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Court Cases in the News

A state-by-state review of court cases pertaining to workplace rights.

Select your state from the map below or from this list. (If your state does not have any court cases, then the page will not scroll down when you click on the state.)

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Typhoon discriminated against Thai chefs, Oregon workplace investigators conclude

Source: Brent Hunsberger, Oregonian
Date: May 11, 2011

State workplace regulators say the Typhoon restaurant chain discriminated against its Thai workers, asserting the Tigard-based company leveraged their visas to pay them less, work them longer and subject them to less favorable contract terms and working conditions than their non-Thai peers.

Oregon Supermarket Chain Agrees to Restore Up to $8 Million to C&K Market 401(k) Plan Under Settlement With US Department of Labor

Source: Department of Labor, Department of Labor
Date: November 9, 2010

C&K Market Inc. of Brookings, Ore., has agreed to restore $3 million in cash plus interest and to sell property owned by the C&K Market Inc. 401(k) plan, among other steps, in order to make restitution for a series of imprudent loans made with plan assets in violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

Judge bars employer's questions about immigration status in EEOC lawsuit

Source: Michael Rose, StatesmanJournal.com
Date: July 19, 2010

A federal district court in Portland has prevented an employer's attorney from questioning Hispanic farm workers about their immigration status, employment history and, in one woman's case, her sexual history. In June 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued WillametteTree Wholesale, Inc. of Molalla, alleging that workers were sexually harassed and threatened in retaliation for reporting the harassment.

Portland jury finds law firm negligent, awards man $7.3 million

Source: Dennis Hoey, The Portland Press Herald
Date: July 7, 2010

PORTLAND -- A jury has returned a $7.3 million verdict against one of Maine's largest law firms, deciding that Bernstein Shur Sawyer & Nelson was negligent in its representation of a client in a workplace sexual harassment case.

Unpaid Internships Remain Thorny Issue for Students, Employers

Source: Eric Mortenson, Oregon Live
Date: April 23, 2010

Over the past eight months, the state labor bureau has investigated and settled a handful of cases in which young workers didn't get paid for jobs that employers argued were unpaid internships.

Female Police Recruit Offered $170K to Settle Harassment Claim

Source: Eric Adams, KGW
Date: April 7, 2010

The Portland City Council will vote Wednesday on whether to approve a recommended $170,000 settlement in a 2006 federal lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau on grounds that a police recruit was unfairly harassed and terminated.

Video Only settles harassment case

Source: Anne Saker, The Oregonian
Date: August 5, 2008

Video Only, the home-electronics retailer based in Seattle, was ordered Monday by a judge in Portland to pay $630,000 to employees at its Jantzen Beach store who complained about racial and religious slurs, including a doll with face and hair painted black, hogtied and hung by a nail in a break room. U.S. District Judge Garr M. King signed the agreement between Video Only and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and between Video Only and two employees who sued separately.

Oregon Supreme Court's bias-class rulings favor both sides

Source: Peter Wong, Statesman Journal
Date: October 11, 2006

Both sides got something in a decision from the Oregon Supreme Court. Justices voted 5-1 to leave intact a requirement that lawyers educate themselves about how to eliminate racial and ethnic bias. But the justices also voted 6-0 to ask the Oregon State Bar's board of governors to offer a new proposal to reassess the classes, which amount to one hour each year toward continuing-education credits for lawyers--and to suspend the requirement during the study.

OR Supreme Court rules on workplace death case

Source: Associated Press, Oregonian
Date: July 23, 2006

The Oregon Constitution does not automatically give a family the right to sue a company for negligence after a death in the workplace, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled. The court decided the case [after Felix] Juarez was struck by a backhoe bucket while working just at Windsor Island Mine. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration concluded that the death was caused by the company's failure to "establish an effective maintenance program." The federal agency's report also noted that although Juarez had worked at the mine for five years, he had received no training. The court said the plaintiffs did not assert injuries to themselves or their reputations, or the loss of any property interests that could be addressed by a constitutional remedy.

High Court Takes On Key Employment Law Issues

Source: Tony Mauro, Legal Times
Date: March 31, 2004

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to resolve two key employment law issues that have divided lower courts for years. One pair of cases will test the government's policy that calls for both the client and the lawyer to pay taxes on the portion of employment discrimination damage awards paid to the lawyer. The other question taken up stems from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act: Can plaintiffs use the act to bring suits that claim disparate treatment in the workplace? Courts have previously ruled such suits are permissible under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The cases will be argued in the fall. The tax cases, Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Banks, No. 03-892, and Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Banaitis, No. 03-907, ask whether the contingent-fee portion of an award should be treated as taxable income to the client. The fee is already taxed as income to the lawyer. Features quotes from NELA's Bruce Fredrickson and Angie Dalfen.

High Court Will Review Taxes on Lawsuit Awards

Source: Dallas Morning News
Date: March 30, 2004

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether some successful litigants must pay federal income tax on the part of their legal winnings that goes toward attorneys' fees. The justices agreed to hear two appeals by the Bush administration seeking to collect a greater share of the money, estimated to be as much as $40 billion a year, paid to plaintiffs' lawyers. The cases stem from a wrongful-discharge suit by a former UnionBanCal Corp. vice president and loan officer in Oregon and an employment discrimination suit by a former California state employee. Lower courts are divided on whether federal law requires litigants to treat as income the portion of a court judgment or settlement they paid directly to their attorney under a contingent-fee arrangement.

