Racial Harassment, Retaliation Lawsuit Settled for $105,000.

Helmer Friedman LLP protecting employee right to worplace free of racial harassment. Affordable Home Furnishings sued for racial discrimination.

Standing Up Against Workplace Racial Harassment: The Fight for Justice and Equality

Rise above the tide and stand against racial harassment in the workplace! Every individual has the right to a professional environment free from any form of racial discrimination. The lawsuit against Affordable Home Furnishings, where justice was served to an employee who faced racial harassment, serves as a profound testament to this belief.

The incident unfolded in their Florida Boulevard store where a white account manager racially harassed repeatedly using the word “n****r” while working with an African American manager-in-training. This deplorable act, followed by the inappropriate retaliatory firing of the manager-in-training for reporting the incident, was a gross violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Fearlessly, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) spearheaded the fight for justice. The result – a consent decree that ensured Affordable Home Furnishings paid $105,000 in back pay and damages to the former employee. Further measures included the company implementing training requirements, revising policies, setting up a complaint hotline, providing regular reports to the EEOC, as well as posting a notice affirming their commitment to Title VII.

The EEOC’s stand against racial harassment sends a powerful message to America at large – racial harassment and discrimination have no place in our workplaces. Federal and state laws are steadfast protectors of every employee’s right to a harassment-free work environment. To learn more about the laws prohibiting race discrimination and retaliation, visit www.HelmerFriedman.com.

Remember, together we can build a future fueled by respect, understanding, and racial harmony. Each one of us carries the flame that can light up the darkness of racial discrimination. Let’s stop racial harassment in the workplace, today and every day.

INDIGENOUS AMERICAN DISCRIMINATION IN TRAVEL INDUSTRY

Indigenous American discrimination lawyers in Los Angeles.

Incident at Grand Gateway Hotel Highlights the Urgency for Inclusion in the Travel Industry

The Department of Justice recently reached an agreement with the Grand Gateway Hotel in South Dakota. Under this agreement, owner Connie Uhre is barred from any involvement in the company or its subsidiary businesses due to her discriminatory remarks against Indigenous Americans. However, the hotel is now facing fresh allegations of anti-Indigenous practices, this time involving Connie’s son, Nick Uhre. This recent lawsuit is not the Grand Gateway Hotel’s first complaint when it comes to being accused of anti-Indigenous behavior.

One such incident occurred in October when Ryan and Jessica White, a married couple from Wisconsin, saw their reservation canceled upon check-in. They took legal action against the Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge and Casino in Rapid City. According to the lawsuit, the Whites made reservations for three rooms through booking agent Travelocity. Jessica, who is white, faced no issues during check-in. However, when Ryan, an Indigenous American, entered the lobby, the employee (believed to be Nick Uhre) refused to process their check-in or honor their reservation.

Despite the Whites’ attempts to provide their confirmation number, the employee refused to acknowledge it or check the hotel’s system. The lawsuit also alleges that the employee yelled at a Travelocity representative to “speak English!” while discussing the reservation. The situation escalated when the employee asked Ryan White to leave the lobby, called security and threatened to involve law enforcement. Feeling threatened and discriminated against, the White family left the hotel and had to make another reservation through Travelocity.

The lawsuit argues that this incident is part of a larger pattern of discrimination by the Grand Gateway Hotel, creating a hostile and unwelcoming environment for Native Americans. Expedia Group, the parent company of Travelocity, has suspended the Grand Gateway Hotel from their platforms while further investigating the travelers’ experience. They have emphasized their zero-tolerance policy towards harassment, violence, and discrimination.

“It is crucial to address incidents of discrimination and foster an inclusive environment for all guests. At Expedia Group, we prioritize the safety and well-being of our customers and will take appropriate action against any form of harassment or discrimination. We stand with our Indigenous community and will continue to support and promote diversity and equality in the travel industry.”

