Category Archives: Verdicts & Awards

Sexual Harassment

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: Juanita Roe v. Doe Southern California Fast Food Chicken Franchise (Case No. PC056311)

Court: Los Angeles Superior Court

Date: June 23, 2017

Result: Hogue & Belong obtained a confidential settlement of $250,000.00

Facts & Allegations

A female cashier who worked for approximately 11 months at one of Defendant’s fast food chicken restaurant franchises was sexually harassed by several male employees and sexually assaulted by one male employee.

One of the woman’s male co-workers (“Jose Doe”) frequently solicited her for sex while at the restaurant telling her things (in Spanish) like, “I need you;” “I’m so hot for you;” “let’s go to a motel;” etc. When she refused, Jose Doe became more aggressive, grabbing her breasts and buttocks. Then, after months of her rejection, Doe cornered her in a walk-in refrigerator in the restaurant and forcefully grabbed and squeezed her vagina with one hand while trying to hold her with his other hand. The woman escaped and filed a police report that day.

A local Los Angeles law office brought Hogue & Belong to act as co-counsel in the case. The extent to which the female employee complained to her supervisors about Doe’s sexual touching and comments prior to the sexual assault in the refrigerator was heavily disputed and unclear based on the collective testimony. The case settled at mediation.


CLASS ACTION (Wage & Hour)

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: Miceli v. Doe Coffee (Case No. BC557239)

Court: Superior Court of Los Angeles

Judges: Honorable Amy D. Hogue; Honorable Maren E. Nelson

Date: May 31, 2017

Recovery: Hogue & Belong obtained a settlement of $2,375,000 against Doe Coffee.

Facts and Allegations

Defendant Doe Coffee company has locations in several states and about 10,000 hourly employees in the State of California.  This Coffee company had an illegal meal break waiver.  California law requires that an employer provide and authorize each employee one 30-minute meal no later than the end of the fifth hour of work.  The meal period can be waived so long as (1) the employee works no more than 6 hours, and (2) there is mutual consent by the employer and the employee.   To save on labor costs, Coffee company scheduled its employees for 6 hour shifts, and automatically waived its employees’ entitlement to a meal break, not giving the employee a say in the matter.   If the employer violates the meal period laws, then the employer owes one hour at your hourly rate as a penalty.

Hogue & Belong and their co-counsel were able to obtain compensation on behalf of all hourly coffee workers for this illegal meal break waiver.


Sexual Harassment

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: Jane Does 1 through 4 v. Roe Prison Transitional Facility

Court: Superior Court of California

Date: April 19, 2017

Result: Hogue & Belong obtained a confidential settlement of $725,000.00

Facts & Allegations

Four women who worked for a correctional facility government contractor were sexually harassed by the Director during their employment.

The Director separately and discretely solicited each of the women for dates, kisses, massages, sexual contact, sexual intercourse (both oral and vaginal) and other sexual favors in exchange for implicit agreements to consider them for promotions, pay raises, time-off of work, and flexibility with their schedules. The Director also engaged in unwanted touching, such as kissing, touching female employees’ lower backs and buttocks. The Director also engaged in unwanted sexual comments including telling female employees: they should leave their boyfriend, that he (the Director) has a hard time staying faithful to his wife, and that they should accompany him to his hotel for drinks. The Director even suggested to one of the female employees he had been pursuing that she should abort her baby because she became pregnant with her boyfriend. The Director also secretly took compromising photographs of the women without their knowledge or permission, and then shared the photographs with other managerial staff. None of the managerial employees did anything to stop or report the abusive and harassing behavior.

The four plaintiffs also witnessed other sexually suggestive behavior and comments directed to other females employees. The matter settled shortly after it was filed.


CLASS ACTION (Wage & Hour)

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: John and Jane Does 1 through 6 v. Global Wireless Mobile Telephone Service Provider (Case No. 37-2010-37-2012-00076945-CU-OE-SC)

Court: Superior Court of San Diego

Judges: Steven R. Denton; Randa Trapp

Date: May 5, 2015

Recovery: Hogue & Belong obtained a settlement of $2,750,000 against Defendant Mobile Service Provider for the class members.  

Facts and Allegations

Defendant Mobile Service Provider is one of the world’s s largest providers of mobile telephone service and products.  It employs tens of thousands of employees worldwide, of which several thousand are California based retail employees. 

These retail employees make hourly wages.  In addition to their hourly rate, they also earn commissions on various products and services they sell.  Plaintiffs alleged that retail employees were constantly being underpaid commissions due to an incorrect computer algorithm.  This computer glitch caused each employee to be underpaid up to hundreds of dollars per month.  The failure to pay for all commissions owed is a violation of several California statutes. 