Supreme Court to Review Tax Dispute Over Judgments

Source: Linda Greenhouse, New York Times
Date: March 30, 2004

People who file discrimination suits often arrange to pay part of any eventual judgment to their lawyers. Under the standard contingent fee agreement, the lawyer's share goes directly to the lawyer and never comes into the client's possession. It is taxed as part of the lawyer's income. But in the view of the Internal Revenue Service, the lawyer's portion is taxable as income to the client as well, a form of double taxation that several federal appeals courts have rejected. On Monday, the Supreme Court granted the government's request to review the issue and settle the dispute.

Supreme Court to Hear Workplace Harassment Lawsuit by Woman Who Had Resigned from Police Job

Source: Mark Scolforo (Associated Press), Sign On San Diego
Date: March 27, 2004

Nancy Drew Suders spent just five months as a state police dispatcher before quitting over what she said was a continual stream of lewd and offensive comments by her supervisors. Now her lawsuit against the state police is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Wednesday on whether she can sue even though she didn't take advantage of a state police system for handling sexual harassment complaints. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that employers who have such plans are immune from sexual harassment lawsuits, unless the employee is fired or punished in some way. At issue in Suders' case is whether quitting under duress is the legal equivalent of being fired. The case will be closely watched by businesses. If the high court backs Suders, employers worry they'll have to conduct expensive reviews each time someone quits, in order to protect themselves from sexual harassment lawsuits. Civil rights groups believe workers who feel forced to quit should not lose their legal rights.

Forest Grove Settling Case for $420,000

Source: Esmeralda Bermudez, The Oregonian
Date: February 19, 2004

The City Council has approved paying more than $400,000 in damages and legal fees to settle a discrimination case involving Forest Grove's former human resources manager, settlement documents show. The $255,610 in damages and compensation paid to Barbara Huson is about one-third less than the $393,227 a federal jury awarded her in October, after it found that the city and its city manager fired Huson in retaliation for her lawsuit. In addition, $164,390 will be paid to Huson's Portland-based attorneys, McKanna Bishop Joffe & Sullivan. Settlement documents were released Thursday after a public records request from The Oregonian. Under the settlement, Pinnacle Risk Management Services, the city's insurance carrier, will drop its appeal of the federal jury's decision. The settlement also calls for parties to decline to comment on the case.

Jury Finds Wal-Mart Owes Unpaid Overtime

Source: Associated Press, Arizona Republic
Date: February 19, 2004

A federal jury considering how much Wal-Mart Stores Inc. should compensate employees who worked unpaid overtime ruled Tuesday that 83 workers are entitled to payments. The jury assessed each case individually and rejected money for 25 employees in the second phase of a trial that highlighted working conditions at the nation's largest private employer. The decision comes 14 months after a federal jury in Portland, Ore., became the first in the nation to rule that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, made employees at 18 Oregon stores work unpaid overtime from 1994 to 1999. About three dozen similar suits against the retailer are pending nationwide. Exact compensation for each worker is still to be determined. Payments are expected to be relatively modest, ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand per worker, based on roughly 30 to 60 minutes of overtime per week.

Jurors Begin Wal-Mart Pay Deliberations

Source: Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian
Date: February 7, 2004

Attorneys for Wal-Mart and 100 of its current and former workers in Oregon wrapped up arguments Friday in an overtime pay dispute that could affect more than 30 similar lawsuits pending elsewhere against the nation's largest retailer. A seven-person Portland jury began deliberating Friday afternoon on exactly how much the nation's biggest retail chain owes to 108 Oregon employees who say they were forced to work additional hours without overtime pay. The disputed periods were as long as a decade ago in some cases. The four-week-long damages portion of the case ended Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland. The Oregon case is the first to go to a jury for damages. More than a year ago, in the first phase of the trial, a Portland jury found the nation's largest retailer had willfully permitted employees to work "off the clock" between 1994 and 1999 at 18 Oregon stores.

Appeals Court Upholds Jury Verdict For Fired Flight Attendant

Source: Associated Press, Kansas City Star
Date: September 13, 2003

A federal appeals court has upheld a $400,000 jury award to a Delta Airlines flight attendant who was fired after a laboratory mistakenly said she had cheated on a mandatory drug test. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal jury's July 2001 decision against Lab One Inc. Yasuko Ishikawa, 42, sued Lab One and Delta after the airline fired her in October 1999. She insisted she never took drugs and didn't alter her urine sample as the lab report claimed. Delta reinstated Ishikawa and the case against the airline eventually was dismissed.

Appeals Court Revives Diabetes Suit Against U.S. Bancorp

Source: Associated Press, The Oregonian
Date: September 9, 2003

A diabetic woman's lawsuit against U.S. Bancorp will go to court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. A federal judge in Portland had dismissed the suit, which Rebecca Ann Fraser filed in 2000. She claims the bank illegally refused to let her eat at her desk to control her blood sugar levels. "I think it's a significant victory for advocates of people with diabetes," said Craig Crispin, Fraser's attorney, after the ruling Monday.

Taco Bell Reaches $1.5 million Settlement with Former Employees

Source: Gillian Flaccus (AP), Times Daily
Date: August 8, 2003

Taco Bell reached a $1.5 million settlement Thursday with about 1,000 former employees who sued the fast-food chain six years ago, claiming overtime and meal break violations. The employees will be paid an amount of the settlement based on their length of employment at Taco Bell, said India Simmons, a spokeswoman for PR Ink, a public relations firm representing the plaintiffs. The lawsuit, filed in 1997, was certified as a class action suit in 1999, with 13,000 former employees from about 45 Oregon Taco Bell stores participating, Simmons said.

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