Recent Trials

 Plaintiff v. Major Grocery Chain, Supervisor – June, 2016.

Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, a Major Grocery Chain, and Supervisor. Plaintiff began working at the Major Grocery Chain in 1980 as a produce clerk, then became produce manager in 1982. Plaintiff alleged that the Major Grocery Chain failed to engage in the interactive process with him regarding his brain tumor and retaliated against him for opposing the Major Grocery Chain’s failure to engage in the interactive process. Plaintiff also alleged that he had opposed his manager’s sexual harassment of two female subordinates and the Major Grocery Chain relied on that manager as the only witness in terminating him. Although Plaintiff admitted to taking home three wooden boxes, he stated that his manager had told him to throw them away.

The Major Grocery Chain claimed that Plaintiff took home three wooden beer boxes. The Major Grocery Chain conducted an investigation into the missing boxes and Plaintiff admitted that he took the boxes home. Pursuant to the Major Grocery Chain’s policy of zero tolerance for employees removing anything from the store, the Major Grocery Chain terminated Plaintiff.

After a four-week trial and another week of deliberations, the jury awarded $1,242,125 and together with attorney fees and costs, the total judgement was $2,085,458.53.

Olvin Maldonado, Manuel Cobian Hernandez, individually and on behalf of all employees similarly situated v. Epsilon Plastics Inc., Tamayo Cubarubia, Case No. BC460298 – August, 2016.

Plaintiffs Olvin Maldonado and Manuel Cobian Hernandez filed a class action suit against their employer Epsilon Plastics Inc. and Tamayo Cubarubia. Plaintiffs worked as hourly plastic bag machine operators, under the direct supervision of plant manager Cubarubia. Plaintiffs and the Class claimed that they should have been paid overtime for hours 9 and 10 of their 12-hour shifts as well as waiting time penalties and inaccurate pay stub penalties. Plaintiffs also alleged meal and rest break violations.

Defendant claimed that it had properly instituted an alternative workweek schedule, such that it was not required to pay overtime for hours 9 and 10. Defendant also claimed that Plaintiffs were given all meal and rest breaks.

After a three-week trial conducted in two phases, Plaintiffs and the Class recovered all damages requested during the trial, and attorney fees and costs for a total judge of $1,901,896.72.

Gruzalski, Langevin and Collins v. FedEx Corporation, Federal Express Corporation, et al., Case Nos. BC512638 / BC589594 – October 2018.

In a lawsuit filed by Brian Gruzalski, Stan Langevin and Mark Collins, the Plaintiffs make the following allegations:

“To deliver their packages, FedEx uses a fleet of airplanes that passenger airlines have retired. Most of FedEx’s airplanes are more than 40 years old. Because of their advanced age, FedEx’s fleet require additional time to repair and maintain the planes.

In 2008 or 2009, Greg Hall, senior vice president, introduced LEAN to FedEx. Under FedEx’s LEAN program, FedEx sought to substantially increase its profits by reducing the number of days that FedEx aircraft spent in C-Check. A C-Check is the major repair and maintenance overhaul that jetliners must go through every three years. Prior to LEAN, FedEx C-Checks took an average of 36 days. Under LEAN, FedEx sought to reduce the time a plane was in C-Check from 36 days to 22 days.

To encourage the workforce to complete C-Checks in this new 22-day time frame, FedEx installed a stadium-sized countdown clock in the hanger counting the seconds. FedEx also paid bonuses to its managers for reducing the number of days that FedEx airplanes were in C-Check.

As a result of this time pressure, airplane mechanics cut corners to complete the C-Check in 22 days. Mechanics began doing sloppy repairs and signing off on repairs that were never even done. Inspection signed off, too.

Mechanics complained about these unsafe repairs. In response, FedEx took action against these whistleblowers. FedEx wrote them up, suspended them, demoted them, refused to promote them, terminated them and even threatened them with physical violence. FedEx managing director told one mechanic that if he did not stop complaining about the poor repairs, there were 50 guys who were going to “kick his ass.” FedEx threatened another whistleblower with a “blanket party,” and a senior manager threatened a whistleblower for complaining of unsafe repair by announcing: “If you f**k with the bull, you’re going to get the horns.”

By contrast, FedEx took no action against the airplane mechanics who were doing shoddy repairs or who were signing off on repairs that they had not done.