Hogue & Belong and their co-counsel were able to obtain a significant payout to the class members. 


CLASS ACTION (Wage & Hour)

Category : Verdicts & Awards

CaseCarralero et al. v. Sharp Healthcare, et al. (Case No. 37-2012-37-2012-00093623-CU-OE-CTL)

Court: Superior Court of San Diego

Judges: Timothy B. Taylor

Date: August 22, 2014

Recovery: Hogue & Belong obtained a total settlement of $1,825,000 against Sharp Healthcare for the class members.

Facts and Allegations

Sharp Healthcare is one of the biggest hospitals and one of the largest employers in San Diego County.

In Carralero v. Sharp, Plaintiffs successfully certified a class of approximately 5,000 employees for claims regarding unlawful wage statements and unlawful Alternative Workweek Schedules (“AWS”).  Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged Sharps’ wage statements violated California Labor Code section 226 because it had a line item of pay entitled, “RETRO” but failed to include any other information to help the employee figure out how “RETRO” pay was calculated.  Further, Plaintiffs alleged Sharp’s AWS policy violated the California Wage Orders in that it failed to comply with minimum voting and notice requirements mandated by the applicable Wage Order.   Plaintiffs successfully obtained class certification allowing the case to move forward as a class action, and the case settled and was approved by the Court.


CLASS ACTION (Wage & Hour)

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: Jane Does 1 through 5 v. Roe Hospital (Case No. 37-2010-00096421-CU-OE-CTL)

Court: Superior Court of San Diego

Judges: Steven R. Denton, Joel R. Wohfiel

Date: November 26, 2014

Recovery: Hogue & Belong obtained a settlement of $2,900,000 against Roe Hospital for the class members.

Facts and Allegations

Roe Hospital is the biggest hospital in San Diego County. It is one of the largest employers in San Diego. It employs approximately 18,000 at any given time.

The court certified plaintiffs’ time rounding claims. Plaintiffs’ alleged the rounding was unlawful because it was rounding to the nearest quarter hour and not compensating hourly employees for all of their work. For instance, if you clocked in at 7:57 am and clock out at 5:06 pm, Roe Hospitals time recording system would actually round the start time up to 8:00 am and would round the end time down to 5:00 pm, thus, the hourly employee would lose 9 minutes of time worked. Roe Hospital claimed their rounding system was lawful because some hourly employees gained time; thus, it all evened out.

Plaintiff also claimed that Roe Hospital was not factoring the benefits it provided to its hourly employees as part of the regular rate of pay, and, thus was calculating overtime incorrectly. Roe Hospital filed a motion for summary adjudication calling these benefits “perks” that were not required to be factored into the regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime. The court denied Roe Hospital’s motion, and agreed with Plaintiffs that these benefits could not be disposed of as a matter of law.

Then, Plaintiffs certified a theory that Roe Hospital’s meal period policy did not allow its hourly employees a meal period within five hours.

Shortly thereafter, the case settled.


SEXUAL HARRASSMENT – P.F. CHANG’S

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: Andrade, et al. v. P.F. Chang’s, et al. (Case No. 37-2012-00058424-CU-OE-NC; Arbitration Case No. 73-160-00121-13)

Court: Superior Court of San Diego

Judge: Earl H. Maas, III – (compelled to AAA Arbitration)

Date: July 25, 2014

Result: Hogue & Belong obtained an award in the amount of $931,200.00, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

Facts & Allegations

Plaintiffs Linda Andrade and Liliana Avila were both employees at P.F. Chang’s. Ms. Andrade worked for the restaurant in Carlsbad, and Ms. Avila works for the restaurant in La Jolla.

Shortly after Mses. Andrade and Avila filed their civil action, P.F. Chang’s moved to compel arbitration. P.F. Chang’s motion was granted, and the case proceeded to arbitration. Both Mses. Andrade and Avila worked in the kitchens (termed Back of House “BOH”) of their respective P.F. Chang’s restaurants.

Ms. Avila’s supervisor was Angel Mendoza, the Culinary Partner. She began working at P.F. Chang’s in 2011 when she was just 20 years old. Mendoza is over twice Ms. Avila’s age. As early as the first week of her employment, Ms. Avila became subjected to sexual comments and conduct by the male kitchen staff. The sexually offensive comments included: sexual jokes with double meanings; comments about female co-workers being fat; derogatory comments about homosexuals, references to males’ penises; comments like, “look at her ass,” and “would you do her?”; comments about the size and firmness of females’ buttocks and breasts; asking Ms. Avila and other females if they were “happily married”; cat calls at female employees like “hey, mamacita,” “hey bonita,” “can I have your number?,” “when are we going out?,” “I’ll see you at home,” “text me later,” “you’re my girlfriend, right?,” “hola bebe;” making kissing and whistling noises at female employees walking by; and calling female employees “table dancers.”

