When Rick Pitino was fired for “just cause” as University of Louisville’s head basketball coach in September, the former Boston Celtics coach lost a contract worth about $38.7 million. Last week, Pitino filed a lawsuit against the university’s athletic association, claiming his employer is in breach of contract for firing him when it lacked “just cause” to do so. The lawsuit also claims that his employer failed to properly notify Pitino that he had been placed on administrative leave.

What Was the “Just Cause” for Pitino’s Firing?

According to Louisville, Pitino engaged in misconduct on three grounds:

 

  • He knew of, or was involved in, efforts to illegally incentivize basketball recruits to attend Louisville. This includes payments to Brian Bowen’s family. Ironically, although Bowen was a top recruit at the time, he’s now a non-eligible freshman.

 

  • He failed to to notify the athletic department’s compliance officers of the presence of Richard Dawkins, an alleged briber, on campus. According to Louisville, in doing so, he violated his contract. Dawkins faces decades in prison for his alleged role in multiple college basketball-related crimes.

 

  • When allegations arose about escorts being directed to have sex with certain recruits, he failed to take actions necessary to stop the behavior.

 

But Pitino denies all of the above. According to his lawsuit, Pitino “never has had any part —active, passive, or through willful ignorance —in any effort, successful or unsuccessful, completed or abandoned, to pay any recruit, or any family member of a recruit, or anyone else on a recruit’s behalf, as an inducement to attend the University of Louisville.” To support his argument, Pitino’s complaint points out that despite a government wiretap, no recorded statements of any wrongdoing on Pitino’s part are cited.

Pitino also claims that he did not  have an obligation to report Dawkins’ activities. According to his complaint, “Coach Pitino never understood that Dawkins was an agent, and Bowen’s mother stated that Dawkins was not an agent in any regard for Bowen.”

And with regards to the escorts, Pitino insists that he had zero awareness of these activities.

In addition to his complaints above, Pitino believes that the process by which his termination occurred is another issue. According to his complaint, Louisville failed to conduct a proper investigation or provide sufficient notice prior to his termination. A MA employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been wrongfully terminated. Continue reading

According to advocates who help undocumented immigrant workers and low-wage women, the more vulnerable the woman, the worse the sexual harassment tends to be. One recent case in Massachusetts involved a Honduran woman who would be beckoned to a supervisor’s office via the PA system, signaling to her that it was time to perform oral sex on him. Sexual misconduct in the workplace is shockingly common, but it’s often only revealed as a secondary issue when women report other problems, such as theft of wages. “A lot of women are trained that economic issues are real problems and this sexual harassment thing is just extra added discomfort,” said interim co-director for Jobs With Justice, Gillian Mason.

Another issue faced by low-income workers is that they are often working through temp agencies. Refusing advances from their supervisors may prevent their ability to obtain permanent employment, so many suffer through it. During a sexual harassment study conducted by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH), one temp worker said, “The female co-workers that wanted the permanent job through the company, they let him touch them.” A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

Don’t Bother Reporting it, “This Company Always Wins.”

Over a one-year period, MassCOSH interviewed a total of 58 low-wage Latina workers in the restaurant, janitorial, factory, and hotel industries. One woman reported feeling like she was in a “prison,” fearing that she wouldn’t be able to support her child if she lost her job. Another woman, who worked at a Somerville manufacturing company, claimed that after refusing her supervisor’s advances, he made her work on a more dangerous machine. She went to a lawyer after burning her hands on the machine, but the lawyer told her to give up because “this company always wins.” So she did. Shortly thereafter, she was laid off.