All three Plaintiffs sued for retaliation after complaining of unsafe airplane repairs; Collins sued for failure to accommodate a disability and alleged the following: Federal Express Corporation began a policy of reducing the time spent repairing its old airplanes by about one-third to increase profits. Gruzalski and Langevin complained to management and filed alert line complaints about FedEx coercing its mechanics to overlook important safety repairs, according to the evidence. FedEx did not investigate and continued to rush the repairs.

In response to the complaints, FedEx ordered manager Mark Collins to write up the mechanics, according to the evidence. Collins testified that he objected that the write-ups were illegal retaliation. In response, FedEx told Collins that if he did not write up the mechanics, he would be written up himself. Collins responded, “Then you are going to have to write me up,” which FedEx management did, he claimed.

Ultimately, FedEx terminated Gruzalski, demoted Langevin for an unprecedented three years, and denied Collins his promotion to senior manager, according to plaintiffs.

The jury returned the following verdict:

  • Gross Verdict or Award to Plaintiffs: $8,008,817
  • Award as to each plaintiff:
  • Mark Collins:
    • $130,000 past pain and suffering
    • $130,000 future pain and suffering
    • $2,750,000 punitive damages
    • $3,010,000 plaintiff’s total award
  • Brian Gruzalski
    • $420,000 past lost earnings
    • $210,000 future lost earnings
    • $225,000 past pain and suffering
    • $3,800,000 punitive damages
    • $4,655,000 plaintiff’s total award
  • Stanley V. Langevin
    • $43,817 past lost earnings
    • $100,000 past pain and suffering
    • $200,000 punitive damages
    • $343,817 plaintiff’s total award

Recent Cases

Fauceglia v. University of Southern California, et al., Case No. 2:19-cv-04738-FMO-JEM – currently pending.

 In June 2018, already embroiled in “#MeToo” scandals, the University of Southern California was sued for terminating long-time pathologist Paulette Fauceglia just four days after she submitted a written #MeToo complaint, according to the suit filed by Abrolat Law pc. Fauceglia complained to Dean Laura Mosqueda that Pathology department chair Michael Selsted had openly engaged in gender and age discrimination and was retaliating against her for complaining about illegal patient care, the suit alleges. Fauceglia claims that Selsted retaliated against her and other top female pathologists who dared challenge Selsted’s decisions that led to poor and illegal patient care. Selsted had already summarily terminated the other three older top female pathologists, states the suit. By contrast, the suit claims that Selsted held the men in the department to a completely different standard, including condoning gross misconduct.

Regarding Selsted risking the lives of female patients, Fauceglia complained to Mosqueda that, “Selsted allowed the GYN service at County to not be covered for two full days,” the suit says. During this time, many patients awaiting life-threatening cancer diagnoses were illegally denied care, the suit alleges. The suit claims that Fauceglia added in her complaint to Mosqueda, “Selsted’s discriminatory attitude toward female employees seems to apply to the GYN patients too.”

Before writing her complaint, Fauceglia pursued a meeting with then-Interim Dean Mosqueda to discuss Selsted’s abuses, according to the suit. Despite numerous requests, Mosqueda never met with Fauceglia, prompting her to resort to a written complaint, Fauceglia charges. Choosing not to investigate and a mere four days after her written complaint about Selsted’s abuse of female employees and patients at USC, Selsted and Mosqueda forced Fauceglia onto involuntary leave, informing her that her contract would not be renewed, the suit says.

Even after eliminating Fauceglia, Selsted continued his harassment again Fauceglia, refusing to permit Fauceglia to access research materials that were not USC property and making false attacks against her, according to the suit. Moreover, Selsted falsely told Fauceglia’s former colleagues that Fauceglia had gone out on an extended leave, alleges the claims. Fauceglia’s suit denies these allegations, asserting that male employees at USC’s medical school with poor performance and deplorable conduct remained on the faculty, and Selsted singled her out because of her gender.

USC’s blatant retaliation against Fauceglia occurred in the context of scandal-plagued Keck Medical School and USC. In March 2016 after the Los Angeles Times published an expose regarding USC Keck Medical School Dean Carmen Puliafito’s illicit drug use, gallivanting with criminals, and involvement in a 21-year-old prostitute’s illegal drug overdose, USC chose to allow him to take a sabbatical leave and quietly resign, claims the suit. According to the lawsuit, USC had received persistent complaints about Puliafito’s disengagement, insolent conduct, and seeming intoxication for several years before his resignation. Similarly, USC permitted Keck Dean Rohit Varma, Puliafito’s replacement, to resign as reports of sexual harassment were set to be publicized.