Ms. Avila witnessed male kitchen employees make pedophilic comments, mostly by Vincente Jaimes (aka “Topo”), about her co-worker’s 11 year-old daughter whenever she came to the restaurant. Specifically, Ms. Avila witnessed male employees say “sonar el timbre,” which translates to “she can ring the bell,” and in Spanish meant that this eleven year-old girl was “old enough to reach a man’s penis to give oral sex.” Topo would also tell female employees he was going to lick their toes; and refer to female employees as “sluts.” Topo would also tightly hug female co-workers, rubbing his hand up and down their bodies, and on at least two occasions kissed female co-workers on the neck, leaving saliva.

Notably, Topo was a long term P.F. Chang’s employee who continues to work at the P.F. Chang’s La Jolla restaurant today. Vincente Jaimes was not even Topo’s real name. It was discovered that he was borrowing a person by the name of “Vincente Jaimes” social security number. P.F. Chang’s discovered that Topo was using another person’s social security number, but simply allowed Topo to obtain another social security number and remain employed.

Other offensive conduct included the kitchen employees watching pornography on their smart phones, and dry humping various kitchen utensils, such as large whisks. The male cooks stuck their tongues in the tongs and moved their tongues up and down and side to side, simulating licking a woman’s vagina. Ms. Avila often witnessed the male cooks poke each other in the anus while calling each other gay, and witnessed male kitchen employees use cucumbers and eggplants as penises and to simulate masturbation.

Additionally, pregnant women would sometimes have to endure male caresses of their visible pregnancy area, usually accompanied by either questions or boasts about the identity of the father.

Male cooks would walk behind other co-workers when they were bent over, and thrust their hips back and forth, simulating sex with them. Male cooks would do this to Ms. Avila whenever she needed to bend over to scoop rice.

Shortly after her employment, Mendoza, Ms. Avila’s supervisor, would make comments to her such as you have a beautiful smile. Later, Mendoza’s comments escalated into you have beautiful lips. Ms. Avila was married, but Mendoza would frequently ask why Ms. Avila doesn’t she date more men, as well as are you happily married. At least twice he put his hand on her back, starting in the middle of her back and rubbing down to just above her buttocks.

Mendoza also cornered Ms. Avila in a secluded corner of the restaurant, and attempted to kiss her. After Ms. Avila admonished Mendoza, he approached her again, later that day, stuck his finger in vanilla sauce, and then shoved his finger in Ms. Avila’s mouth. Other restaurants, including Irvine, Mission Viejo, and Chula Vista have reported squeezing the vanilla sauce into female co-workers faces, and making comments such as “look, you have cum on your face.”

Ms. Avila complained about Mendoza’s conduct, and P.F. Chang’s decided to transfer Mendoza to another restaurant. Ultimately, Mendoza was transferred to the Carlsbad restaurant. Nobody warned any personnel at the Carlsbad restaurant why Mendoza had been transferred in the first place, so nobody knew of his proclivity to sexually harass young workers.

While at Carlsbad, Mendoza began harassing another 20-year-old female employee, Ms. Andrade. Shortly after she was hired, Mendoza asked Ms. Andrade on a date. She refused. Mendoza asked Ms. Andrade out on a date a second time stating that they can use his paycheck. Mendoza would also comment on Ms. Andrade’s lips, and how much he liked seeing her wearing various different jeans.

Mendoza also began physically touching Ms. Andrade. He gave her daily hugs and sometimes approached her from behind to grab her shoulders. He rubbed her back and slid his hands from her shoulders down her back to the top of her buttocks approximately 15 times.

Later, on Mother’s Day, 2012, when Andrade was handing out lemonade to the BOH cooks and began to hand Mendoza a glass of lemonade, Mendoza looked at her and said, in Spanish, “mejor dame un beso,” meaning “instead give me a kiss.” Ms. Andrade rejected this request for a kiss and walked away.

Mendoza stormed after Ms. Andrade, called her a “whore,” and told her that she “wears too much makeup.” Then, he forcibly ripped off a kitchen glove she was wearing, yelled at her for wearing nail polish to work, and sent her home.