According to Adrian Ventura, director of the Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores in New Bedford, sexual harassment often occurs in the vans used to transport workers to different job sites. In many cases, the van drivers double as supervisors for temp agencies. Some drivers will drop off attractive, young workers last so they can be alone in the vehicle together. If the woman refuses the driver’s advances, she risks losing her job. A MA employment law attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

For many of these women, not speaking English presents another obstacle. Even if the company has established harassment policies and procedures for reporting this type of behavior, without a Spanish translator, many workers don’t know what to do. In the case of Judith Lucas, from Guatemala, a language barrier prevented her from reporting long-standing harassment at a scallop processing facility in New Bedford. She couldn’t quit because she needed the money, and she couldn’t ask for help because her translator was the man who was assaulting her. Continue reading

Sexual harassment and assault typically involve an imbalance of power: boss and employee, teacher and student, adult and child, police officer and civilian. The person with power takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability. Very few people are more vulnerable than an undocumented immigrant living in the United States. Most undocumented immigrants have risked everything to be here, and their employers know it. As such, the employer of an undocumented immigrant is automatically put in a position of power. The threat of deportation looms. In far too many cases, employers use this knowledge to sexually harass or assault workers.

Reports of sexual harassment have been flooding the headlines lately, with women coming forward about enduring years of harassment at the hands of their employers. Their stories include everything from bad behavior to outright rape. Many of these women are well-known, high-paid Hollywood actresses and socialites. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Finally, women are being heard. Something is being done. Progress is being made.

Fear of Retaliation, Job Loss, or Deportation

But low-wage workers, many of them undocumented, and many of them unable to speak English, are not getting the same response to allegations of sexual harassment as their rich, white, Hollywood counterparts. For many of these women, reporting sexual harassment doesn’t seem to be viable option. They simply cannot afford to lose their jobs. And even if they want to report it, many don’t know how, or they fear that calling attention to themselves will result in deportation. A MA employment law attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

One woman in Boston – an undocumented immigrant – was continuously raped by her boss, who threatened to report her to immigration authorities if she ever told anyone. Another woman, who was working at a bread company in Charlestown, refused her supervisor’s offer to go home with him. In response, he cut her hours.

In 2015, Jena Benson started working at a Boston-area Dunkin’ Donuts. She says that her shift supervisor would always greet her with a hug, which didn’t bother her too much. But on one particular occasion, the hug lasted too long and ended with the supervisor squeezing her buttocks. Continue reading

With the Equal Employment Commission’s (EEOC) new web portal, filing a workplace discrimination charge just got easier than ever. According to the EEOC, the portal was created in response to an increasing demand for the agency’s services. In 2017, the EEOC responded to more than 140,000 inquiries and 550,000 calls. The EEOC hopes that the portal will provide a more efficient way for people to contact the agency, as well as to sign and file an employment discrimination charge.

The portal, which has been piloted in multiple EEOC offices across the country, allows the public to file a charge online. From there, the individual can provide additional information, upload supporting documents, check on status, and even agree to mediation.

“This secure online system makes the EEOC and an individual’s charge information available wherever and whenever it is most convenient for that individual,” said Victoria A. Lipnic, EEOC acting chair. “It’s a giant leap forward for the EEOC in providing online services.”

What is Employment Discrimination?

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, employment discrimination was legal, and occurred with shocking frequency. Although workplace discrimination and harassment are now illegal, they still rear their ugly heads from time to time. In fact, employment discrimination still affects hundreds-of-thousands of workers every year. Fortunately, today’s legal protections help bring justice to victims of workplace discrimination. A Boston employment discrimination attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been discriminated against at work.

Common Types of Employment Discrimination

Employment discrimination takes many forms. If you are discriminated against based on your membership in a protected class, you may have a successful discrimination lawsuit on your hands. The most common types of unlawful employment discrimination are based on:

  • Age: Individuals age 40 and above are protected against age-based discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
  • Disability: Employees with qualifying disabilities are protected by Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • National origin: It is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee based on their country of origin, accent, or ethnic background.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, and is prohibited under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
  • Race: Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employees are protected from race-based discrimination, including harassment or discrimination related to the employee’s skin color, perceived race, and interracial relationships.
  • Religion: According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers may not treat employees differently based on their religion, religious beliefs, or participation in religious activities.
  • Sex: In addition to sexual harassment, sex-based discrimination includes any type of different treatment related to the employee’s sex, such as paying a woman less than her male counterpart. Sex-based discrimination is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Fortunately, it is also unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a discrimination claim, testifying, or participating in an investigation into employment discrimination. A MA workplace discrimination lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been the victim of discrimination at work. Continue reading

Barry Coleman was hired as HR director at Netflix in early 2016. The streaming giant offered Coleman the job after seeing his presentation on doing business in China, in 2015. Shortly after receiving the offer, Coleman learned that his son had been murdered. Distraught over the tragic loss of his son, Coleman suffered from severe depression. But Netflix maintained their offer of a $500,000 annual salary to be the director of employee services.

