Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Karen Howard, K.C. Attorney's Client Stories I

Client Story 1

Plaintiff W.H. worked for years as a detailer for a car dealership in St. Joseph, Missouri. She had limited education, 9 th grade. She was a single mother, with two sons to support. After several years of employment with car dealership she realized she was being paid less than the male detailers, several who had not been employed with the dealership as long as she had been. She raised this issue with her manager and was suddenly fired without any warning. W.H. had no savings and she was unable to support her sons. She was devastated by the job loss. Soon after W.H. was terminated, she was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. She had no health insurance and no money for medical care. At one point, because she had no health insurance and no money for medical care she went to a veterinarian for care. W.H. brought a lawsuit under the Missouri Human Rights Act alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. The defendant dealership moved for summary judgment relying upon federal law. Relying upon state law, the state court denied the defendant dealership’s motion for summary judgment. W.H. was very glad to know that she would have her day in court. In 2007, the case went to trial. Unfortunately, during trial, W.H. was ill and had to miss some of her trial. The jury verdict was in favor of the employer. W.H. planned to appeal the case, and post-trial motions were filed, however, W.H. passed away before an appeal could be filed on her behalf. If W.H. had not been terminated, she would have had her employment and her insurance, she would have received medical care. She was 42 years old when she passed away.

Client Story 2 

Plaintiff G.S., male, worked as a landscaper for a landscaping company in Kansas City. He injured his back moving a large tree and requested medical attention per workers compensation and requested information as to how to file a claim for workers compensation benefits. G.S. received a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor gave him a release from work, stating he could not work for 30 days. The employer immediately terminated G.S. and then claimed G.S. had quit. G.S. had not quit his job, but was off of work because of the injury. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under 287.780 RSMo. asserting the company retaliated against him for exercising his rights under the workers compensation statutes. Defendant moved for summary judgment, which the state court denied. Plaintiff thereafter settled his claim with the company. This was the only statute in Missouri which provided G.S. a cause of action. Without it,G.S. would not have had any redress for the termination.

Client Story 3

Plaintiff M.B., female, worked for an employer in Clay County, Missouri. She had been employed with the company as a clerk for 16 years. She became pregnant in 2004. When she told her employer she was pregnant, M.B.’s supervisor told her she was “f––g stupid to get pregnant” , “told her she was fat,” and many other cruel negative statements. The supervisor would direct M.B. to get up and go get something for the supervisor, and then the supervisor would laugh at her for the way she walked. A co-worker was instructed not to tell M.B. how much time she was allowed for maternity leave, and when the co-worker did give M.B. the information, the co-worker was reprimanded. Right before M.B. was scheduled to be off for maternity leave, her supervisor instructed her to pack up the belongings on her desk. M.B. did take maternity leave, and once she returned, she was instructed to teach another co-worker her job duties and she was terminated. M.B. filed a lawsuit under the Missouri Commission Rights for sex discrimination. During discovery of the case facts were discovered which proved M.B. had not been paid the same as a male co-worker. The employer filed a motion to dismiss in the case arguing M.B.’s claim for past unequal wages was untimely. The employer relied on federal law, rather than the state law precedent. The case was settled right before trial. If the court had been required to follow federal law, the unequal pay claims would have been dismissed. It was only through the Missouri Human Rights Act, Plaintiff was able to seek justice for herself.

Client Story 4

Client, P.H., male, age 45, worked as a biomed technician for a hospital in Missouri. He had been there for 7 years and had received certificates of excellence for his job performance. In July, 2007, he was in a serious vehicular accident which was not his fault. A trash truck had caused the collision. The first week he was hospitalized, the HR manager wrote him a card of concern telling him not to worry about his job - it was secure for him. P.H. was off on approved medical leave more than one year, undergoing several surgeries. While he was off work, he would periodically go to the hospital to fill out the medical leave papers, his insurance papers and go to his department to visit with co-workers. Each time, he was assured his job would be there for him when he was released to return for work. P.H. sustained permanent eye loss in one eye and had some facial disfigurement on one side of his face. In early 2009, he advised human resources at the hospital his doctors had released him to return to work with no restrictions. The hospital told him their doctor would have to review the medical documentation. The hospital’s doctor agreed with P.H.’s doctor that he could return to work with no restrictions. After their own doctor said P.H. was fit for duty, the hospital still refused to let him return to work. P.H. filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission of Human Rights asserting his rights under the Missouri Human Rights Act. P.H. claimed disability discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act. In 2009, P.H.’s charge of discrimination was resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction. P.H. is back to work as a biomed technician.

Client Story 5

Plaintiff D.C., female, worked for an employer in Liberty, Missouri. Her job title was residential appraiser. During her employment with this employer, in 2004 a middle level supervisor “Steve” sexually harassed her and at least 10 other female employees in the office. D.C. reported the harassment to the highest level supervisor, “C.R.” who did nothing about it. Plaintiff thereafter received reprimands about her job performance. The sexual harassment by the middle level supervisor continued and D.C. reported it to C.R. and to Human Resources. In 2005 D.C. filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment under the Missouri Commission of Human Rights against the employer and “Steve”. After the lawsuit was filed, D.C. continued to receive reprimands from her job performance. In 2005, D.C. reported to C.R. another incident of sexual harassment, where a male employer telephoned her and left an obscene sexual message. Despite D.C’s report, C.R. did nothing about the harassment. As a residential appraiser, her job duties involved going to neighborhoods to appraise homes. She asked C.R. for permission to carry a taser or mace spray to protect her from dog attacks. A male residential appraiser was allowed to carry a gun with him, but all she wanted was a taser or mace. She told C.R. she was apprehensive about going out to the neighborhoods without some sort of protection. C.R. denied Plaintiff’s request to carry protection and directed her to go back out in the field. Plaintiff was then subsequently attacked by dogs and received numerous serious injuries to her legs. Plaintiff filed a claim for workers compensation, which the employer denied. Plaintiff then went to Human Resources and requested medical treatment. When plaintiff returned from the H.R. office, she was then told to go to a meeting, where she was told she would have to go back out in the field to appraise homes without any protection. Plaintiff was constructively discharged. After the constructive discharge, C.R. e-mailed individuals who were considering plaintiff for employment, slandering D.C., saying D.C. was on drugs and not to hire her. A second lawsuit was filed under the Missouri Human Rights Act and under 287.780 for workers compensation retaliation. The two lawsuits were consolidated and before trial, the case was settled. If it had not been for the Missouri Human Rights Act provision for individual liability, individual supervisor, “Steve” would have escaped liability for harassing 10 female co-workers. Further, without 287.780, D.C. would not have had a remedy for workers compensation retaliation.

Client Story 6

Plaintiff M.S. worked for the same employer in Liberty, Missouri as “D.C.” did in the above client story. She was also sexually harassed by supervisor “Steve,” and when she reported it to supervisor “C.R.” she was also retaliated against and received reprimands. In this case, however, it was discovered that for years, she had been paid less than male co-workers, including those who had started later than her, and were not supervisor. She filed a lawsuit against the employer and “Steve” for sexual harassment and also against the employer for sex discrimination for the disparate pay. The defendant employer moved for summary judgment, relying on federal law. One of it’s arguments was that the claim was untimely because the pay disparity had occurred for several years, was untimely, citing federal law. The state court judge denied the motion for summary judgment. M.S. thereafter settled her claim with the employer. If the court had been required to follow federal law, her claims would have been dismissed and M.S. would not have had any recourse to remedy the pay disparity.

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