In March 2022, The Daily Beast reported that the former owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel, Connie Uhre, made social media posts suggesting that the hotel would ban all Native Americans from the property following a recent incident. These posts sparked controversy as Connie stated that she couldn’t distinguish between “good” and “bad” Native Americans. However, Nick Uhre, speaking to South Dakota Public Broadcasting, clarified that Indigenous Americans are not banned from staying at the hotel.

Following these events, the NDN Collective, an Indigenous activist organization based in South Dakota, filed a complaint against the hotel, Connie Uhre, and Nick Uhre for explicit racial discrimination. As if the social media comments weren’t enough, Connie was arrested and charged with three counts of assault in May 2022 for allegedly spraying cleaning solutions at Indigenous Americans protesting outside the hotel.

In October 2022, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the hotel for civil rights violations. The DOJ settled the case on November 11, 2023, demanding that Connie Uhre be removed from her position for four years and that the hotel and its owners issue a public apology specifically to tribal organizations in South Dakota and the Great Plains region. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland emphasized that the defendants’ actions were reminiscent of a long history of prejudice and exclusion faced by Native American communities.

The White family, who were involved in the incident, have filed a lawsuit seeking a trial by jury and financial relief.

Content derived from writing and reporting by Brooke Leigh Howard.

WORKERS SAY THEY FACED DISCRIMINATION WORKING FOR THE CHICAGO UTILITY

Peoples Gas accused of racial discrimination by several employees.

Nearly a Dozen Former and Current Peoples Gas Workers Say in the Federal Lawsuit that the Company Racially Discriminated Against Black Employees in the Chicago Area

Letitia Jackson was excited about her job at one of the state’s largest utility companies, where few other professionals of color worked.

“For me to be the face of a Black woman that could say I know how to do construction, I know how to do piping,” Jackson said. “I was really proud of that and to say that I work at Peoples Gas — that was something I was proud of.”

But her aspirations of climbing the ranks of Peoples Gas fizzled as she started experiencing a culture she and other workers say discriminates against employees of color. She’s among 11 former and current Peoples Gas employees who filed a federal lawsuit against Peoples Gas, saying that non-Black workers sexualize workers and customers of color and face racial slurs.

According to the lawsuit, Peoples Gas assigned Black workers to an area that includes the South Side, and they frequently get assigned to jobs in neighborhoods without security where some have faced attacks. The workers also allege that the company did not address concerns about workplace racism and hazards.

Peoples Gas said the accusations aren’t true.

“We adamantly deny the allegations made by these individuals, including the extreme and false claims of racial bias, and will vigorously defend the suit. We provide a workplace with equal opportunities for all employees, including a long-standing unionized field workforce,” the utility stated.

During Jackson’s time with the company, she endured comments from coworkers about her clothes and speculation about what she would do for money, according to the lawsuit. It was part of a pattern other workers reported experiencing. One worker said coworkers speculated about his sex life because he is a Black man, while others heard fellow employees make sexual comments about Black customers.

Garland Eleby, another plaintiff, remembers on his first day of work hearing a white coworker using a racial slur.

“Nobody flinched,” said Eleby, who still works for Peoples Gas. “Nobody looked up or asked, ‘Hey, what’s wrong with you?’ Nothing. It rolled off the tongue like he said it every day.”

In addition to placing a more significant proportion of its Black employees in the South Side service area, the company also places them in communities with higher rates of crime. The lawsuit describes how current and former employees have been the victims of attacks, robberies, and attempted robberies.

Eleby claimed that after being assigned to work in an area overnight where a car wreck had disrupted service, he and several coworkers were robbed at gunpoint a little over a year into his career. He claimed that later, they had to remain in the same location for six or seven hours.

“I was really upset,” Eleby said. “I was disgusted. It was like we got sent into a battle with no proper gear or anything. It was just like no regard for how we felt.”

Recalling a shooting she saw while on the job, Jackson said, left her so shaken up that she drove in reverse.

When I returned to the shop, my supervisor only offered me a hot dog,” she said. “I am crying, bawling in tears, wanting to go home, and I was told, well, you’ll have to use your own [paid time off] to go home.”