Most recently, USC’s President C.L. Max Nikias resigned following another scandal involving 30-year USC employee gynecologist George Tyndall, who was alleged to have engaged in serious sexual abuse of his patients and racism throughout his career at USC. Rather than disciplining or terminating him, USC chose to allow Tyndall to resign and paid him severance, the suit claims.

Contrastingly, USC did not allow Fauceglia to quietly resign or pay her any severance. Moreover, she is not alleged to have engaged in any illicit drug use, sexual harassment, or other highly illegal conduct that USC permitted from its top male leaders, according to the lawsuit.

Hudson v. California State University, Los Angeles et al., Case No. BC631894 – November 2018.

Cal State Los Angeles settled a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former high-ranking athletic department official for $2.75 million last month, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Times.

Sheila Hudson accused ex-athletic director Mike Garrett of sexual harassment and the school of violating California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, including gender discrimination and retaliation in a lawsuit filed in L.A. County Superior Court in August 2016.

Former Olympic athlete and Cal State LA Administrator Dr. Sheila

Hudson’s 22-page complaint alleged that Heisman Trophy recipient Mike Garrett—upon hire— began addressing his younger female employees by ‘sexist names’ such as, ‘babe’ ‘legs’ ‘sweetheart’ and ‘love.’ Allegedly, he told one student assistant: ‘I love you’ and ‘I could kiss you.’

Mike Garrett, University of Southern California (USC) alumni and former football player, explained in the report how he had always called women by those names during his position at USC and that no one ever ‘complained.’

Defense attorneys concluded that the three women at Cal State LA who Hudson alleged to have been victims, were not offended by his use of those terms.

Dr. Hudson, former U.S. Track and Field Olympian, was hired at Cal State LA in 2002 as the Collegiate Athletics’ Coach and was eventually promoted to Associate Athletics Director in 2008. The department allegedly overlooked Hudson—who was next in line—in 2015 for the Athletic Director Position and gave it to USC’s Athletic Director Mike Garrett without considering other applicants.

Hudson claimed that Cal State LA President Covino “devised a plan to ensure that they found a man for the job” to “ensure that Hudson (a woman), could not apply for the position,” according to the report published by the Los Angeles Times.

In Feb. 2016, Hudson submitted a gender equality report outlining Cal State LA’s gap in pay between men and women in the athletic department. The report showed that men were paid over $2,000 more for the same position as a woman.

The lawsuit claims that Hudson informed former Title IX Coordinator Mariel Mulet of Garrett’s behavior and was told that she would face retaliation if she pursued any further action. After feeling threatened and bullied, Hudson illegally recorded the next three meetings between her and human resources, including other University officials, on her cell phone in order to support her claim.

On May 26, 2017, the CSU Board of Trustees sued Hudson for invasion of privacy while her lawsuit was still underway. Three other Cal State LA employees, Susan Varela, Cal State LA’s associate vice president for human resources management; Mariel Mulet, who now works as the Senior Investigator at USC; and Daryl Gross, the University’s current Athletics Director, all sued her on the same count and attempted to pursue criminal charges.

At the end of May 2017, Dr. Hudson was fired and barred from employment at any CSU. She then filed a cross complaint three months later in August under terms of wrongful termination and several violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, according to the lawsuit.

Over a year later in December 2018, Cal State LA settled the sexual harassment lawsuit for $2.75 million.

Garrett retired from his tenure at the Cal State LA in mid-2016 less than a year after being hired; his request was approved before the allegations arose. Garrett was not able to be reached for a comment.

“I look forward to someday working again in collegiate athletics,” said Hudson. “Or maybe utilizing my doctorate to teach athletics administration; this has always been my passion.”

Angel, et al. v. Academy Automobile Insurance, Inc, et al., Case. No. BC545021 – December 29, 2017.

Plaintiffs Gabriela Angel, Guadalupe Cabrera, Jessica Castillo, Jacqueline Chamorro, Samantha Hernandez, Mayra Martin, Vivian Pena, Emperatriz Ramirez, Maria Rodriguez, and Rosario Torres filed a class action suit against their employer Academy Automobile Insurance, Inc. Plaintiffs worked as customer service representatives and claimed that they were required to work off the clock without pay, were denied overtime pay, were not reimbursed business expenses, were denied meal and rest breaks and were required to pay for alleged cash shortages.

Defendants claimed that they did not violate any wage and hour laws and that Plaintiffs were paid all amounts due to them.

After obtaining class certification and participating in two full days of mediation, the case was settled for $1,175,000.