The Inbox - August 17, 2012

| Andrew P. Torrez

This week in suits by suits:

  • Two former interns amended their class action lawsuit against Fox Entertainment, arguing that Fox's unpaid internship program violated minimum wage and overtime laws by effectively using unpaid interns to replace regular employees.  The lawsuit alleges that unpaid interns were used as "a crucial labor force on its productions," serving as production assistants, bookkeepers, secretaries, and janitors.
  • Deborah Sturgeon and ten other named plaintiffs filed a class action against AT&T, arguing that AT&T's lunch break policies for technicians -- which allegedly prohibit technicians eating in their vehicles from playing music, using the vehicle's heating or air conditioning, and from reading or otherwise using the balance of their lunch hour for personal activities -- effectively amount to requiring those employees to work through lunch without pay.
  • California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed a civil suit against Help Hospitalized Veterans (HHV), a charitable organization based in California that provides hospitalized veterans with therapeutic arts & crafts activities.  The Attorney General's lawsuit alleges that certain officers and directors of HHV breached their fiduciary duties by wasting charitable assets on excessive compensation and retirement payments to its officers, golf memberships, and a condominium, and also alleges improper accounting and self-dealing in connection with HHV's fundraising efforts.  The suit seeks the removal of the named officers and directors, restitution, civil penalties, and punitive damages.  In 2008, HHV's then-president, Roger Chapin, was required to testify before Congress regarding similar allegations.
  • In perhaps the strangest item on this list, U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken denied a terminated employee's motion for summary judgment on her breach of contract claims against her former employer, Watson Enterprises, Inc. (WEI), a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Greenwich, Connecticut, as well as dismissed the employer's counterclaims for unjust enrichment and civil theft.  Judge Oetken allowed both parties to proceed to trial on the central allegation -- whether the employee was "worthless" and hired solely because she was the mistress of one of WEI's former partners.  Salacious details (safe for work) from the record are excerpted by Courthouse News Service.
  • A federal jury in Washington D.C. awarded $3.5 million to a lifeguard who was sexually harassed by her supervisor at the Takoma Aquatic Center, a public swimming pool in Takoma Park, Maryland.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema required a plaintiff alleging discrimination in her termination by her employer, Navy Federal Credit Union, to pay nearly $34,000 in legal fees incurred as defense costs after Judge Brinkema advised the plaintiff at a pretrial conference that her lawsuit could not survive summary judgment.  The plaintiff proceeded anyway, and the Court ordered her to pay defense costs associated with defending the motion.