Letitia Jackson, a former Peoples Gas employee, is among nearly a dozen former and current employees filing a federal lawsuit against the company over alleged safety and racial discrimination.

In a written statement, Peoples Gas said it utilizes private security and works with the Chicago police to support the safety of employees when deemed appropriate.

The lawsuit says discriminatory practices for Black employees affected overtime, promotions, and discipline.

“I just want to come to work and do my job,” said Towns, who has returned to Peoples Gas. “Do the best job that I could possibly do and just go home. I hate to have to be the person here to bring light to this particular situation, but it’s inevitable.”

Jason Towns, who’s one of those suing, said he thinks racism played a role in his termination in 2022. He was part of a crew that damaged an underground service line, but Towns said his white coworker was not disciplined.

It’s one of the reasons why Towns said he felt compelled to speak out after seeking other avenues of change with no results.

“I just want to come to work and do my job,” said Towns, who has returned to Peoples Gas. “Do the best job that I could possibly do and just go home. I hate to have to be the person here to bring light to this particular situation, but it’s inevitable.”

Based on reporting by Elvia Malagón.

Over $3 Million Award in Racial Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation Lawsuit

Sexual harassment, race discrimination and retaliation lawyers of Helmer Friedman LLP.

A Georgia woman has won more than a $3 million judgment in a racial discrimination, sexual and race harassment, and retaliation lawsuit Marshall v. Tidal Wave Response, LLC and its owner, John Myers.

According to Channel 2 Action News and the law firm Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, Tiphony Marshall won the largest single-plaintiff verdict in the Northern District of Georgia’s history.

“The case involved evidence of virulent racial and sexual harassment of Ms. Marshall,” said the law firm in a press release. “Culminating in a violent incident that caused her to flee from the workplace.”

Marshall was an office manager for the water damage restoration company in the Atlanta suburb of Chamblee, Georgia, and claimed she was subjected to “abusive and misogynistic” treatment by her employer, including being forced to change his baby’s diapers, enduring comments about his penis and racial intimidation.

Marshall began working for the company in February of 2018 but resigned on Aug. 6, 2021, after being subjected to Myers’ harassment on “a near-daily basis,” which ended after a confrontation where he threw hot coffee at Marshall.

Myers forced her to watch his infant and change the child’s diapers, calling it a “task suited for a woman.” He also forced her to do the job of a terminated project manager, commented on his penis size, and mocked his interpretation of Black vernacular.

Myers forced her to watch his infant and change the child’s diapers, calling it a “task suited for a woman.”

“The case involved evidence of virulent racial and sexual harassment of Ms. Marshall,” said the law firm in a press release. “Culminating in a violent incident that caused her to flee from the workplace.”

Other reported harassment included Myers repeatedly questioning Marshall about her sex life and implying she was sleeping with a co-worker. Myers also asked Marshall if she thought a potential employee was “hot” and asked about her breast size. The complaint noted Myers’ making “sexually charged noises” and saying he was “sexually aroused” as well.

The court heard that Myers would also suggest that Marshall “get with” the men he interviewed, and he would often comment on her physical appearance and whether she was wearing form-fitting clothing.

The Tidal Wave owner also falsely told a room full of employees that Marshall had been raped and tried to pay her commissions with $100 bills that he’d rubbed on his crotch area. Myers also made comments about the size of his penis and would yell for Marshall from the bathroom to “come and help [ ] hold it” while he urinated.

The lawsuit also alleges Myers told Marshall and a group of Black and Hispanic employees that he was “better than” them. He also said they would never “get anything better” than their current jobs with Tidal.

The lawsuit also contends that he mocked his idea of Black vernacular, once saying to Marshall, “Do I call you Black? Do I call you African American? Do I say ‘yo, what’s up?’” Myers also “would skirt around the use of derogatory racial slurs” but stopped just before using the slurs. He also allegedly punched holes in his office walls and threatened violence against employees.

The lawsuit states that Marshall confronted her boss about the extra duties on Aug. 4, two days before she left her position with the company. The complaint says that Myers “became irate, shouted profanities, and threw a cup of hot coffee near her,” causing Marshall to “fear for her safety” and flee the office.