Coleman alleges that his recruiter, Barbie Graver, former VP of talent at Netflix, said that Netflix would accommodate his situation: “If you work at half your normal speed for the first six months, I’m okay with that.” However, Coleman says that this special treatment was quickly replaced with harassment. He claims to have been ostracized for not working the “Netflix Way,” and for being disengaged. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

Coleman claims that a male superior began making inappropriate advances in April 2016. He initially asked Coleman to join him for a rendezvous with another male business exec. Coleman politely declined the offer, but the invitations didn’t stop. As stated in the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court: “Being heterosexual, [Coleman] was uncomfortable with [the superior’s] advances and attempted to keep some distance so as not to offend his superior. However, the invitations to go out continued.”

Not “Netflix Enough”

Then came the gossiping. According to Coleman, the superior began talking about him with other employees, saying that Coleman wasn’t “Netflix enough,” and calling him arrogant. When he brought the issue to Graver’s attention, not only did she not initiate an investigation, she claimed to be “cool” with this type of behavior. A MA employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

The complaint went on to say that: “During [Coleman’s] employment, Ms. Graver discussed her handling of a prior sexual harassment claim at Netflix. She told [Coleman] that the accused employee had a history of making inappropriate comments and had been warned on numerous occasions. Ms. Graver also told [Coleman] that many Netflix executives would make inappropriate sexual comments and that [she] was ‘cool’ with it, but understood that others may not be. Ms. Graver, in communicating these and other examples of Netflix unwritten policy of tolerating harassment and discrimination, made it clear to [Coleman] that he should not be ‘over-sensitive’ even when he was being harassed by his superior.”

Apparently the situation only continued to get worse until Graver took a new job. According to Coleman, Graver’s replacement did not wish to accommodate his continued psychological needs from the death of his son. As such, his employment was terminated in May 2016. Netflix holds that Coleman’s termination was based on poor performance. The company claims that he was rarely in the office, and that he was often condescending to his subordinates. Continue reading

When admission to a skilled nursing facility is medically necessary, Medicare covers at least a portion of the services, as long as certain requirements are met. For starters, admission to the facility must come on the heels of a covered inpatient hospital stay of at least three days. When a skilled nursing facility bills Medicare for medically unnecessary services, the facility may be guilty of Medicare fraud.

RUG Upcoding

Fraud in skilled nursing facilities most commonly involves something called a Resource Utilization Group (RUG) code. Every patient is assigned a code, which is used to evaluate the patient’s needs. These codes are weighted, and directly impact the per diem paid to the facility by Medicare. When the wrong code is purposely used to obtain higher payment, this is known as RUG upcoding, and it occurs with shocking frequency. Patients are categorized into seven main categories. These are:

  • Behavior problems
  • Clinically complex
  • Extensive services
  • Impaired cognition
  • Reduced physical function
  • Rehabilitation
  • Special care

Each of the above categories is further divided into specific RUG codes. A MA whistleblower attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have information about RUG upcoding at a skilled nursing facility.

Skilled Care vs. Custodial Care

Care that occurs in a skilled nursing facility “requires the involvement of skilled nursing or rehabilitative staff in order to be given safely and effectively.” Custodial care, on the other hand, is non-medical care, such as assistance with bathing and eating. Skilled care involves physical therapy, intravenous injections, and the like. If the facility bills for skilled care when the patient only needs custodial care, this is Medicare fraud. It can also be fraud if a patient who previously needed skilled care gets better, but the facility continues to provide unnecessary skilled services. If a whistleblower provides information about this type of fraud to the government, the skilled nursing facility may be required to pay back every cent obtained in this manner.

What is a Whistleblower?