Almost all of the sexually offensive conduct that occurred at the La Jolla restaurant, occurred at the Carlsbad restaurant, including comments like “I fucked that bitch last night;” “She would suck my dick;” and “I’ll stick my dick in her.” Kitchen staff at the Carlsbad restaurant falsely claimed that Ms. Andrade had given a male employee oral sex in the car.

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Jeffrey L. Hogue and Tyler J. Belong of Hogue & Belong.

Plaintiffs’ Experts: Victoria Dellaverson (Emotional Distress Expert) and Scott Barer (Human Resources Expert)

Defense Attorney(s): Tim Murphy, Jeffrey Thurrell, and James Fessenden of Fisher & Phillips for defendant P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, and Jennifer Lutz of Pettit Kohn for defendant Angel Mendoza.


SEXUAL HARRASSMENT – AFG

Case: Jacqueline Slaymaker and Laura Arnold v. Armstrong Financial Group, Inc., Eric Armstrong, and R. Edde (Case No. 37-2012-00054141-CU-OE-NC)

Court: Superior Court of San Diego

Judge: Robert P. Dahlquist

Date: May 8, 2014

Result: Hogue & Belong obtained a jury verdict, with a finding of punitive liability, for a total award of $838,875.00.

Facts & Allegations

Plaintiffs Jacqueline Slaymaker and Laura Arnold were both employees at Armstrong Financial Group. Armstrong Financial Group is a financial recruiting firm located in Carlsbad.

Ms. Slaymaker began her employment with Armstrong Financial Group in June 2009. A few weeks into her employment, she began getting invites to “passion parties” where sex toys are sold from the Director of Operations, and another co-worker. The female co-worker that sat immediately behind her would promote her husband’s sex toy business on the phone during work hours.

The owner, co-defendant Eric Armstrong, sent his staff an email containing a joke about someone having sex with a pumpkin. Mr. Armstrong also told Ms. Slaymaker that the ideal anniversary gift to give her boyfriend was to have lesbian sex in front of him.

R. Edde, a co-defendant and employee at Armstrong Financial Group, would frequently turn benign conversations into a joke with a sexual conotation. R. Edde also sent a picture of two golf balls with “R. Edde” enscribed on each golf ball; the body of the email said, “I thought I’d show you a tasteful picture of my balls.” Mr. Edde sent many more emails with similar sexual undertones. Another female co-worker pulled up her shirt and asked Ms. Slaymaker to touch her breasts during a work event.

Eric Armstrong showed both Ms. Slaymaker and Ms. Arnold a “sexual sensitivity training” video where the male students had laser glasses on that indicated wherever the student was looking. As the video went on, the laser beams showed that the students were viewing the instructor’s crotch area and then the lasers focused on a donkey’s penis. Later, when a young woman entered the scene and asked if she could help, all of the red dots were focused in on her breasts, and ultimately her breasts caught on fire. Mr. Armstrong also showed employees a video that he created himself, where his staff was drinking alcohol, and at the end of the video a beer bottle was held up to a baby’s mouth.

Ms. Slaymaker complained to Mr. Armstrong on at least three occasions, but beyond speaking with co-defendant R. Edde and another offending co-worker one time, nothing was ever done.

In June 2007 Ms. Arnold began her employment at Armstrong Financial Group. Along with watching the “sexual sensitivity training” video referenced above on her very first day, Mr. Armstrong would make comments such as “do you want to see my porn collection,” and “I want to be hung like John Holmes.” After a work event, Mr. Armstrong drove to Ms. Arnold’s house, threw up in her bushes, and came into her house uninvited, and then passed out on her floor while Ms. Arnold waited until he woke up to call him a cab. Mr. Armstrong also sent Ms. Arnold a distasteful email joke about pornography.

Ms. Slaymaker and Ms. Arnold ultimately resigned on March 2011, and April 2011, respectively.

During discovery, Hogue & Belong were denied key evidence. Due to the Court’s rulings they were deprived of acquiring “me too” evidence from Messrs. Armstrong and R Edde’s computers. Furthermore, Hogue & Belong were denied the opportunity to even depose Messrs. Armstrong and R. Edde prior to trial. Thus, the Plaintiffs proceeded to trial without any such evidence. Learn More

Plaintiff Attorney(s): Hogue & Belong

Defense Attorney(s): David Veljovich of the Veljovich Law Group, and Dimetri Reyzin of the Reyzin Law Firm for defendants Eric Armstrong and Armstrong Financial Group, and David Graves of Laturno & Graves for defendant Ron Edde.