The jury deliberated for four hours before awarding Marshall back pay of $50,113.82. She was also awarded compensatory and punitive damages for race discrimination, racial harassment, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation, with the total awarded being $3,470,393.82.

After the verdict, Marshall’s attorney Ed Buckley said Myers and his lawyers fled the courtroom before the proceedings had ended.

“This is the first time I’ve had the defendant and their lawyers flee the courtroom during a trial,” Buckley said in a statement. “The admissions and evidence were presumably so overwhelming that they did not want to face the jury.”

Read more by Niko Mann.

Racial Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment – SFSD Clerks Awarded Over $1 Million in Lawsuit

Trust the attorneys of Helmer Friedman LLP to aggressively protect employee rights to a workplace free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Two Black employees of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department have sued the city, alleging racial discrimination, harassment, and retaliation while on the job. Danielle Dillard and Kim Lee work as clerks processing warrants for criminal suspects. They claim that they have been subjected to a workplace culture of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

It Broke Me Down

The conditions at work worsened for Dillard and Lee after they complained about alleged discriminatory acts by co-workers and superiors that had been happening for several years. Among several other claims, Dillard says a supervisor referred to her as a “monkey” in 2016 after she introduced herself as a clerk and shop steward with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021 union.

Ms. Dillard would spend her lunch and rest times crying due to the hostile atmosphere she found herself in, not being able to speak at all to colleagues.

Dillard claims she received racial discrimination complaints from other Sheriff’s Department employees as a union shop steward and brought them to Captain James Quanico, who oversees Dillard’s unit. A month later, Dillard claims she was served with a cease-and-desist order stating she could not communicate with employees in her division. Lee’s discrimination allegations also began in 2016.

On November 15, 2023, a jury awarded Danielle Dillard $523,400 and Kim Lee $616,000 for their racial discrimination lawsuit against the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the City Attorney’s Office released a joint statement claiming they oppose harassment and discriminatory behavior.

“As one of the most diverse sheriff’s departments in the nation that values equity and inclusion, any form of harassment or discriminatory behavior is antithetical to our values. We are surprised and disappointed by the outcome of this case and will be working with the City Attorney’s Office to evaluate any next steps.”

School District Fails to Protect Employee from Racist Attacks by Parents

Internet troll or cyberbully posting hate speech on Social Media, in comments online.

Black Ex-employee Sues Rockwood for Discrimination

Brittany Hogan, the former Director of Educational Equity and Diversity at Rockwood School District, filed a lawsuit in February 2021, alleging that she was subjected to racial abuse by parents and that the administration ignored her complaints. Hogan served the district for eight school years but resigned in April 2021.

The lawsuit claims that Hogan received threatening messages through various channels, including email, phone, and social media, after promoting an anti-racism book called “Stamped” in December 2020. While the book was part of the district’s One Read program, Hogan did not choose it. District officials brought her in to discuss ways to promote the book, but Hogan faced backlash as a result.

The suit said Hogan began receiving racist messages through the district’s Twitter account, with one message saying Hogan and another Black Rockwood official should “work at a different school district where the students were Black.”

In January 2021, Hogan and her secretary began receiving threatening and profane phone calls and email messages, the suit said. One caller demanded that Hogan’s secretary disclose Hogan’s physical location. An email from a parent read, “I hope you sleep well at night …” which the lawsuit claims implied that Hogan might not be safe at night.

The lawsuit said Hogan’s secretary notified administrators about the threatening messages. It also said administrators took no action to protect Hogan, who at the time worked at an unsecured building near one of the district’s middle schools that made her vulnerable to possible altercations.

In February, a human resource employee told Hogan in a telephone call that things had become “out of control.” Still, the lawsuit said she received no assistance or written response.

On Feb. 4, 2021, Hogan emailed her supervisors to tell them she would not participate in the scheduled Feb. 10, 2021, reading of “Stamped” on Zoom with the community. In the email, she said she was being “trolled,” or harassed, by white supremacists on the Twitter diversity account, according to the lawsuit.