A whistleblower is someone who reports illegal or fraudulent activities committed against the U.S. government. To incentivize people to report such activity, whistleblower rewards are often substantial. Take the following scenario, for example. Gretchen works for a skilled nursing facility. She notices that patients are being given RUG codes that are inconsistent with their actual needs. Gretchen reports this activity, and the resulting investigation uncovers millions in Medicare payments received based on fraudulent charges. When those funds are repaid by the facility, Gretchen may receive a reward of up to 25 percent of the total recovered.

The reality is, blowing the whistle can be extremely lucrative. Rewards may be in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. In addition to helping the government agency in question, whistleblowers often protect innocent people. In many cases, fraudulent or illegal activity uses tax payer dollars, and can even harm the safety, health, or well-being of the general public. Whistleblowers are often reticent to report fraud and illegal activity for fear of retaliation. Fortunately, multiple legal protections exist to prevent this type of backlash.

In order to report skilled nursing facility fraud, you must hire an attorney. That attorney will file something known as a False Claims Act qui tam action against the facility. You will then be asked to identify specific examples of Medicare fraud that you witnessed. A Boston whistleblower attorney can help you determine if the information you have warrants a qui tam lawsuit. Continue reading

Film producer Harvey Weinstein was fired from the company he co-founded, the Weinstein Company, following accusations of sexual harassment by at least 30 women. Among them are several well-known actresses including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rosanna Arquette.

Their stories are all quite similar. Mr. Weinstein met them in his hotel room or a similarly private location to discuss business. In many cases, he was in a bathrobe when they arrived, asking if they wanted a massage, or even to watch him shower. For most of these women, the unwanted advances came early in their acting careers, before they were household names. Harvey Weinstein was a highly-respected film director who used his power to take advantage of women.

But sexual harassment doesn’t just happen in show business. It is an unfortunate reality for millions of women every year. And it’s been a problem since women have entered the work force. In fact, up until more recently, “sexual harassment of women at work” didn’t even have a name; it was just work. Fortunately, that’s all changing. We live in a time when sexual harassment is more than frowned upon, it’s illegal. A MA employment law attorney can help you protect your rights if you are being sexually harassed at work.

Despite the laws protecting women, and men, from sexual harassment in the workplace, it still happens with shocking frequency. Generally speaking, sexual harassment includes unwelcome advances of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors, and other offensive sexual behaviors or comments. For behavior to be considered harassment, it must create a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment, or interfere with the victim’s job. For example, if a male superior threatens to fire a female employee if she doesn’t go on a date with him, this is sexual harassment.

Common Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment comes in many forms, from subtle to blatant. Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Unwanted jokes or innuendoes of a sexual nature
  • Flirting
  • Requests for sexual favors, especially if in connection to employment
  • Unwelcome touching
  • Displaying of pornographic or sexually-suggestive objects or photos
  • Blocking or impeding the victim’s ability to walk away
  • Sexual assault

Keep in mind, however, that sexual attraction and sexual harassment are two entirely different things. Consider Bob. Bob works with Anna; he’s had a crush on her for months. Bob thinks Anna might feel the same way, so he engages in some mild flirting, complimenting her dress one day, and telling her he can’t believe she’s single a few days later. Then he asks her out on a date. Anna declines. Bob’s heart is broken but he understands. Anna, however, is bothered by the request for a date. Bob is definitely not her type. The more she thinks about it, the creepier it seems. Why would Bob ask her out on a date?  Anna starts to feel uncomfortable around Bob at work. After a conversation with her boss about the situation, Anna decides to file a complaint.

In the scenario above, the flirtation may have been unwelcome, but it wasn’t particularly repetitive or severe. Unwelcome flirting or comments can be sexual harassment, but only if they are pervasive or offensive. If, for example, Bob had continued to flirt with Anna and ask her out on dates after she told him to leave her alone, a sexual harassment complaint may have been warranted. In any case, a Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been a victim of workplace sexual harassment. Continue reading

Despite the significant advancements and legal protections of recent years, gender discrimination is still a major problem in the workplace. Laws such as Title VII and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 were enacted to prevent gender bias, but issues including unequal pay and sexual harassment continue to harm women in industries across the country.

