Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times published articles on April 27, 2022, about tactics Tesla is borrowing from Activision to fight against a race-bias suit. The articles explain how Tesla, the most valuable American car company in the world, is seeking to strengthen its position against racial discrimination claims filed against the corporation by driving a wedge between the two agencies tasked with litigating workplace civil rights cases against it- California’s DFEH, a state regulator, and the EEOC, a federal regulator.
California’s DFEH has earned the reputation as a fervent enforcer of workplace protections, in part due to the state’s more protective employment laws. According to both articles, this reputation has led companies facing large workplace harassment or discrimination suits, such as Activision Blizzard, to attempt to avoid potentially high-dollar state law claims by fighting state regulators and looking for a more favorable deal with the EEOC, a strategy that Tesla appears to have taken as well.
The articles states: “’I can totally see why Tesla would want to take a page from the Activision playbook,’ said Lauren Teukolsky, founder and owner of plaintiffs’ firm Teukolsky Law, who said companies facing multiple lawsuits may look for the best settlement. ‘We now know who the weaker plaintiff is.’”
Click here to view the Bloomberg article and here to view the Los Angeles Times article.
Lauren Teukolsky DISCUSSES EMPLOYMENT SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS IN ARTICLE Published by Advocate Magazine
Lauren Teukolsky’s work was published in the April 2022 issue of Advocate, the largest magazine in the United States for plaintiff’s trial attorneys. In Ms. Teukolsky’s article, she writes about settlement agreements in employment cases, and more specifically, best practices for plaintiffs’ attorneys to follow when working to secure the best settlement agreements for their clients, including:
Ms. Teukolsky’s article discusses each of these recommendations in detail. Negotiating the best settlement agreement for a client can be an incredibly complex matter, but Ms. Teukolsky is highly skilled at securing the most favorable settlement agreements possible for her clients. In addition to her writing for Advocate, Ms. Teukolsky has spoken about settlement issues at legal conferences and received the 2016 California Lawyer of the Year (CLAY) award for her work on Carrillo v. Schneider, a wage-and-hour class action against Walmart and others on behalf of warehouse workers in the Inland Empire, which settled for $22.7 million.
If you believe you have been subjected to illegal workplace practices and would like to consult with Ms. Teukolsky, use this page to get in touch.
In a proxy statement ahead of its annual shareholders’ meeting, Google stated that employees who have signed confidentiality agreements can still talk about assault, harassment, discrimination, or retaliation they experience at the workplace. The announcement marks Google’s clearest stance yet on its non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and is another victory for advocacy groups that have been working to eliminate workplace NDAs, which have become increasingly restrictive and prevalent over the past several years.
Google’s statement makes clear that employees are allowed to discuss working conditions and wages with each other, and that any employees who have signed settlement or severance agreements—even those containing NDAs—are still allowed to talk about any sexual assault, discrimination, harassment, or retaliation they experienced.
Though the statement did not constitute a concrete policy change, it offered an explicit promise that Google employees may now hold the company to, should they ever bring claims against the company.
The inclusion of language regarding the company’s concealment clause and NDA policies was prompted by a shareholder proposal that would have required Google to issue a public report studying the impact of NDAs on harassment and discrimination claims. Such a request came on the heels of states such as California and Washington passing “Silenced No More” laws, which have barred employers in each state from using NDAs to stop employees from publicly discussing harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other illegal workplace practices.
If you believe you have been subjected to illegal workplace practices and are being prevented from discussing your experience because of an agreement from your employer, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
To recognize International Transgender Day of Visibility 2022, Legal Aid at Work, a non-profit legal services organization that assists low-income, working families, launched their Transgender and Nonbinary Workers’ Toolkit on March 31. According to Legal Aid at Work, the resource was created in collaboration with community members to make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to understand their workplace rights and take action when employers break the law.
The toolkit contains information on transgender and nonbinary people’s rights as job applicants, such as what information they have to disclose during the application process and when. Information covering gender identity harassment and discrimination, gender affirming bathrooms, dress code enforcement, and accommodations for gender dysphoria treatment is also included.
The toolkit comes at an especially fraught time for transgender and nonbinary people. Since the start of the year, state lawmakers across the country have proposed 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans, with about half of the bills specifically targeting transgender people.