She also wrote in that email, “As the only Black woman in district leadership, I am concerned and uncomfortable of how quickly I’ve become the scapegoat of white rage,” the lawsuit said.

During a superintendent’s cabinet meeting in the first week of February 2021, copies of the threats Hogan had received on Twitter were given to every cabinet member. The lawsuit said the only action taken was on Feb. 8, 2021, when then-Superintendent Mark Miles told Hogan to block Twitter accounts harassing her.

Hogan’s lawsuit against the district alleges that they violated her rights by allowing race-based discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The case lists several incidents throughout the 2020-2021 school year, supposedly demonstrating that Rockwood officials sidelined Hogan, making it impossible for her to perform her job effectively. The lawsuit claims the district created a hostile work environment, leading to Hogan’s constructive discharge.

Following the lawsuit, the Rockwood School District settled for $175,000 through an insurance policy, which included attorney fees and other costs. Hogan’s attorney, Javad Khazaeli, expressed Hogan’s desire to move on from the situation and focus on future endeavors.

Racial Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit Against Riverwalk Post-Acute Settled

Race harassment is illegal discrimination.

A skilled nursing facility in California, Riverwalk Post-Acute, has agreed to pay $865,000 to settle a racial harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC alleged that the facility continually allowed black employees to be subjected to racial harassment by residents, co-workers, and a supervisor, including frequent and offensive race-based remarks and slurs since 2018.  The EEOC claimed that the facility’s management failed to respond adequately to multiple complaints of harassment, instead telling employees to tolerate the abuse. The settlement also includes injunctive relief aimed at preventing workplace harassment and retaliation, which includes retaining an EEO monitor, reviewing and revising policies and procedures on discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, creating a structure for employees to report discrimination and harassment, and providing training on anti-discrimination laws.

Race, National Origin, Age Discrimination and Retaliation lawsuit filed against HCA Healthcare

Age discrimination is illegal, intentionally inflicts emotional distress. Contact the Age Discrimination Lawyers Helmer Friedman LLP for help.

A federal agency has charged that a for-profit graduate medical education provider in Nashville terminated an employee for filing a discrimination complaint.

HCA Healthcare, Inc. (along with its divisions Tennessee Healthcare Management, Inc. and GME Overhead), a for-profit healthcare corporation based in Nashville that provides graduate medical education in over 2,300 facilities, is facing a lawsuit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has accused HCA Healthcare of violating federal law by denying a promotion to an employee based on his age, race, and national origin and subsequently firing him in retaliation for complaining about the discrimination.

The employee, who is Asian American, has claimed that despite meeting all necessary qualifications, HCA Healthcare selected an underqualified white candidate for the promotion over him. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeking injunctive and monetary relief against HCA Healthcare for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Race and national origin discrimination is illegal and harmful, intentionally inflicting emotional and financial distress. Contact the National Origin Discrimination attorneys Beverly Hills Helmer Friedman LLP for help.

It is imperative to abide by state and federal laws that prohibit any form of discrimination based on race or nationality in the workplace. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title VII, is a critical law that unequivocally prohibits racial discrimination in every aspect of employment. Employers are legally bound to ensure they do not engage in discriminatory practices such as refusing to hire or promote someone or treating them unfairly regarding compensation or job benefits due to their race or national origin.

Age discrimination and harassment are strictly prohibited by both California and Federal law. It is important to note that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) is a federal law that provides extensive protection to individuals aged 40 or above from age-based discrimination in employment. Any form of discrimination against a person due to their age with respect to any employment term, condition, or privilege, including but not limited to hiring, firing, layoff, compensation, promotion, or job assignments, is considered illegal under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

It is worth noting that HCA Healthcare owns and operates over 100 hospitals and employs over 275,000 people in multiple states and the United Kingdom.

