San Antonio Employment Law Blog

San Antonio Employment Law Blog

Supreme Court Addresses Pregnant Workers

Posted in Discrimination

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its decision in Young v. UPS. Young concerned a female driver who became pregnant and was then refused an accommodation involving lifting restrictions. She could not lift over a certain weight limit. The plaintiff argued that she was treated differently than non-pregnant drivers with disabilities who could receive an accommodation involving weight limits. The Supreme Court surprised both parties by adopting a middle-of-the-road approach. The court overruled the Fourth Court of Appeals’ affirmance of summary judgment. That alone is rare enough.

The Supreme Court pointed out that a worker can always show her case through circumstantial evidence. It went further and ruled that pregnant worker can show that she was treated differently than other workers who were similarly unable to work. That is, the court allows comparison to workers injured off the job, but who suffer limitations similar to that of pregnant workers. The decision, therefore,

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SGT Bergdahl Charged with Desertion

Posted in General

SGT Bowe Bergdahl has been charged with desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty. The charges will go before an Art. 32 hearing, which is equivalent to a grand jury. He may not spend any time in prison, since he served five years as prisoner of the Taliban. Many members of any court-martial board will find that to be punishment enough. See CBS news report. I previously wrote about Bowe Bergdahl here.

Sgt. Begddahl simply walked away from his FOB. He had done that before when he was training here in the US. Sitting from afar, I have to wonder if his mental faculties are all there. When I was in Iraq, I heard about one solider who simply walked out the front gate, with no weapon or helmet. He simply walked out like he was back home. Serving in a combat zone imposes considerable stress. Those of

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Jury Finds in Favor of Veteran and “Goldie”

Posted in Discrimination

The jury in Alonzo-Miranda v. Schlumberger Technology has returned a verdict. The jury found in favor of the veteran and awarded him $29,000 in total damages. That amount includes $5,386.50 in lost overtime wages and $23,205 in compensatory damages (emotional suffering type damages). The jury declined to award punitive damages. The jury deliberated for about two hours on Thursday, all day on Friday, and much of the day on Monday.

As the lawyer for the plaintiff said,” Today is a blue-ribbon day for America and the veterans who have protected us. San Antonio can be proud to be the place that lit the way for our veterans who suffer PTSD and who served us so well in war, and now want to serve us in peace.” From this Iraq veteran, “Dang right!”

See San Antonio Express News report (account required).

This was a very difficult case for the plaintiff. There is no caselaw or

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Jury Continues to Deliberate in Veteran’s Case

Posted in Litigation and trial practice

The jury in Iraq veteran Juan Alonzo-Miranda’s case deliberated all day Friday and still could not reach a verdict. At one point, they sent the judge a note saying they could not reach a unanimous agreement. Judge Lamberth, however, told them to continue deliberating. The two opposing lawyers agreed they would accept a 7-1 verdict. There are eight members on the jury. See San Antonio Express-News report (account required).

It is unusual for a jury to deliberate this long in a civil case. There must be some strong views among the members of this jury.

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Veteran’s Case Goes to Jury

Posted in Discrimination

The jury will decide whether Juan Alonzo-Miranda needed a dog at work to deal with his PTSD. The testimony wrapped up yesterday in the trial regarding his request for an accommodation. Schlumberger hired a psychiatrist to testify. Dr. Seth Silverman never examined Mr. Alonzo-Miranda. All he knows is what he learned by reading documents. But, he decided that Mr. Alonzo-Miranda is narcissistic and has histrionic traits. He described the mechanic as having a “Cluster B” personality disorder. The doctor also said Mr. Alonzo-Miranda is someone who likes “to beat the system” and believes he is smarter and better than others. Dr. Silverman said a dog would not have done the veteran any good at work.¬†That does seem like a sharp observation for a doctor who has never met this patient.