The issue is especially prevalent, and easy to overlook, in male-dominated industries, such as IT. Gender bias is a form of discrimination, and is therefore a prohibited practice in the workplace. Some forms of bias are obvious, while others may be harder to recognize. So how do you determine whether you’ve been a victim of gender bias in the workplace? In addition to protecting yourself from further discrimination, calling attention to gender bias helps other employees who may also be suffering.

Common Types of Gender Bias

If you hate your job and decide to stop showing up for work, chances are you’ll get fired. And you aren’t likely to be surprised by that termination. But what if your termination is unjust? Sometimes a worker is terminated for the wrong reasons, and sometimes these reasons are illegal. If you think you’ve been wrongfully terminated from a job, what do you do?

An at-will employee is a worker who can be fired at any time for any reason, with few exceptions. Although most employment is at will, you may have an employment contract that states otherwise. If you have a written contract or statement promising you a certain level of job security, these promises may be legally enforceable.

Implied Promise

Sometimes these promises are made in writing, and sometimes they are verbal. A written promise is significantly easier to prove, but an experienced MA employment law attorney may be able to help you prove that an implied promise existed. In making this determination, courts will look at the following factors:

  • How long were you employed?
  • Did you receive positive reviews and job promotions, and how often?
  • Did your employer violate its usual employment practices in your termination?
  • Were you promised long-term employment when hired?

Your claim of an implied promise may be supported, for example, if you have been employed at company A for years, have received frequent promotions, and company A failed to provide its standard written warning prior to your termination.

Why Would an Employer Wrongfully Terminate Someone?

Wrongful terminations can occur for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons include

  • preventing an employee from collecting sales commissions.
  • replacing a long-term employee with an entry-level employee willing to work for less pay.
  • discrimination, such as when an employee refuses a supervisor’s sexual advances, or when a supervisor discovers that an employee is gay.

In some cases, an employer will try to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit by getting the employee to quit on his or her own. To do so, the employer might subject the employee to unpleasant or difficult tasks, such as multiple transfers, dangerous assignments, and unpopular shifts. This is also illegal.

Illegitimate Grounds for Termination

Even at-will employees are protected from termination in certain situations. The following reasons are recognized as illegal grounds for termination:

  • Missing work for jury duty
  • Missing work to vote
  • Missing work to serve in the National Guard or military
  • Whistleblowing (providing information about harmful or illegal activity)

Continue reading

Do you dread going to work in the morning? Are you constantly afraid of being yelled at or otherwise victimized by a superior or a coworker? Are you being singled out due to things you cannot change, such as your race, ethnicity, gender or age? Have you been targeted because of your religion, or a disability? Any one of these situations can amount to a hostile work environment, which is unacceptable in the modern workplace.

If you have documented proof of a hostile work environment that is causing you undue stress, pain or suffering, and attempts to resolve the issue through human resources or other means has made no difference, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney from Altman & Altman LLP. We are well versed in cases involving hostile work conditions in and around the Greater Boston Area.

What makes a hostile work condition?

Work can be downright unpleasant for many different reasons. However not all of these reasons constitute a hostile work environment. The difference between an unpleasant workplace and a hostile workplace is whether or not you (or even somebody else) is being personally harassed, and whether or not this activity affects your ability to perform your work duties.

Harassment includes a long list of discriminatory behavior. Harassment can be physical – in the form of sexual harassment involving touching, cornering or assaulting – it can be verbal in the form of unrelenting, personal insults and it can even be psychological, such as a superior threatening to fire you if you don’t perform tasks not outlined in your job description or expected of other employees.

Any time harassment targets certain aspects of your person – such as anything to do with your race, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability – this is a federal crime and, if it significantly impacts your ability to perform your work duties, is a textbook example of hostile work conditions.

The harassment may not even necessarily have to happen to you in order for a workplace to become hostile. Hostile practices can make the workplace uncomfortable to work in and make any employee feel unsafe or dreadful of showing up to work – even if the hostile actions are occurring to somebody else.

Harassment can be overt and it can be subtle. Regardless of the type of behavior that is causing you undue stress, our lawyers are well-versed in hostile work environment statutes and have advocated on behalf of our clients for over 40 years. Continue reading

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