Soccar Players Selected Based on Ethnicity

Coaches Sue Chivas USA Professional Soccer Organization, Allege Discrimination Against Non-Latinos

Two former members of the coaching staff of Chivas USA have filed a lawsuit against the Major League Soccer organization, saying they were fired “because they were neither Mexican nor Latino.”
The filing was announced by Gregory D. Helmer, of the Los Angeles law firm of Helmer Friedman, LLP, who represents the two coaches.

Daniel Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos, both of whom were former professional soccer players and members of the U.S.National Team before being hired by Chivas USA, are suing in Los Angeles Superior Court. The men, described in the complaint as “Caucasian, non-Latino Americans,” allege discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination by Chivas USA based on national origin, ethnicity and race.

Mr. Chronopoulos and Mr. Calichman were employed as coaches in the Chivas USA Academy, which offers soccer programs for youngsters from approximately age seven through age 18.
Mr. Helmer noted that the Chivas USA team was formed in 2004 by a group that included Jorge Vergara Madrigal, a prominent Mexican businessman.

Two years earlier Mr. Vergara had acquired Chivas de Guadalajara. The Mexican team, popularly known as “Chivas,” has since 1908 had a stated policy of hiring only players who are Mexican-born or born of Mexican parents.

In 2012, Mr. Vergara acquired full ownership of Chivas USA and, according to the complaint, began to “implement a discriminatory policy similar to the ethnocentric ‘Mexican-only’ policy that exists at Chivas de Guadalajara.” This included “replacing players and staff who had no Mexican or Latino heritage,” and appointing Mexican nationals to the team’s top executive positions.

“While the hiring practices of Chivas de Guadalajara may be legal in Mexico,” Mr. Helmer said, “Chivas USA must follow California and federal laws prohibiting discrimination, including treatment based on race, national origin or ethnicity.”

On November 13, 2012, the complaint states, Mr. Vergara called all Chivas USA employees to a meeting and announced that non-Spanish speaking employees would be fired. It quotes Mr. Vergara as saying, “If you don’t speak Spanish, you can go work for the Galaxy, unless you speak Chinese, which is not even a language.” (The Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team hires players from diverse backgrounds, notably including David Beckham of England.)

In late November of 2012, the complaint states, Jose David, the team’s newly hired president and chief business officer, asked Mr. Chronopoulos to report which Academy players and coaches were Mexican or Mexican-American and which were not.

In late December Mr. David directed Mr. Chronopoulos to collect ethnic and national origin data on the youngsters enrolled in the Chivas Academy and their parents, according to the complaint, which states that  

“When the requests for this information were sent to the parents, many of them were offended and refused to provide it.”

On January 11, 2013, Mr. Calichman and Mr. Chronopoulos submitted written complaints of discrimination and harassment to the team’s Human Resources Manager, Cynthia Craig. At a meeting three days later, according to the court filing, “Ms. Craig assured Mr. Calichman that Chivas USA was going to conduct a ‘full investigation’” into the men’s complaint, but no investigation was made.

At that meeting Mr. David stated that he and Mr. Vergara “were taking the team ‘back to its Mexican roots,’” the complaint states, and indicated that Mr. Calichman and Mr. Chronopoulos would not be “part of the effort to take the team back to its Mexican roots.”

The two men subsequently “were informed that they were not being fired but, at the same time were told not to perform their job duties. They were, in effect, placed on suspension.”

The following day, the complaint states, Ms. Craig contacted both men proposing that they resign from their jobs in exchange for two weeks of severance. On January 18, Mr. Calichman responded by email, rejecting the proposal and asking Ms. Craig to verify that he was still employed.

In February, having received no response to their allegations of harassment and discrimination, the court filing states, the men filed complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

On March 7, 2013, according to the court filing, both men received identical letters from Mr. David, notifying them that their employment was being terminated as of the following day. Their lawsuit notes that “the letter is conspicuously silent” as to whether the company had investigated their complaints of harassment and discrimination. “Moreover, in further retaliation for their complaints, Mr. David falsely and maliciously accused them of ‘demonstrat[ing] unprofessional conduct that created an unsafe work environment,’” without stating how they allegedly did so.

The lawsuit seeks general, special and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial, as well as any other relief the Court may deem proper.