The parties made closing arguments yesterday. The lawyer for Schlumberger, William Davis, said the employer provided various accommodations for the veteran, such

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Schlumberger Tried to do All It Could to Accommodate

Posted in Litigation and trial practice

On the third day of Juan Alonzo-Miranda’s trial, he was cross-examined by the defense lawyer. The lawyer elicited testimony from the mechanic that when he was evacuated by ambulance to the VA hospital in May, 2012, the emergency room examination revealed problems with his wife and that he was contemplating suicide. But, the report did not mention any problems with work. Didn’t he mention problems at work, asked the lawyer? Mr. Alonzo-Miranda said the report might have been less than complete.

The defense attorney also elicited testimony that the young worker had a concealed handgun permit. He obtained the permit about a year after he had been diagnosed with PTSD. I am not sure about the point of this line of questioning, unless it is simply to show that despite his diagnosis, he was able to function and expose himself to a dangerous weapon.

At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the defense

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Veteran Tried to Satisfy Employer’s Requirements

Posted in Discrimination

Every victim of discrimination experiences what Juan Alonzo-Miranda experienced. After he requested the use of a service dog at work, his employer treated him like the “enemy.” Instead of helping him become a better worker, the employer treated him like the enemy. Crying at times, he described his ordeal in trying to satisfy the employer’s request. Schlumberger Technology wanted a form signed by a treating physician. But, the service dog was recommended by a counselor, not a physician. His psychiatrist would not sign the form because he does not prescribe service dogs. The Psychologist would not sign the form because psychologists cannot prescribe medication. Finally, the counselor at the San Antonio Vet Center-Readjustment Counseling Service signed the form. But, the Clinical Social Worker noted on the form that he was not a physician. The Center is part of the Veterans Administration. See the Center’s website here.

The employer pointed out that

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Dancers are Awarded Lost Pay and Liquidated Damages

Posted in Wage and Hour Issues

They were exotic dancers, but they were also workers, just like the rest of us. Alexis Alex and Nicolette Prieto formerly danced at Tiffany’s Cabaret, a gentleman’s club. They claimed they were not paid minimum wage. The employer’s records did not record their time. But, the club’s strongest defense was that the money paid them by patrons during table dances was a “service charge.” The club sought to count that as part of their wages. But, the dancers believed that money was tips. During the trial, the judge agreed with the dancers, a critical legal victory for the two ladies. The club’s second defense was that the two dancers were paid a few hundred dollars every night by patrons. But, countered the two workers, that money was paid directly by the customers, not by the club. Basic Fair Labor Standards Act law requires the employer to pay minimum wage, not the

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Veteran Sues to Bring His Service Dog to Work

Posted in Discrimination
Service dog and veteran

There are more and more veteran needing the use of a service dog. A trained service dog will perform several tasks of a veteran suffering from PTSD:

  • Watch your back. This is critical to a veteran who constantly looks over his/her shoulder for perceived danger.
  • Place himself between the veteran and others who come too close. This is also essential for veterans with PTSD who cannot tolerate crowds or persons standing too close
  • Provide simple comfort. Dogs can “read” a person’s emotions and provide critical warmth when the veteran is suffering an anxiety attack

The federal regulations regarding the use service animals require that service animals be trained to perform some task it would not normally do. These are some of those tasks. To a veteran with PTSD, these are no small tasks.

So, it is a little surprising that one major employer, Schlumberger Technology, will disregard a request to bring a service animal to work

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USA Ranks Last for Maternity Leave

Posted in General

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, a mother or father can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a sick child. But, the FMLA does not apply to employers with less than 50 workers and it does not apply to part-time workers. The FMLA has limits. It does not apply to many workers. Actual paid parental leave is even more rare. Only some 12% of American employees work for a company that offers paid parental leave.

Unfortunately, when compared to other countries, the USA is way behind. Huffington Post has produced a handy chart that shows the disparity. See the Huffington Post here. In fact, just looking at maternity leave, the USA rates as the worst in the world, tied with Lesotho and Swaziland. Wow.

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