often factors in the retirement benefits associated with the job in making that decision. Retirement planning is an important financial concern for all Americans, especially in times of economic hardship or recovery. Once an individual has embarked on a career path, he or she often relies on these retirement benefits in structuring other investment goals. A recently filed unpaid wages lawsuit focuses on the issue, and centers on whether the correct percentage of wages are placed into the pension plan for affected employees.
HSRR files Petition to Supreme Court for Guantanamo Detainee
- Asks Supreme Court to review lower courts' denial of Obaidullah's writ of habeus corpus petition
- Seeks end to 11 years of detention without trial.
"We continue to press for justice for this forgotten detainee who deserves either to receive a trial or be released," said his attorney, Anne Richardson.