Teukolsky Law has a history of successful advocacy on behalf of members of the transgender and nonbinary communities. If you are transgender and/or nonbinary and believe you have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or other illegal workplace practices because of your gender expression or gender identity, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
To view Legal Aid at Work’s new toolkit in its entirety, click here.
Teukolsky Law Files NEW Lawsuit UNDER AB 51 CHALLENGING EMPLOYER'S REQUIREMENT THAT EMPLOYEE WAIVE HER ACCESS TO COURTS AS A CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT
On Friday, April 8, Teukolsky Law filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of April Blackwell, a 37-year-old Black woman, against The Pendry West Hollywood, a luxury hotel owned by Montage International on the iconic Sunset Strip. The lawsuit is the first of its kind, alleging that the Pendry terminated Ms. Blackwell because she said she did not want to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement giving up her ability to sue the Pendry for race discrimination and similar claims in a court of law.
Forcing job applicants and employees to sign forced arbitration agreements was recently made illegal in California by Assembly Bill 51 (AB 51). Under forced arbitration agreements, all claims made by workers—regardless of their severity—must be resolved under private arbitration, a process that overwhelmingly favors employers, disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities, and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. As a condition of employment, The Pendry required Ms. Blackwell to give up her right to access the courts, her right to a jury trial, her right to appeal an erroneous decision, and her right to conduct full discovery to prosecute her claims. When she refused to give up her rights, the Pendry fired her after just one day of work.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 51 into law in late 2019 after widespread public outrage over arbitration agreements that hid allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and other prominent figures. The fate of AB 51 is currently in limbo. In 2021, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld AB 51 in Chamber of Commerce of United States v. Bonta, 13 F.4th 766, 771 (9th Cir. 2021) (“Bonta”). However, the Ninth Circuit is deferring a vote on whether to rehear Bonta until after the United States Supreme Court issues a ruling in another arbitration case argued in late March 2022.
Still, even if AB 51 is ultimately struck down, Ms. Blackwell’s claims against the Pendry will survive because California law protects employees who are terminated for expressing opposition to conduct they reasonably believe is unlawful, which is exactly what Ms. Blackwell did.
To view the complaint, click here.
Though we are only three months into 2022, thousands of workers across the country have already taken significant steps towards securing improved working conditions, higher wages, and greater corporate commitments to their general well-being. Below are some organizing achievements by workers this year that we would like to take a moment to highlight:
Amazon: On Friday, April 1, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union. The vote marked the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Some commentators view the vote as milestone event that might signal a turning point in workers’ organizing efforts against Amazon, a company many union leaders regard as an existential threat to labor standards.
Starbucks. Since February of this year, seven Starbucks locations – two in Mesa, AZ, three in Buffalo, NY, one in Seattle, WA, and one in Knoxville, TN – have voted to unionize, bringing the total number locations that have voted to unionize to nine. Starbucks employees have cited low wages, lackluster benefits, staffing shortages, and unrealistic performance metrics as the main drivers for unionization. Since the first Starbucks locations voted to unionize in December 2021, approximately 160 Starbucks locations have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize.
Chevron Corporation: In March, employees at a Chevron Corporation oil refinery in Richmond, CA went on strike. The strike came after the company’s contract with the United Steelworkers Local 5 union expired the previous month. Workers in Richmond are demanding higher wages and staffing improvements, both of which have become increasingly urgent as inflation soars and some Chevron employees feel obligated to work 70 hour weeks to make ends meet.
Kellogg: After 1,400 Kellogg workers went on strike in 2021, workers at a Kellogg’s plant that makes Cheez-its won a new contract that included a 15 % wage increase. According to the workers’ union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, it is the largest wage increase employees at the location have ever seen.
Warrior Met Coal: Nearly 1,000 coal miners in Brookwood, AL, remain on strike in what has become one of the longest coal mine strikes in American history. The miners have been on strike since, April 1, 2021, and are demanding that their wages be restored to the levels they were at prior to Warrior Met Coal’s 2015 bankruptcy. They are also fighting for improved workplace protections, such as excused absences for family emergencies. Warrior Met Coal recently reported its most profitable quarter in three years and said it was hiring new workers during the strike.
We commend the work of Union Organizers and employees who continue to work tirelessly towards a brighter future for workers. Even though the union membership rate declined in 2021, three months into 2022, the prospects for the American labor movement looks very bright.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.