Stand Against Racial Harassment – It’s Illegal and Unacceptable

Discrimination, harassment based on race of family members is illegal. Contact the race harassment, discrimination lawyers in Los Angeles, Helmer Friedman LLP for a Free consultation.

In the United States, an individual’s civil rights are protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. One of the many provisions of this act is the legal prohibition of harassment and discrimination based on the race of your family members. No one, under any circumstances, has the right to deny you opportunities, benefits or fair treatment due to the racial background of your family members.

Racial harassment can manifest in a plethora of ways. Some common examples include derogatory comments about someone’s racial or ethnic origin, racial slurs or insults, racial jokes or stereotypes, or displaying racially offensive symbols. These actions are not just hurtful; they’re illegal and punishable by law.

One notable instance of racial harassment in the corporate world involves Cavco Industries, Palm Harbor Homes, and Palm Harbor Villages. The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled a racial discrimination lawsuit with the company for $135,000. The lawsuit alleged that an employee was subjected to a racially hostile work environment, which included racially offensive remarks and comments about the race of members of his family. The settlement reiterates that businesses are legally obligated to maintain an environment free of racial discrimination and reinforces that legal action will be pursued in cases of violations.

A racially hostile work environment is determined through the lens of both objective and subjective criteria. Objectively, the conduct must be severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Subjectively, the victim must perceive the environment to be hostile or abusive as well. It’s crucial to underline that isolated incidents, unless extremely severe, do not typically constitute a hostile work environment under the law. Instead, it’s the pattern of behavior over time that comes under scrutiny. Factors considered in these determinations include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, its severity, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating (or a mere offensive utterance), and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. The threshold for what constitutes this environment is necessarily high because the law seeks to balance freedom of speech and conduct in the workplace with protections against discrimination.

Remember, respect and equality are at the foundation of our society and any form of racial discrimination or harassment undermines these principles. Stay informed, stay respectful, and remember that racism, in any form, is not just morally wrong; it’s illegal.
Know your rights. Report any instances of racial harassment or discrimination in your workplace to the appropriate authorities. We must all stand together to ensure a fair and equitable society for all, irrespective of race or color.

False Claims Act Whistleblowers – Counterclaims

Whistleblower protection lawyers in Beverly Hills - Helmer Friedman LLP.

See U.S. ex rel. Cooley v. ERMI, LLC, et al., C.A. No. 1:20-CV-4181-TWT, 2024 WL 815514, at *1 (N.D. Ga. Feb. 27, 2024)

A recent court ruling has allowed a medical equipment supplier to maintain counterclaims against a former employee who blew the whistle on the company for fraudulent activity. The employee claimed that the supplier provided medical equipment without a valid license. She also alleged that her employer had retaliated against her by stopping her from bringing the company into compliance and by subsequently forcing her out when she threatened to bring an False Claims Act (FCA) suit. The supplier denied these claims and filed counterclaims of its own. These counterclaims alleged that the employee breached her contract and fiduciary duties, and that she misled the company into thinking that a license renewal was forthcoming.

In February 2024, the Court made a decision to uphold the defendant’s counterclaims. The Court clarified that counterclaims for causes of action that are different from the FCA could proceed, even if they came from the same underlying facts as the FCA action. In this case, the Relator’s FCA claim and Defendant’s counterclaims both involved operating without a valid license.

The Court allowed Defendant’s breach of contract counterclaim for the time being. It reasoned that it was too early in the litigation to determine whether Relator fell within the confidentiality agreement’s safe harbor. This safe harbor allows the disclosure of confidential information to a regulator concerning conduct that an employee reasonably believes is illegal or in material noncompliance with applicable laws. If it turns out that Relator retained confidential documents only to support her FCA claim, then this counterclaim could be dismissed on public policy grounds.

The Court agreed with Defendant that Relator’s role in allowing Defendant’s Florida license to expire and misleading it into thinking a renewal was forthcoming was unrelated to the underlying FCA claims. The competitor’s lawsuit against Defendant was brought under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, not the FCA. Therefore, that claim constituted independent damages that did not offset FCA liability.

The Court upheld Defendant’s breach of fiduciary duty claims, as they were not violative of public policy. The Court determined that there was a clear distinction between the facts supporting liability for each claim, even though both the Relator’s FCA claim and Defendant’s counterclaims involved operating without a valid license. The Court held that overlap is what makes Defendant’s counterclaims compulsory.

The court allowed the supplier’s breach of contract counterclaim to proceed for the time being, stating that it was too early in the litigation to determine whether the employee’s actions fell within the confidentiality agreement’s safe harbor provision. If it is later determined that the employee retained confidential documents only to support her fraudulent activity claim, then the counterclaim could be dismissed on public policy grounds.

This ruling provides a roadmap for companies facing fraudulent activity claims to pursue remedies against whistleblowers, even if these counterclaims stem from the same underlying facts as the fraudulent activity claim. Companies should evaluate potential injuries imposed by the whistleblower’s actions during and after their tenure, and determine whether counterclaims may be appropriate.