REAL ESTATE FRAUD

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case: Chalmers Keith Parker, and Juanita Parker v. MAC Industries, Inc., Michael Allen Cox, Nancy Ann Guerra, and Christopher Gene Guerra (Case No. 37-2008-00103306-CU-OR-SC)

Court:  Superior Court of San Diego County, Hall of Justice

Judge(s): William S. Cannon, Keith Medel, Timothy B. Talyor

Date:   March 22, 2013

Result: Total Judgment = $1,009,969.48 ($617,679.48 against Michael Cox and MAC Industries, Inc. and $392,290.00 against Nancy Anne Guerra and Christopher Gene Guerra).

Facts & Allegations

Defendant Michael Cox owned a real estate brokerage called MAC Industries.  MAC Industries was a California corporation conducting business all over California, and also in Washington, and Nevada.  Nancy Ann Guerra and Christopher Gene Guerra were co-conspirators who aided Cox in his fraudulent real estate scheme.  Cox, MAC, Nancy Ann Guerra, and Christopher Gene Guerra will sometimes be referred to as the “Defendants.”

More specifically, Cox would create so-called “investor groups.”   Then, Cox would direct these “investor” groups to purchase, sell, and then repurchase and resell properties from each “investor group” for higher and higher prices in order to earn commissions and other fees from each purchase and sale transaction.

The Guerras were complicit in this real estate ponzi scheme and would arrange the financing for Cox’s “investors,” and fraudulently qualify them for loans they were not qualified to obtain.  As a result, the Guerras earned additional compensation for brokering the loans the “investor” would obtain in order to acquire the subject property.

Plaintiffs were among these “investors.”  Cox and MAC created a straw-man purchaser to prevent a non-MAC “investor” from purchasing the property.   Defendant MAC wished to prevent all buyers, except for MAC “investor” buyers, so that defendant MAC could represent both the buyer and the seller of the property, and assure themselves twice the normal commission from the real estate purchase and sale transaction.  Plaintiffs ended up selling their home.

Then, Cox and MAC convinced Plaintiffs to have Plaintiffs use the proceeds of the sale of their home to invest in additional real property chosen by MAC and Cox and obtaining loans involving the Guerras who worked for Cox.  MAC and MAC and Cox received commissions on each of these purchase and loan transactions as well.

Additionally, the Defendants also convinced the Plaintiffs to refinance an existing home that they owned so that they could pull cash out and use it to purchase additional investment properties that Cox would choose.

Cox arranged for Plaintiff’s money to be tied up in a 1031 exchange and executed purchases of three properties for Plaintiffs.  Cox and MAC made material representations about each of the three purchases, that caused Plaintiff’s out of pocket losses, a foreclosure on one of the properties, and short sales of the other two properties.  The Plaintiffs were over 60 years old and lost their life savings due to the above-described real estate ponzi scheme.


CLASS ACTION (Wage & Hour)

Category : Verdicts & Awards

Case:  Muldrow v. Surrex Solutions Corporation (Case No.: 37-2008-00050872-CU-OE-NC)

Court:  Superior Court of San Diego

Judge: Thomas P. Nugent

Date:   August 31, 2012

Facts & Allegations

Surrex Solutions was a nationwide wide IT recruiting firm, with its headquarters in southern California. Surrex employed Consulting Service Managers who helped recruit IT professionals and place them with employers. Consulting Service Managers were paid an average of approximately $60,000 “draw” with the potential to earn commissions. However, very few persons earned commissions.

Tyrone Muldrow, a former Consulting Service Manager, brought a class action lawsuit against his former employer asserting various wage & hour claims, including, among other things, compensation for missed overtime.

Surrex denied all allegations asserting that its Consulting Service Managers were exempt under either the commissioned-employee or the administrative exemption under IWC Wage Order 4.

In a published decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the trial court classifying these Consulting Service Managers as exempt employees under the commissioned employee exemption. The Court of Appeal declined to follow federal law, and found that the class members were commissioned-employees even though the majority of employees do not earn commissions above their draw, and even though their commission earnings were calculated according to a convoluted formula that most class members did not understand.

Plaintiffs petitioned to the California Supreme Court and the Supreme Court took up the case for review. Upon review, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Court of Appeal with further instructions to analyze the case in light of the outcome of the recently decided California Supreme Court case of Brinker v. Superior Court. Then, the Court of Appeal reaffirmed their original decision. However, the Court of Appeal specifically noted that Plaintiffs new argument that Surrex “discouraged” meal periods and breaks was not considered. The Muldrow case is widely recognized and has been discussed at length.


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