Also named as defendants are Insperity, Inc. and Insperity Business Services, L.P. The complaint alleges that Insperity is a joint employer with Chivas USA and, in that capacity, is liable for any unlawful employment practices.

“A major professional soccer team should pick its players and coaches based on their abilities,” Mr. Helmer noted. “The behavior detailed in our complaint against Chivas USA is totally unacceptable for any American employer. It is also a disservice to young people of all ethnicities who might aspire to a career in professional soccer, or who look at these players as role models. It also short-changes fans by fielding a team whose players are selected because of their ethnicity rather than their skills.”

Helmer Friedman LLP provides legal representation and advice in a wide range of areas, including labor and employment, sports, and entertainment. The firm can be reached at 310-396-7714 or www.helmerfriedman.com.

Andrew Friedman of Helmer Friedman LLP Discusses Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

‘Bachelor’ threatened with racial discrimination lawsuit, experts weigh in

BACHELOR-CAST

Image Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

News broke Tuesday that Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, two African-American football players from Nashville, are holding a press conference Wednesday to discuss their decision to file a class action lawsuit against ABC’s The Bachelor on behalf of “all persons of color who have applied for the role of The Bachelor or Bachelorette but been denied the equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race.” The players say they plan to target ABC, Bachelor executive producer Mike Fleiss, and the show’s production companies (which include Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment, and NZK Productions).
The release announcing the conference noted that, “Over a combined total of 23 seasons, neither show has ever had a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color.”

EW reached out to entertainment lawyers who specialize in discrimination cases and are based in California (where The Bachelor is filmed) to provide some insight. The lawyers admitted this was an unprecedented case in many ways. “I’ve watched that [area of law] like a hawk, and I haven’t seen a case like this before,” said Jeffrey S. Kravitz of Fox Rothschild LLP. Though facts on the potential case are still uncertain (Claybrooks and Johnson plan to formally file their suit on Wednesday), this kind of case could be a game-changer.
For starters, neither man ostensibly has been a contestant on the show — a major stumbling block. Even if they had, though, “When you sign up on a reality TV show, you do not sign up as an employee — you sign up as an independent contractor,” said Kravitz.  “They’re likely going to sue for civil rights violations or perhaps claim that they’re de facto employees… [but] the case law is all over the board in terms of that across the country.”


Since Claybrooks, Johnson, and their lawyers are based in Tennessee, they have the option to file suit in either California or Tennessee, though Andrew H. Friedman of Helmer & Friedman LLP suggested they’d be better protected in California. That state has a provision called the Unruh Civil Rights Act. “They would definitely have much more legal protection in California than they would in Tennessee,” he said. This could include eligibility for emotional distress damages and “possibly punitive damages if the decision to exclude African-Americans were made at a high enough level of the production company.” That’s in addition to the potential economic damages that could be proved, for example, by looking at other Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants and seeing how they parlayed their fame into endorsements deals and further earnings.
So how might Claybrooks and Johnson prove their case? That’s where things get interesting. According to Friedman, the plaintiffs could depose former producers on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and requisition everything from contestant applications to internal production memos during the discovery process. “The entertainment industry isn’t known for necessarily being politically correct in terms of their internal e-mails,” he noted, “so I wouldn’t be surprised — if in fact this was going on — for there to be e-mails” proving as much.

In the end, it could also be up to ABC, Next and the other defendants to prove they made a good faith effort to recruit contestants of color. “If the [production company] says, ‘We interviewed x number of minority candidates,’ they’re going to be in better standing than if they only interviewed one,” said Kravitz. “They’re going to be in better standing if they can show a history of enrollment of minority candidates than if they can’t. Beyond that, they don’t control who the Bachelor or Bachelorette picks.” Agreed Jay MacIntosh, “Circumstantial evidence will be important in a case like this.  It goes to pattern and practice as to racial profiling.” That said, the proof will be in the papers, which have yet to be filed. Until the specifics of the discrimination allegations come out, Kravitz warned, “These are just allegations at this point.”